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Т Н : Е ROAD Т О М А К К А Н
Ь у М и п а т т а а Asad
ISBN: 81-7231-160-5
Reprint Edition- 2004
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THEROAD
Т О М А К К А Н
Muhammad Asad
1,lamlclook5ertice
I
Tomywife
P O L A H A М l D A
Who throughс п п с в г п ond odvice
gove50much of her wi5eheort to·thi5 book
thot her п о т е oughttohoveЬ е е п г в с п о е о
о п thetitle pogetogether with П l i п е
C O N Т E N Т S
Glossary
The Story of а Story
I Thirst
11 Beginning ofthe Road
111 Winds
IV Voices
V Spirit and Flesh
VI Dreams
VII M(jway
VIII Jinns
' Х Persian letter
Х Dajjal
XI Jihad
XII EndoftheRoad
Jndex
pagexi
1
10
42
68
102
135
162
183
218
249
282
312
344
377
GLOSSARY
о А г а Ы с а п а Р е п и а п Т е п п з
SPELLING has Ь е е п kept close as possible to the original р г о п ц п
ciation, avoidil1g, at the same time, all signs and symbols which would
unnecessarily confuse the а у reader..Terms which occur in only о п е
place and а г е explained in the text have Ь е е п omitted Ь е г е
obiiyo- а \vide, woollen cloak worn Ь у Arabs о т е г all their other gar­
ments.
ogoy/ - voJuntary, irregular troops recruited from Central А г а Ы а Г о г
service in Iraq, Syria and Jordan.
0/- - definite articJe 'the' used before nouns and т а п у р г о р е г names.
If the noun begins with the с о п в о п а п г d, 11, Г з t О г г tJ1e / of 0/ is
'assimilated' in sound: e.g., Ad-Dawish, Az-Zuwayy.
cmil' - о п е who holds authority', e.g., governor, ruler, с о п н п а п ё е г
etc.
Ь о о и р bodu) - beduin.
Ы - 'in the п а т е of God'
Ь и т и з - hooded cIoak worn Ь у North А г с а п Arabs and Berbers.
d/IOII·...; LatilHigged saiJing vesseJ largely used il1,theА г а Ы а п е з the
Persian Gulf and (mostly under the п а т е samhuk) in the Red Sea.
а т п (Persian о п п jarangi) - Е и г о р е а п .
.fe//ah (pl. jellobln) - peasant о г farmer.
go//abiyya - long, shirt1ike tunic worn in Egypt and some other А г а Ь
countries.
/lOjj - piJgrimage to М е с с а о п е of the duties enjoined ц р о п е е е г у
Muslin1 т а п and woman а Ы е to undertake it.
Ы Л - о п е у Ь о is making о г has made the pilgrimage to М е с с а often
used as а п Ь о п о г Ш с title.
/101'0111 - 'sanctuary', especially the Н о у Mosques of М е с с а Medina
and Jerusalem. (Not о Ь е confused with horiim, у Ы с Ь means 'for­
bidden Ь у religion'.)
х
GLOSSARY
ltazrat - 1it., 'presence'; term of address roughly cquivalent to 'youlr .
Honour'.
Н - в о п before а р с о р е с п а т е О п of'. Frequently used in eonjunc-.
tion with the п а ш е of а п ancestor, in wblch case the combinatiol1l
denotes а family п а т е о с tbe п а т е of а dynasty, e.g., Ь п Saud"
Ь п Rasbld.
igiil- а ropelike headband encircling theArabian headeloth.lt is usu­
ally made of pJain bIaek wooJ, but is sometimes threaded with
gilded silver М с е
т - '.vblte garment worn Ь у ш е п о п piJgrimage to М е с с а
ikh",on - 'brethren', Ь е с е app1ied to beduins settJed and organized
Ь у К п в Ь п Saud.
т - 'Ieader'; т о с е partieuJarly applied to thc leader о С а eongre­
gational р г а у е г but а to outstanding scholars о С earlier times
and to Ш е Jeader о С а community.
inshii·Al/oh - 'God Ш п
п - Ь о п о П е term of address used in Persian-speaking с о ц п
tries.
jard - а blanketlike woollen wrap worn in western Egypt and Libya.
М - Holy War in ш е defence о С Islam о с MusJim 1iberty.
jubba - а wide, ankle-Iength mantle worn Ь у many о о eity
р е о р е and most о С the и а т о in Egypt, Syria, Н (raq, с а п
е О С
kajton - а П fitted gown worn throughout the Middle East under а
jubba о г а п а Ь О а
kha/i/a - Iit., 'suceessor' о с 'vice-gerent'; usual1y denoting the head о С
the Muslim с о п п п ц п п у С а Н р Ь
khan - originally the title of а М о п в о р п п с е о с lord; nowadays
widely used as а п honorifie designation in с а п Afghanistan, ete.
kufiYYQ - м а Ы а п men's headcloth.
maghrib - sunset.
marhaba - welcome.
mu'azzin - е п е г о С the time for р с а у е с
д (pl. д - о е who fights in jihiid.
п - eJaborate pipe for smoking tobacco, in whieh the smoke is
fi1tered through water; in в о ш е countries it is al50 called 'hookah'.
qodi - judge.
GLOSSARY
- coffec; in Arab countries often app1ied al50 to а colfechouse
о г а reception г о о ш
ra.iaji/- ш е п а т а г ш в ш у the bodyguard5 о С а king о amir.
г ш - the basic 5ilver coin in several Middle-Ea5tem countries.
sayyid-Iit., 'Iord'. Frequently used to denote а descendant о С thc
Prophet.
sh'1rif- same а в above. In particular app/icd to certain М u51im ruling
dynastie5; in thi5 book to К Husayn, who ruled о у е thc Н
from 1916 to 1924, and Ы descendants, the present dynasties о С
Iraq and Jordan.
s/ll'1ykh -Iit.• 'old т а п а п Ь о п о п б с title widely used10 dcnotc tribal
clueftain5 а в well as notables and (in Arabic-speaking countries)
:scholars.
shl'lyUkh - 'majestic plural' о С sha)'kh,' а designation applied in С е п
tral Л а Ы а to the К and, oc:casionaJ/y, to his grcate5t amirs.
sidi - colloquial С о а у ш т у lord' - а п Ь о п о п б с term especially
р о р ш а г in North Л П с а
в й т section, о chapter, о С the К о т а п which is divided into 114
;rUras.
Щ Ь Й - red, brim/es5 hat worn Ь у men а over Ь е Levant.
а а - scholars, о learned ш е п Especially applied о religious
scholars. but often used also С о those leamed п othcr branchcs о С
Ik.nowledge.
И о - rivcr vaJley о dry river bed.
у д -intcrjection equivalent to О used in direct address (e.g., у д sidi,
О т у lord'; у а Al/dh, О God').
zdlO11iya - lodge о С а religious о г ё е г о fraternity.
Т Н Е STORY OF А STORY
Т
Н Е STORY 1 а ш going ю tell in this book is not the
autobiography of а т а п conspicuous for bls role in
public affairs; it is not а narrative of adv.ellture - for
although ш а в у strange adventures have с о ш е т у
way, they were never п ю г е than an accompaniment to Ш ш
happening within т е it is not evcn the story of а deli!Jerate
search for faith - for that faith с а ш с и р о п т е over the years,
"vitbout any endeavour о п т у part to find it. М у storyis simply
t,he story of а European's discovery of Islam and of his integra­
l:ion within the Muslim community.
1 had never thought of writing it, for it had not occurred to
т е that т у life might ь е of particular interest to anyone except
myself. But when, after а п absence of twenty-five years from the
'West, 1 с а т е to Paris and then to NewYork in the beginning о с
1952,1 was forced to alter this view. as Pakistan's Mini­
:ster Plenipotentiary to the United Nations, 1 was natural1y in
the public е у е and encountercd а great deal of curiosity among
т у European and Arnerican friends and acquaintances. At first
they assumed that mine was the case ofа European 'expert' е ш
ployed Ь у а п Eastern government for а specific purpose, and
that 1 had conveniently adapted myself to the ways о С the п а п о п
which 1 was serving; but wheo т у activities at the United Na­
tions made it obvious that 1 ideotified rnyself oot merely Т ц п с
tionally' but also е ш о й о п а й у and intel1ectually with the political
and cultural aims of the М ш world in general, they Ь е с а ш е
somewhat perplexed. More and п ю г е р е о р е began to questioo
т е about т у past expericnces. Т Ь е у с а ш е to koow that very
early in т у life 1 had started т у career as а foreign correspon­
dent Cor Continental newspapers and, after several years of е х
tensive travels throughout the Middle East, had Ь е с о т е а Mus­
lim in 1926; that after т у conversion to Islam 1 lived Cor nearly
sixyears in Arabia and enjoyed the friendship of К Ibn Saud;
that after leaving Л а Ы а [went to India а п д there met the great
1
2 У Н Е в о х п Т О М Е С С А
Muslim poet-philosopher and spiritual father of the Palcist,liO
idea, Muhammad Iqbal. It was Ь е who soon т е to
give и р т у plans of travelling to Eastern Turkestan, С Ы п а aJld
Indonesia and to remain in India to help elucidate the intelloo:.
tual premises of the future Islamic state which was then hardly
more than а dream in Iqbal's visionary mind. Т о т е а в to Iqbal.
this dream represented а way. indeed the ooly way, to а revival
of а Н the dormant hopes of Islam. the creation of а political е п
tity of people bound together not Ь у с о о п descent but Ь у
their с о т т о п adherence to а п ideology. For years 1devoted т у
self to this ideal, studying, writing and lecturing. and in ш п е
gained something of а reputation as а п interpreter of Islamic la'N
and culture. When Pakistan was established in 1947,1 was called
и р о п Ь у its Government to organize and direct а Department of
Islamic Reconstruction, which was to elaborate the ideologicail,
Islamic concepts of statehood and community ц р о п which the
newly Ь о political organization might draw. After t\VO years of
this extremely stimulating activity, 1 transferred to the Pakistall
Foreign Service and was appointed Head of the Middle East
Division in the Foreign Ministry, where 1 dedicated myself т о
strengthening the ties between Pakistan and the rest of the М ц в
lim world; and in due course 1 found myself in Pakistan's Mis..
sion to the United Nations at New York.
А Н this poioted ю far п ю г е than а ш е г е outward а с с о п п п о ё а
tion of а Е и с о р е а п to а М uslim community in which Ь е Ь а р
pened to live: it rather indicated а с о п в с ю ц в wholehearted
transference of а П е с е from о п е cultural environment to а п
other, entirely different о п е And this appeared very strange to
most of т у Westem friends. Т Ь е у could not quite picture to
themselves how а т а п of Western birth and upbringing could
Ь а у е so fully, and apparently with п о mental reservations what­
е у е с identified himself \vith the Muslim world; how it had Ь е е п
possible for Ь ш to exchange his Western cultural е ф а е for
that of Islam; and what it that had made him accept а с е
ligious and social ideology which - they seemed to take for gran­
ted - was vastlyinferior to а Н European concepts.
Now why, 1 asked myself, should т у Western friends take
this so readily for granted? Had а п у of them е у е с г е а П у bothered
to gain а direct insight into Islam - or ,vere their opinions based
е с е у о п the handful of cliches and distorted notions that had
3 Т Н В STOR. У О Р А STOR. У
Ь е е п handed down to them from previous generations? CouJd it
perhaps ь е that the old Graeco-Roman mode о С thought which
divided the world into Greeks and Romans о п о п е side and Ь в г
barians' о п the other wa5 5till 50 thoroughly ingrained in the
Westem mind that it was unabIe to concede, even theoretically,
positive value to anything that lay outside its own cultural-orbit?
Ever since Greek and Roman ш е з European thinkers and
hiistorians have Ь е е п prone to contemplate the history of the
ю г from the standpoint and"in terms of Е ш о р е а п history and
'Westem cultural experieoces alone. Non-Westem civilizations
enter the picture only in so far а з their exis1ence, о г particular
roovements within them, have or had а direct infiuence о п the
clestinies of Western т а п and thus, in Western eyes, the history
ofthe world and its various cultures amounts in the last resort to
Iitt1e п ю г е than а п expanded history of the West.
Naturally, such а narrowed angle о С vision is bound to produce
а distorted perspective. Accustomed as Ь е is to writings which
depict the culture or discuss the probIems of his own civilization
in great detail and in vivid colours, with litt1e ш о г е than side
g1ances here .and there at the rest of the world, the average
JEuropean or American easily succumbs to the iIlusion that the
с ш ш г а experiences ofthe West а г е п о т merely superior but out
I:)f а Н proportion to those of the rest of the world; and thus, that
1the Westem way of е is the only va1id в о п п Ь у which other
'ways of е could Ь е adjudged - implying, of course, that every
iintellectual с о п с е р т social institution or ethical valuation that
disagrees with the Western п о ш belongs ::;. ipso to а lower
:gradeofexistence. Following in the of Ь е Greek$ and
Romans, the Occidentallikes to think that all those 'other' civili­
zations are or were only so т а п у stumb1ing experiments о п the
path of progress so unerringly pursued Ь у the \Vest; or, at best
(as in the case of the 'ancestor' civilizations which preceded that
of the modern West in а direct line), п о more than consecutive
chapters in о п е and the same book, of у Ы с Ь Westem civiliza­
tion is, of cour5e, the final chapter.
When 1 expC'unded this view to cin American friend of mine ­
а т а п о С considerable intellectual attainments and а scholarly
bent of mil1d - Ь е \vas somewhat sceptical at first.
'Granted,' Ь е said, 'the ancient Greeks and Romans и е г е lim­
ited in their approach to foreign civilizations: but was not this
4 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
limitation the inevitable difficu1ties ofcommunication
between them and the reSt ofthe wor1d? And· has not this diffi·
cu1tyЬ е е п 1arge1y overcome in modern times? Afterall, we Wes·
temers do с о п с е ourselves nowadays with what is going о п
outside our own cu1tural orbit. Aren't you forgetting the т а п у
books ahout Orientalart а п pbl10sophy that Ь а у е been р ц
lished in Europe and America during t11e 1ast quarter-century
... about the politica1ideas that preoccupy the minds of В а и е г п
peop1es? Sure1y one cou1d not with justice over100k this desire
о п the part of Westerners to understand what other с щ ш г е в
might Ь а у е to offer1'
Т о в о ш е extent you ш а у Ь е right,' 1 replied. 'There is littlle
doubt that the primitive Graeco-Roman out100k is п о 10nger
fully operati.ve these days. 1ts harshness has Ь е е п considerabIly
blunted - if for п о other г е а в о п because the п ю г е mature amorlg
Western thinkers Ь а у е grown disi11usioned and sceptica1 abolJt
т а п у aspects of their own civilization and п о у begin to 100k to
other parts of the wor1d for cu1tura1 inspiration. Upon some о С
them it is dawning that there т а у ь е not о у о п е book and о п е
story of human progress, but а п у simp1y because mankind, in
the historica1 в е п з е is not а homogeneous entity, but rather а
variety of groups with wide1y divergent ideas as to the т е а п П
and purpose of human life. ш 1 do not fee1 that the West has
really. Ь е с о т е 1ess condescending toward foreign cu1tures than
the Greeks and Romans were: it has о п у Ь е с о т е п ю г е to1erant.
Mind у о ц not toward Islam - о п у to\vardcertain other Eastern
с ш ш т е в which offer some sort of р г Щ attraction to the
spirit-hungry West and а г е at the same time, too distant frOJD
the Westem wor1d-view to constitute а п у т е а challenge to it.s
va1ues.'
'What do you т е а п Ь у that?'
'Well: 1 answered, 'when а Westerner discusses, say, Hindu­
. ism or Buddhism, he is always conscious of the fundamenta1 Г
ferences bet\veen these ideo10gies and his own. Н е т а у admil'e
this or that oftheir ideas, but \vou1d naturallynever consider tb,e
possibility of substituting them for his own. Because Ь е а
admits this impossibi1ity, Ь е is а Ы е to contemp1ate such really
alien cu1tures with equanimity and often with sympathetic а р
preciation. But when it comes to Islam - which is Ь у п о meaD,S
as а Н е п to Western va1ues а з Hindu or ·Buddhist phi10sophv­
Т Н Е STOR У OF А STOR У 5
thiis Western equanimity is almost invariably disturbed Ь у а п
е ш о ц о в а bias. Is it р е г п а р в 1 sometimes wonder, Ь е с а и в е tlle
values of Islam а г е close enough to those о С the West to consti­
tute а potential challenge to many е е г п с о в с е р н о С spiritual
arnd social lifel'
And 1 went о п to tell him о С а theory w!1ich 111ad conceived
в о ш е years ago - а theory that D1ight perhaps help one to ц п ё е г
stand better the deep-seated prejudice against Islam 50 often to
Ь е found in Western literature and contemporary thought.
Т о find а truly convil1cing explanation о С this prcjudice,' 1
о п е has to look С а г back\vard into history and try to с о т
prehend the p5ychological background о the ear1icst relations
between the Western and the Musiim worlds. What Occidentals
tJ1ink and С е е about Islam today i5 rooted in impressions that
V\rere born during the Crusades.'
Т Ь е Crusades!' exclaimOO т у friend. 'You don't т е а п to say
tbat what Ь а р р е п е ё nearly а thousand years ago cou1dstil1 have
а п efl'ect о п р е о р е о С the twentieth century 7'
'But it does! 1 know it sounds incredible; but don't you г е
rnember the incredu1itywhich greeted the early о the
psychoanalysts when they triOO ю show that much of the е т о
tionallife о С а mature person - and most о those seemingly ц п
accountable leanings, tastes and prejudices comprised in the
t:erm "idiosyncrasies"- с а п Ь е traced back to the experiencesofhis
most formative age, his early chi1dhood7 Well, are nations and
c:ivilizations anything but collective individuals 7 Their develop­
ime'nt also is bound и р with the е х р е п е в с е в о their early chi1d­
Ь о As with children, those experiences т а у Ь а у е Ь е е п plea­
в а ш о т unpleasant; they т а у have Ь е е п perfectly rational о г
altematively, due to the child's naive misinterpretation о С an
event: the mou/ding effect о С every such е х р е п е п с е depends pri­
marily о п its original intcnsity. Т Ь е century inunediately pre­
ceding Crusades, thnt i:i, the end о the first millennium о
the Christian cra, might well ь е described as tlle early childhood
о С Western civilization ... '
1 proceeded to remind т у friend - himself а п historian - that
tbls had been the age when, for the first time since the dark cen­
turies that followed the breakup oflmperial Rome, Europe was
beginning to з е е its own cultural \vay. Independent1y о the al­
most. forgotten Roman heritage, raew literatures were just then
6 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
coming into existence in the Е и г о р е а п vernaculars; inspired! Ь у
the religious experience of Western Christianity, б п е arts \\rere
slowly awakening from the lethargycaused Ь у the warlike migra­
tions of the Goths, Huns and Avars; out of Ь е с г и д е conditions
of the early Middle Ages, а new cultural \vorld was emerging. It
was at that critical, extremely sensitive stage of its development
that Е и г о р е received its most formidable shock - in modern р а г
а п с э а 'trauma' - in the shape о С the Crusades.
Т е Crusades were the strongcst collecti\'e impression о п а
civilization that had just begun to ь е conscious о С itself. Н ш о г
ically speaking, they represented Europe's - and entirely
successful - attempt о view jtself under the aspect of cultural
unity. Nothing that Е и г о р е has experienced bcfore о г after
could с о т р а г е with the enthusiasm which Ь е First Crusa.de
brought into being. А wave о intoxication swept over the С о п
tinent, а п elation which о г the first time overstepped the barriers
between states and tribes and classes. Before then, there Ь а д Ь е е п
Franks and Saxons and Germans, Burgundians and Siciliarls,
Normans and Lombards-a medley of tribes and races with в с а г
с е у anything in с о п и п о п but the fact that most о С tlleir С е и д а
kingdoms and principalities were г е п ш а т п з о Г the Roman Empire
and that а П of them professed the Christian faith: but in the
Crusades, and through Ь е т the religious bond w'as elevated г о
а ne\V р а п е а cause с о т т о п to а Н Europeans alike - the р о й
tico-religious concept о 'Christendom', whicll in its turn ga,'e
birth to the cultural concept о Г Е ш о р е When, in his famous
speech at Clermont, in November, 1095, Р о р е Urban II е х
horted the Christians to make \var и р о п the 'wicked г а с е that
he1d the Н о у Land, Ь е enunciated - р г о Ь а Ы у without knowing
it himself - the charter of Western civilization.
Т traumatic cxperience о the Crusades gave Е и г о р е i15 cul­
tural awareness and its unity; but this same experience was des­
tined henceforth also to provide the false с о и г in which Islam
was to а р р е а г to Western eyes. Not simply because the Crusade:s
rneant war and bloodshed. So т а п у \\'ars have Ь е е п waged 00­
tween nations and subsequently forgotten, and so т а п у animos··
ities which in their time seemed ineradicable have later turnecl
into friendships. Т Ь е caused Ь у the Crusades was not
restricted to а c1ash of weapons: it \vas, first and foremost, З
intcHectual damage - the poisoning of the Western mi.nd against
Т Н В STORY О Р А STORY 7
th'e Muslim world through а deliOOrate misrepresentation of the
teachings and ideals of а ш For, if-the с а for а crusade was to
maintain its validity, the Prophet of the Muslims had, of neces­
sit:y, to Ь е stamped as the Anti-Christ and bls religion depicted
in the most lurid terms as а fount of irnmorality and perversion.
It was at the time of the Crusades that the ludicrous notion that
Is:lam was а religion of crude sensua1ism and brutal violence, of
а п observance of ritual instead of а purification of the heart, е п
tered the Western mind and remained there; and it was then that
tlle п а т е of the Prophet Muhammad - the same Muhammad
w:ho had insisted that bls own followers respect the prophets of
ol.her religions - \vas contemptuously transformed Ь у Euro­
р е а п з into 'Mahound'. Т age when the spirit of independent
inquiry could raise its head was as yet Car distant in Europe; it
was easy for the powers-that-were to sow the dark seeds о С
hatred for а religion and civilization that was so different г о ш
thle religion and civilization ofthe West. Т it was п о accident
thlat t}le fiery п de Roland, wblch describes legendary
victory of Christendom over the Muslim 'heathen',in southem
Р г а п с е was с о ш р о е not at the ш п е о С those Ь а Ш but three
с е п ш п е з later - to wit, shortly before the First Crusade - ц п
ш е а е у to Ь е с о ш е а kind of'national а п е ш ofEurope; and
it is п о accident, either, that tbls warlike epic marks the OOgin­
Ш of а Е и т р е а п literature, as distinct г о ш the earlier, 10cal­
iz:ed literatures: for hostility toward а ш stood over the cradle
о Г El1ropean civilization.
It would seem а п irony of history that the age-old Western re­
s<:ntment against а ш wblch was religious in origin, should
sljl1 persist subconsciously at а time when religion has 10st most
of its hold о п the imagination of Westem т а п Т Ы howevet, is
not really surprising. We know that а person т а у с о ш р е е у
lose the religious beliefs imparted to him in his childhood wblle,
nevertheless, о ш е particular е ш о о п connected with those 00­
liefs remains, irrationally, in force throughout his later Hfe - .
• - and tbls,' I concluded, 'is precisely what happened to that
collective personality, Western civilization. Т shadow ofthe
Crusades hovers over the West to Ы day; and а its reactions
toward Islam and the Muslim world Ь е а г distinct traces of that
die-hard ghost ... '
М у friend remained silent for а long time. 1 с а п sti1l see his
8 Т О М Е С С А
tall, Ianky figure pacing и р and down the г о о г п bls hands in his
coat pockets, shaking his head as if puzzled, and finaBy saying:
Т Ь е г е а у Ь е something in what у о и say ... indeed, г п е г е
т а у Ь е although 1 а not in а position to judge у о и г "theory"
offhand . .. But in any с а з е ш the light о С what у о и yourseIf
have just told т е don't у о и reaIize that у о и г 1ife, у Ы с Ь to у о и
seems so very simple and uncomplicated, т и з а р р е а г very
strange and unusual to Westerners? Could у о п not perhaps
share some of у о ц г own experiences with е П Why don't у о и
write your autobiography? 1 а т sure it would make fascinating
reading!'
Laughingly 1rep1ied: 'WeB, 1might perhaps let myself Ь е р е г
suadcd to Ieave the Foreign Service and write such а book. Aftc:r
а Н writing is т у originaI profession ... '
In the follo\ving weeks and months т у joking response imper­
ceptibly lost the aspect о Г а joke. 1began to tblnk serio.usly about
setting down tlle story о Г т у Н Г е and thus helping, in however
small а measure, to Iift the heavy veiI which separates Islam а п с
its culture Г г о т the Occidental mind. М у way to IsIam had Ь е е п
in ш а л у respects unique: 1 had not Ь е с о т е а Muslim because 1
had lived for а long time among Muslims - о п the contrary, 1
decided to live among them because 1 had embraced Islam.
Might 1 п о т Ь у communicating т у very personal experiences to
Western readers, contribute п ю г е to а mutual understanding Ь е
tween the Islamic and Westem worlds than 1 could Ь у с о п п п ..
uing in а diplomatic position which might Ь е filled equaIly weH
Ь у other countrymen о Г е After alI, any п е е п т а Ю
could Ь е Pakistan's Minister to the United Nations - but ho",r
т а п у ш е п were а Ы е to talk to Westemers about Islam а з 1
could? 1 was а Mus1im- but 1was also of Western origin: and:
thus 1 could speak the intelIectual languages о Г both Islam and
the West ...
And so, toward the end of 1952, 1 resigned from the Pakistan
Foreign Service and started to write this book. Whether it is as
'fascinating reading' as т у American friend anticipated, 1 с а п
not say. 1 could do п о more than try to retrace from memory­
with the help of о п у а fe\vold notes, disjointed а е п г е з and
some о Г the ne\vspaper articles 1had written at the time - the 18n­
gled lines о Г а development that stretched over т а п у years and
over vast expanses о Г geographical space.
Т Н Е STORY OF А STORY 9
And here it is: not the story of а 1 l т у life, but only of the у е а г я
Ь е б о г е 1 left А г а Ы а for Ir.dia - those exciting ycars в р с п г in
travels through almost а Н the countries bctwecn the Libyan
О е з е п and the snow-covered peaks of the Pamirs, bet\vecl1 the
Bosporus and the Arabian Sea. lt is told in tl1e contcxt and, it
should Ь е kept in mind, О 1 1 tl,e й т е !el'e! of т у last desert journey
from the interior of Arabia to М е с с а in the late summer of 1932:
f щ : it was during those twenty-three days tllat the pattern of т у
Ш е Ь е с а т е fuHy apparent to myself.
1 Ъ е Arabia dei')icted in the f01l0wing pages 110 longer exists.
lt8 80litude and integrity Ь а у е crumbled under а strong gush of
oil and the gold that the oil has brought. its grcat simplicity has
vanished and, with it" т и с Ь that \as humanly unique. lt is with
ttle pain о п е feels for something precious, now irretrievably 105t,
that 1remember that J,ast, long desert trek, when we rode, г о ё е ,
two т е п о п two dromedaries, through swirnming 1ight ...
1
THIRST
-1­
W
E К Ш Е К Ш Е two т е п о п two dromedaries, the
sun flames over our heads, everything is shimmer
and glimmer and swimming light. Reddish and
orange-coloured dunes, dunes behil1d dunes beyond
dunes, loneliness а п д burning si1ence, and two е п о п two
dromedaries in that swinging gait which makes you sleepy, в о
that you forget the day, the sun, the hot wind and the 10ngway.
Tufts of yellow grass grow sparsely о п the crests of the ё ц п е е
and Ь е г е and there а г о о hamdJ, bushes wind over the sand
like giant snakes. Sleepyhave Ь е с о т е the senses, you а г е rocking
in the saddle, you perceive hardly anything beyond the crunching
of the sand under the camels' soles and the rub of the saddle-peg
against the crook of your knee. У our face is wrapped in у о ш
headcloth for protection against sun and wind; and you feel as if
you were carrying your о о п е й п е в в like а tangible substance"
across it, right across it ..• to the wells of Т а у т а ... to
dark wells of Т а у т а that give \vater to Ы т that is thirsty ...
' ... right across the Nufud to Т а у т а .... 1 Ь е а г а voice, and
do not know whether it is а dream-voice о г the voice of т у с о т
о п
'Didst thou say something, Zayd l'
'1 was saying,' replies ш у с о ш р а ш о п 'that not ш а п у people
would venture right across the Nufud just to see the wells of
Т а у т а ...'
ZAYD AND I А К Е retuming г о ш Qasr Athaymin о п the
Najd-Iraq frontier where 1went at the request of К п Ibn Saud.
Н accomplished т у mission and with plenty of leisure
time at т у disposal, 1 decided to visit the remote, ancient oasis
ofTayma, ncarly two hundred miles to the southwest: the Т е
of the Old Testament of which Isaiah said, Т Ь е inllabitants of
10
) )
THIRST
land of Т е ш а brought water to him that was thirsty: The
abundance of Т а у п т а в water, its huge wells which have п о like
il:1 а Н Arabia, p,ade it in pre-Islamic days а great centre of с а г а
у а п trade and а seat of early Arabian culture. l have long wanted
to see it; and в о disregarding the circuitolls caravan routes, we
struck, from О а в г Athaymin, right into the heart of the Great
Nufud, the reddish sand desert that 5tretches itself 50 rnightily
tletv.'een the higb.lands of Central Arabia and the Syrian Desert.
Г is п о track and п о path in this part of the tremendous
'tvasteland. Т Ь е wind sees to it tl1at п о foo15tepof т а п or animal
leaves а lasting trace in the soft, yielding sand and that п о land­
Inark stands out for long to guide the wayfarer's е у е Under the
sttokes of the wind the dunes incessantly change their outlines,
flowing in а 510w, imperceptible movement from forrn о forrn,
Jlillsebbing·into valleys and valleys growing into newhills dotted
'N'ith dry, Ш е grass that faintly rustles in the wind and is
bltter as ashes even to а camel's mouth.
Although 1have crossed this desert т а п у times in т а п у direc­
ц о в в 1 would not trust myself to find т у way through it ц п
aided, and therefore 1 а т glad to have Zayd with т е т с о и п
try here is his homeland: Ь е belongs to the tribe of Shammar,
who live о п the southem and eastem fringes ofthe Great Nufud
and, when the heavy winter rains suddenly transfonn the в а п ё
dunes into lush meadows, graze t4eir came1s in its midst for а
Jrew months ofthe year. Т moods of the desert are in Zayd's
IbJood, and his Ь 00815 with them.
Zayd is probably the handsomest т а п 1 have ever kno\\'n:
Ibroad of forehead and slim of body, middle-sized, fine-boned,
и ofwiry strength. Over.the narrow wheat-coloured face with
iits strongly moulded cheekbones and the severe and at the з а т е
time sensual mouth Н е з that expectant gravity \vhich i5 so char­
acteristic of the desert Arab - dignity and self-composure wed­
,dedto intimate sweetness. Н е is а felicitous combination of pur­
lest beduin stock and Najdi town life, having preserved within
himself the beduin's surel1:;SS' о С instinct \vithout the beduin's
,emotional ]ability, and acquired the practical wisdom of the
townsman \vithout falling prey to his \vorldly sophistication. Н е
1ike myself, enjoys adventure \vithout running al'ter it. Since his
earliest youth his life has been fillt:d \\'ith incident and excite­
ment: as а boyish trooper in thc г levicd Ь у
I
]2
Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
the Turkisb government for its campaign in the Sinai Peninsula
during the Great War; defender of his Shammar о е а п
against Ibn Saud; arms-smuggler in the Persian Gulf; tempes­
tuous ]over ofmany women in т а п у parts ofthe Л а Ь wor]d а Н
of them, ofcourse, legitimately married to Ы т at о п е time о г а п
other, а п ё then as ]egitimate]y divorced).; horsetrader in Egypt;
so]dier of fortune in Iraq; and lastly, for nearly five years, П У
companion in Л а Ы а
And now, in this late summer of 1932, we ride togetber, as 80
often in the past, winding our lonesome way between dunes,
stopping at о п е or another of tbe widely з р а с е ё wel1s and restil1lg
at nigtJ,t under the stars; the etemal SJViS/I-swish of tbe animals'
feet over the bot sand; sometimes, during tbe ш а г с ц Zayd"s
husky voice ehanting in rbytbm witb the eame1s' tread; nigllt
eamps, eooking coffee and rice and occasional wild game; thle
с о о s\veep of Ь е wind over our bodies as we е at nigbt о п th,e
sand; sunrise over sand ё в п е е red and violently bursting е
fireworks; and sometimes, like today, tbe miracle oflife awaking
in а plant tbat bas Ь е е п watered Ь у е Ь а п с е
We had stopped for our п о о п prayer. As 1 wasbed т у hands.
face and feet from а watersldn. а few drops р Ш over а dried,·
up tuft of grass at т у feet, а miserable little plant. yeHow а ш
withered and lifeless under the harsh rays of the sun. But as the
water triekled over it. а shiver went througb the shrivelled blades••
and 1'5aw how they 510wly. tremblingly, unfolded. А few ш о г е
droj)s, and tbe little blades moved and curled and tben straigbt­
ened 1beIJ1selves slowly. hesitantly, tremblingly ... 1 beld т у
breatb as 1poured more water over tbe grass tuft. It moved morl;"
quiekly, more violently, as if some hidden foree were pushing it
out of ir5dream of deatb. Its blades - wbat а deligbt to behold!
- contracted and expanded like tbe arms of а starfish, seemingly
overwhelmed Ь у а Ь У but irrespressible delirium, а real little
orgy of sen5ual joy: and thuc; life re-entered vietoriously what а
moment ago had Ь е е п as .dead. entered it visibly. passionately.
overpowering and beyond understanding in its majesty.
Life in it5 majesty ... у о и alwaY5 feel it in tbe desert. В
it is 50 diffi.cult to keep and 50 hard. it is always like а gift.
treasure. and а surprise. For the desert is always surprising, ever.l
tbough you т а у have kno\vn it for years. Sometimes. when you
think you с а п see it in а Н its rigidity and emptiness. it awakens
т н г в в т 13
Г г о т п its dream, sends forth its breath - and tender, pale-green
grass stands suddenly where о п у yesterday there was nothing
but sand and splintery pebbles. It sends forth its breath again ­
а п ё а flock of smal1 birds flutters through the air - from where?
vvhere to? - Ь о е Iong-winged, emerald-green; or а
swarm of о с ц в г з rises и р а Ь о у е the earth with а rusl1 and а zoom,
а п д grim and endless like а horde of hungry warriors ...
Life in its majesty: majesty of sparseness, а з у surprising:
Ь е г е ш Iies the whole nameless scent of Arabia, of sand deserts
11ike this о п е а п ё of the т а п у other changing landscapes.
Sometimes it is lava ground, black and jagged; sometimes
dunes without end; sometimes а Ivadi between rocky hiHs, cover­
1::<1 with thornbushes out of which а startled hare jumps across
your \... а у sometimes loose sand with tracks of gazelles а п ё а
few. fire-blackened stones over which long-forgotten wayfarers
cooked their о о д in long-forgotten days; sometimes а villageЬ е
neath palm trees, and the wooden wheels over the weI1s make
music and sing to у о и without stopping; sometimes а well in the
midst of а desert vaIley, \vith beduin herdsmen bustling around
it to water their thirsty sheep а п д с а г п е в - they chant in с п о п в
while the water is drawn и р in large leather buckets а п д poured
with а rush into leather troughs to the de1ight of the excited ani­
mals. Then again, there is о п е й п е з в in steppes overcome Ь у а sun
without mercy; patches of hard, yeIlow grass and leafy bushes
that crawl over the ground with snakybranches offer we1come
pasture to your dromedaries; а solitary acacia tree spreads its
branches \vide against the steel-blue sky; [rom between earth
mounds and stones appears, eyes darting right and left, and then
vanishes like а ghost, the gold-skinned lizard which, they У
never drinks water. In а hol1owstand black tents of goat hair; а
herd ofcamels is being driven homeward through the afternoon,­
the herdsmen -ride о п barebacked young came}!i, and when they
с а Н their animals the silence of the land sucks in their voices and
swallows them without е с Ь о .
Sometimes у о и see glimmering shadows faron the horizon:
are they clouds? Т Ь е у float 10w, frequently changing their colour
and position, now г е е П Ы grey-brown mountains - but in
the air, somewhat above the horizon - and now, for а the
\vorld to see, shady groves of stone pines: but - in the air. And
when tlley с о т е do\vn lo\ver and change into lakes and flowing
14 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
rivers which quiveringly reflect the mountains ar:td the trees in
their inviting waters, у о и suddenly recognize them С о г what they
а г е blandishment of the jinns, the mirage that has so often led
travellers to false hopes and 50 to perdition: and у о и г hand goes
involuntari1y toward the water5kin at у о и г saddle ...
А н д there а г е nights и П of other dangers, when the tribes а г е
in warlike commotion and the traveller does not 1ight fire wblle
camping 50 as not to Ь е в е е п г о т the distance, а п д 5it5 wble
awake through long Ь о и Г his г Ш е bet\veen the knees. And
those daY5 of р е а с е when after а long, lonely wandering у о и
meet а с а г а т а п and listen in the evening to the talk ofthe grave,
sunbumed ш е п around the campfire: they talk of the simple,
great things of life and death, of hunger and satiety, of pride and
love and hatred, of the lust of the ftesh and its appeasement, of
wars, of the palm groves in the distant Ь о т е village - and у о ц
п е е е г Ь е а г idle babbling: о г о п е с а п п о т Ь а Ь Ы е in the desert ...
And у о и е е the с а П of Hfe in the days of thirst, when the tongue
sticks to the palate 1ike а piece of д г у wood and the horizon
sends п о deliverance but offers flaming з а т и т wind and \vhirling
sand instead. And in у е different days, when у о и а г е а guest itl
beduin tents and the т е п bring у о и bowls П of milk-the milk
of fat she-eamels at the Ь е п п п of spring, when after strong
rainfaUs the steppes and dunes а с е gceen as а garden and the а ш
mals' udders Ь е а у у and round; г о т а с о г п е с ofthe tent у о и с а п
Ь е а с the women laugh while they с о о к а sheep in у о и с п о п о ц г
о у е г а п о р е п fire.
.' Like red metal the sun disappears behind hIOs; higher than
anywhere else in the world is the starry sky at night, deep and
dream1ess у о и г sleep и п д е с the stars; pale-grey а п д с о о д а у п
the mornings. Cold а г е the nights in winter, biting winds flap
against the campfire around wblch у о и а п д у о и г companions
-huddle together in search of warmth; burning the days in sum­
т е г Ь е п у о и ride, ride о п у о и г rocking dromedary through
endless ю г у о и г face muffled in у о и г headcloth to protect it
г о т the searing wind, у о и г senses lulled into sleepiness, while
blgh aboveyouinthe noonheata Ы г д ofpreydraws its circles ...
-2­
Т Н Е Т GLIDES slowly past us with its dunes, and
its si1ence, а п д its loneliness.
г н г в в т IS
After а while, the IoneIiness is broken Ь у а group of beduins
cross our path- four о г five т е п and two women - mounted
о п dromedaries, with а beast of burden carrying а folded
black tent, cooking-pots and other utensils of nomad life, with а
oouple of children perched о п top of it а As they с о т е и р о п
и з they reii1 in their animals:
Р е а с е ь е with у о и
we answer: 'And with у о и ь е р е а с е and the grace of
(iod.'
'Wbat is у о ш destination, О wayfarers Т
Т а у т а insha-A//a/l.'
'And whence с о т е у о и l'
'From Qasr Athaymin, brothers,' 1 reply; and then there is
siIence. О п е of them, а gaunt, elderly ш а п with а sharp face and
а black, pointed beard, is obviously the leader; his glance also is
black and pointed when, passing over з у it rests suspiciously
о п т е the stranger oflight complexion who has so ц п е х р е с г е й у
appeared from nowhere in this pathless wilderness; а stranger .
\"I{ho says Ь е is coming from the direction of British-held Iraq,
a.nd might welI ь е (1 с а п almost read Sharp-Face's thought) а п
iJafidel surreptitiously entering the land of the Arabs. Т Ь е old
ш а п в hand plays, as if in perplexity, \vith the р о ш т е of his
saddle while hispeople, now loosely grouped around us, о Ь
viously wait for Ы т п to speak. After а few о ш е п Ь е seems to
Ь е и п а Ы е to bear the silence а п у longer, and Ь е asks т е
'Of\vhich Arabs art thou?' - mean.;ng to what tribe о г region
1 belong. But е у е п before 1 а т а Ы е to reply, his features light и р
in а sudden smile of reoognition:
О Ь 1 know thee now! 1 Ь а е е в е е п thee with Abd al-Aziz! But
that was Iong ago - four Iong years ago ...'
And Ь е stretches his hand in friendliness toward т е and г е
<:alIs the time when 1was living in the royal castle at Riyadh and
11e came there in the retinue of а Shammar chieftain to р а у the
I'espects of the tribe to Ibn Saud, whom the beduins always с а П
у his first п а ш е Abd з Л without а п у formal, Ь о п о Ш с
titIe: (or in their free humanity they see only а т а п in the King,
to ь е honoured, п о doubt, but not beyond the deserts of ш а п
And so we go о п for а while reminiscing, speaking of this ш а п
and that, exchanging anecdotes about Riyadh, in and around
'N'hich и р to а thousand guests live daily off the К bounty,
receiving о п departure presents that var) in accordance with
16 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
е а с Ь man".s status - from а handfuJ ofsiJver coins or а п а Ь а у а to
the heavy purses of goJden sovereigns, horses or dromedariies
wmch he frequentJy distributes among the cbleftains.
В ш the К generosity is п о so т и с Ь а matter ofthe р ш в е
а в о С Ь е heart. Perhaps т п о г е than anything else, it is his wanntb
of feeling that makes the р е о р е around Ы т not exceptiog т у
self, love Ы т
In а П т у years in А г а т а Ibn Saud's friendship has lain like: а
warm shimmer over т у Ш е
Н е calls т е his friend, although Ь е is а k.ing aod I а т е г е jour­
nalist. Aod I с а Н Ы т т у friend - п о т merely Ь е е а ц в е througib.­
out the years that I have lived in ms realm Ь е has shown ш е
т и с Ь friendliness, for that Ь е shows to т а п у т е п 1с а П Ы т ш у
friend because о п о с с а в ю п Ь е о р е п з bls inncrmost thoughts ю
т е а з Ь е о р е п з his р и г з е to з о т а п у others. 1love to call Ы ш ш у
friend, for, despite а П his faults - and there а г е not а few of
them - Ь е is а п excecdingly good т а п Not just 'kindhearted':
for kindness of heart с а п sometimes ь е а с Ь е а р thiog. As у о ц
wou1d admiringly say of а п old Damasceoe blade that it is а
'goOO' weapon Ь е с а ц в е it Ь а з а П the qua1ities у о и cou1d е а п
from а weapon of its kind: thus do 1 consider Ibn Saud а good
т а п Н е is rounded within himself and always fol1ows Ы з own
path; and if Ь е often errs in his actions, it is because Ь е never
tries to ь е anything Ь ш mmself.
М У FIRST М Е Е П with К А М a1-Aziz ibn Saud took
placc at М е с с а early in 1927, а few months after т у conversion
to !slam.
е recent sudden death of т у П е who had а с с о ш р а ш е ё
т е о п this, т у first, pi1grimage to М е с с а had made т е bitter
aod unsocial. 1 was desperately striving to Ь out of dark­
ness and utter deso!ation. Most of т у ш е was spent in т у 100­
gings; 1 had contact with only а few р е о р е and for weeks 1
avoided е у е п the customary courtesy с а П о п the К Т о ш
day, whi1e visitiog о п е of Ibn Saud's foreign guests-it was, 1 re­
т е т Ь е г Hajji Agos Sa1imoflodonesia - 1was informed that Ь у
order·of the К т у п а т е had Ь е е п entered о п т з guest list!
Н е seemed to Ь а у е Ь е е п apprised of the reason of т у reservl!:
and to accept it withsilent understanding. And 50, а guest wh()
т н г в в т 17
had п е у е г yet seen the а с е of his host, 1 moved into а beautiful
Ь о ц в е at'the southern end of М е с с а near the rocky gorge through
which the way to У е т е п passes. From the terrace 1 could see а
Ialrge р а п of the city: the minarets of the Great М о в о ц е Ш е
thousands of white с и Ь е э of houses with roof balustrades of col­
oured bricks, and the dead desert hills domed Ь у skies that glared
like liquid metal.
Still, 1 might Ь а у е gone о п postponing т у с а Н о п the К
had it not Ь е е п for а с Ь а п с е е п с о ш п е г 'with Arnir Faysal, his
в е с о п ё son, in а library under the а г с а с е в of the О г е е г Mosque.
Н was pleasant to sit п that long, narrow room Ь у
old Arabic, Persian and Turkish folios; its stillness and dar'<ness
Ш т е with р е а с е О л е day, however, the usual в й е п с е was
broken Ь у the swishing entry of а group of т е п preceded Ь у
armed bodyguards: it was Amir Faysal with his retinue passing
through the library о п his way to the К а а Ь а Н е was taH and
t.bin and о Е а dignity far beyond his twenty-two years and his
Ь е а п й е з в а с е In spite о С his youth, Ь е had Ь е е п given the im­
р о п а п т position о С viceroy of the Hija. after his father's с о п
о С the country two у е а г в earlier (Itis elder brother, Crowl1
Р п п с е Saud, was viceroy of Najd, while the King himself spent
llalf the у е а г in М е с с а the capital о С the Н and the о ш е г
half in the Najdi с а р ц а Riyadh).
Т Ь е librarian, а young М е с с а п scholar with whom 1 had Ь е е п
f"riendly for э о т е ш п е 1ntroduced т е о ш е Prince. Н е shook
118nds with т е and when 1 bowed to him, Ь е lightly tipped т у
Ilead back with Ы э fingers and Ы э face Iit и р in а warm sm.ile.
'We people of Najd do not be1ieve that т а п should bow 00­
Г о е т а п Ь е should bow only before God in prayer.'
Н е э е е т о о to ь е kind, dreamy and а little reserved and э Ь у ­
а п impression which was confinned during the later years of о и с
acquaintance. His air of nobility was not assumed; it seemed to
glow from within. When we spoke t() е а с Ь other о п that day п
Ithe library, 1 suddenly felt а strong desire to meet·the father of
Ithis son.
Т Ь е King would Ь е Ь а р р у to see thee; said Amir Faysal.
'Why dostthou shun him?'
Al1d the next morning the amir's secretary fetched т е in
а п automobile and took т е tn и King's palace. We passed
through the bazaar street of AI-Maala, slo\vly making our way
18 Т Н Е а О А О Т О М Е С С А
through а п о з у throng о С c:amels. beduins and auctioneers
seI1ing aIl ш of beduin wares- camel-saddles. а Ь а у м с и
р е ь waterskins, а swords, з and hrasscoffeepots ­
then through а wider. quieter and more о р е п г о а ё and finaJly
reachedthe hugeЬ о ь е е in wblchthe К resided. М а п у saddEed
camels filled the о р е п space beCore it, and а number о С а п п е ё
slaves and г е ш ш е т в 10unged about the е п ц а п с е stairway. 1 w'as
made to wait in а spacious, pillared room whosefioor was lalid
withinexpensive с а г р е в Broad, khaki-covered divans ran al0t:lg
the walls, and green leaves could ь е seen through the windows:
the Ь е п з of а garden wblch \vas being grown w.th great
difficulty out of Ю е arid soil of М е с с а А black slaveappeared.
Т К invites thee.'
1entered а room like the о п е 1had just left, exceptthat it WIIS
rather smaller and lighter, о п е side opening fully onto the gar­
den. Rich Р е г ы а п с а г р е в covered the fioor; in а Ь а у ,vindow
overlooking garden the К sat cross-legged о п а divan; at
bls feet о п the fioor а secretarywas taking dictation. When 1 е в
tered, the К rose, extended both hands and said:
А Ь wa-sahlan' - 'Family and plain' - wblch ш е а 'You
havenowarrivedwithinyour fam.ily and ш а у your foot tread о п
an е а в у у the most ancient and most gracious of Л а Ы а п
expressions of welcome.
For just а second 1 was а Ы е to gaze in wonderment at П ш
Saud's gigantic height. When Ь у then a\vare of the Najdi с а в
tom) 1Iight1y kissed the tip ofhis noseand bls forehead, 1had to
stand о п т у toes despite т у six feet, wblle Ь е had to bend bl.s
head dO\\'D.ward. Т е п with an apologetic gesturein the direc­
tion of the secretary, Ь е sat down. pulling т е to his side о п the
divan.
'Just а minute, the letter is nearly finished.'
Wbile Ь е quietly continued to dictate, Ь е also-opened а с о п
versationwith т е never confusing the two themes. Mter а fe,,'
formal sentences, 1handedhim а letter of introduction. Н е reac!
it - whichmeant doingthree things at о п с е - and then, withou1;
interrupting bls dictation or his inquiry after ш у welfare, called,
for coffee.
В у that time 1 had had а п opportunity to observe him more:
closely. Н е wasso well proportioned that bls hugesize- Ь е must
havc Ь е е п at least sa and а half feet - Ь е с а ш с apparent о у
OPPOSITE: A-uthor (1932)
• • •
THIRST 19
when Ь е stood. His face, framed in the traditional red-and-wblte­
checked kufiyya and topped Ь у а gold-threaded igal, was strik­
ingly virile. Н е wore his beard and moustache clipped short in
Najdi fashion; his forehead was broad, his nose strong and aqui­
п е and his full mouth appeared at times almost feminine, but
without being soft, in its sensual tenderness. Whi1e Ь е spoke, his
features were enlivened Ь у unusual mobility, but in repose his
face was somehow sad, as if withdrawn in inner loneliness; the
deep setting ofhis eyes т а у have had sometblng to do with Ы
Т Ь е superb beauty of his face was slightly marred Ь у the vague
expression of his left е у е in which а white film was discemible.
In later times I.leamed the story of this affl.ietion, which most
people unknowingly attributed to natural causes. In reality,
however, it had occurred under tragic circumstances.
Some years earlier, о п е of his wives, at the instigation of the
ri"al dynasty of Ibn Rashid, had put poison into ы incense ves­
sel - а little brazier used at ceremoniaJ gatherings in Najd - with
obvious intention of Ш п him. As usual, the brazier was
ha.nded first to the К before being passed around а т о п his
gulests. О п inhaling the first whiff, Ibn Saud immediatelY,. sensed
that there was something wrong with the incense and dashed the
vessel to the ground. His alertness saved his Ш е but not before
left е у е had Ь е е п affected and partially blinded. But instead
о С avenging himself о п the faithless woma.n, as т а п у another
potentate in his position would surely have done, Ь е forgave her
- Jror Ь е was convinced that she had Ь е е п the victim of insuper­
а Ы е infiuences at the hands of her family, who were relatcd to
the House of Ibn Rashid. Н е merely divorced her and sent her
back, richly endowed with gold and gifts, to her Ь о т е at Hail .
А р т в а Т Н А Т FIRST Т the К sent for т е almost
daily. О п е morning 1 went to Ы т with the intention of asking.
wiithout much Ь о р е ofits being granted, permission to travel in­
to the interior of the country, for Ibn Saud did not, as а rule,
allow foreigners to visit Najd. Nevertheless, 1was about to bring
this matter up when suddenly the К shot а brief, sharp glance
in т у direction - а glance which seemed to to т у un­
sploken thoughts - smiled, and said:
OPPOSITE: А Faysal
• • •
20 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
'Wilt thou п о т О Muharnmad. с о т е with us to Najd and stay
for а few months at Riyadh?'
1was dumbfounded, and в о obviously, were the other р е о р ё е
present. Such а spontaneous invitation to а stranger was almost
unheard of.
Н е went о п '1 would like thee to travel Ь у motorcar \vith т е
п е х month.'
1 took а deep breath and answered: М а у God lengthen thy
life, О Т ш а ш but what use would that Ь е to т е What good
would it do т е to whizz in five or si)( days from М е с с а ю
Riyadh without having seen anything of thy country beyond the
desert, some sand dunes and perhaps, somewhere о п the hOri2:­
о п р е о р е like shadows ... If thou hast п о objection, а drome­
dary would suit т е better, О Long-of-Age, than а Н thy cars ю
gether.'
Ibn Saud laughed: 'Art thou thus tempted to look into th,e
eyes of т у beduins? 1 must warn thee Ь е о г е а п tl1ey а г е
backward people, and т у Najd is а desert land without с п а п п ь
and the camel-saddle wi1l Ь е hard and the food dreary о п the
journey - nothing but п с е and dates and occasionally meat. But
so ь е it. If thou hast set thy heart о п it, thou shalt ride. А п ё
after а Н it т а у well Ь е tl1at thou wilt not regret having с о т е to
know т у р е о р е they а г е р о о г they know nothing and а г е
nothing - but their hearts are fuH of good faith.'
And some weeks later, equipped Ь у the К with ё г о ш е
daries, р г о м в ю п а а tent and а guide, 1set out Ь у а roundabout
route to Riyadh, which 1reached after t\VO months. That was ш у
first journey into the interior of Arabia; the first of т а п у Г
the few months of which the К had spoken grew into years -­
how easily they grew into years! - spent not only in Riyadll
but in almost every part of Arabla. And the saddle is hard п о
longer ...
·м А У GOD LENGTHEN the Jife of Abd al-Aziz,' says Sharp..
Face. Н е loves the badu and the bad!llove Ы т
And why should they not? - 1 ask myself. Т King's о р е п
handedness toward the beduins ofNajd has Ь е с о т е а
feature ofhis administration: not а very admirable feature, per··
haps, for the regular gifts of т о п е у which Ibn Saud distributes
21 Н
а г п о п я the tribal chieftail1s and tJ1eir followers have ш а ё е с щ
50 depcndent о п his la"gcsse that they are beginning to Iose а
incentive to improve their Iiving conditions Ь у their о м п е п ё е а
vours and are gradually lapsing ш ю the status of dole-re.ceivers,
contentto remain ignorant al1d indolel1t.
Throughout т у conversation with Sharp-Face, zayd' seems
ш р а е п While Ь е talks with о п е of the щ е п his eyes fre­
qULently rest о п т е as if to remind т е that there is а long way
before us and that reminiscences and reflections do п о quicken
th,e camels' р а с е We part. Т Ь е Shammar Ь е ё ш п в ride away т о
ward the east and soon disappear behind dunes. From where we
stand, we с а п hear о п е of them intone а nomad chant, such as а
camel-rider sings to spur his beast and to break the monotony of
his ride; and as Zayd and 1 г е в ш п е our west\vard course toward
а г о Т а у а the melody gradually fades away, and silence г е
turns.
-3­
'LOOK THERE!' zayd's voice breaks through thesilence, а hare!'
1 turn т у eyes to the bundle of grey fur that has leaped о ш of
а clump of bushes, while Zayd slides down from his saddle, и п
slinging the wooden т а с е that hangs о п the pommel. Н е bounds
а й е г the hare and swings the т а с е over ш head for the throw;
Ь ш just as Ь е is а о о ш to hurl it, Ь е catches his foot in а ю
г о о т falls flat о п his face - and the hare disappears from sight.
'There goes а good supper,' 1 laugh ay:-ne picks himself ц р
fllefully eyeing the ш а с е in his hand. В ш mind it п о т zayd: that
hare was obviously not our portion .. .'
'No, it was not,' Ь е replies, somewhat absent-mindedly; and
then 1 see tl1at Ь е is limping painfully.
'Didst thou hurt thyself, Zayd l'
О Ь it is Dothing. 1only twisted ш у ankle. It у get better in
а little while.'
But it does not get better. After another hour in the saddle 1
с а п see beads of perspiration о п Zayd's face; and wl1en 1 take а
look at his foot, 1find that the ankle has Ь е е п badly sprained and
is angrily s\vollen.
'There is п о use going о п like this, Zayd. Let us п ш е с а р
here; а night's rest ш restore thee.'
22 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
А ы THROUGH Т Н Е NIGHT zayd seems to ь е rest1ess with
з п Н е awakens п г before dawn. and his sudden movement
stirs т е a1so о ш т у э sleep.
'1 see о п у о п е с а т е Ь е says: and when we 100k а г о ш ш vve
discover that о п е о С the beasts - Zayd's - has indeed disap­
peared. zayd wants to set out о п ш п е to search forit. but Ь в
injured foot makes it difficult for Ы т е у е п to stand, not to speak
of wa1king and ш о п п and dismounting.
Т э ц rest, zayd, and 1shall г о instead; it won't ь е diffi.cu1t to
find г л у way back Ь у retracing ш у о ц в с к в
And in the breaking dawn 1ride away, following the tracks ()f
the lost dromedary which wind across the sand valley and d.i'!­
appear behind the dunes.
1 ride for о п е Ь о ц г and а п о ш е г and а third: but the tracks of
the strayed а а г о о п and о п as if it had pursued а deliberate
course. Т forenoon is weH advanced when 1 stop for а short
hclt, dismount, eat а few dates and drink from the small wateJ:­
skin attached to т у saddle. Т sun stands high, but somehow it
has 10st its glare. Dun-coloured clouds, unusual at this time of
у е а г float motionless under the sky; а strangely thick. Ь е а у У air
envelops the desert and softens the outlines of the dunes Ь е
yond their usual softness.
А п eerie stir over the summit of the high sand hill in front of
т е catches т у е у е - is it а п anim.al? Т 10st с а ш е perhaps '1
But when 1 look more carefu11y, 1 see that the movement is not
а Ь о у е but in the dune crest itself: the crest is т о У г ever в о
slightly, ripplingly, forward - and then it seems .to trickle down
the slope toward т е like the crest of а slpwly breaking wave. А
murky redness creeps и р the sky from behind the dune; under
this redness its contours 10se their sharness and Ь е с о ш е blurred,
as if а у е had sudden1ybeen drawnacross; and а reddish twi1igh1t
begins to spreac;i rapidly over the desert. А cloud о С sandl
whirls against т у а с е and around т е and а at о п с е the windl
begins to roar о ш а directions, crisscrossing the у а е у witbi
powerful blasts. Т trickling movement of the first hilltop hasi
been taken и р Ь у а the sand hills within sight. In а ш а е of
minutes the sky darkens to а deep. rust-brown hue and the air is
filled with swirling sand dust which,like а reddish fog, obscures
the sun and the day. This is а sandstorm, and п о mistake.
М у crouching dromedary, tenified, wants to rise. 1 р и Н it
т н г в в т з
down Ь у the Ь а п е г struggling to keep myselfupright in the wind
that has now assumed the foree of а gale, and manage to hobble
animal's ,forelegs and, to make it more в е с ш е а hind.leg as
well. Т Ь е п 1 throw myself down о п the grQund and drawmy
а Ь а у а over т у head. 1 press т у Г а с е against the camel's armpit
so as not to ь е choked Ь у the flying sand. 1feel the animal press
its muzzle against т у shoulder, п о doubt for the same г е а в о п 1
с а п е е the sand being heaped и р о п т е from the side where' 1
а т unprotected Ь у the dromedary's body, and have to shift from
ш п е to tirne to avoid being
1а т not unduly worried, for it is not the first time that 1 Ь а у е
Ь е е п surprised Ь у а sandstorm in the desert. Lying thus о п the
ground, tightly wrapped in т у а Ь а у а 1 с а п do nothing but wait
о г the storm to abate and listen to the г о а г of the wind and the
flapping of т у cloak - flapping like а loose sail - п о like а Ь а п
п е г in the wind - like the flapping of tribal banners carried о п
high poles Ь у а beduin army о п the march: just as they flapped
and fluttered nearly б у е years ago over the host of Najdi bed­
uin riders - thousands of them, and 1 among them - returning
from Arafat to М е с с а after the pilgrimage. It was т у second
pilgrimage. 1had spent о п е year in the interior of the Peninsula
а п ё had managed to return to М е с с а just in ш п е to take part in
the congregation of pilgrims о п the Plain of Arafat, to the east
ot" the Holy City; and о п the way back from Arafat 1 found т у
self in themidst of а multitude of white-garbed Najdi beduins,
in а tense gallop over the dusty plain - а sea of white-gar­
bed т е п о п honey-yellow, golden-brown and red-brown drome­
daries-a roaring, earth-shaking gallop of thousands of drome­
daries pusblng forward like а п irresistible wave - the tribal Ь а п
ners roaring in the wind and the tribal cries with which the т е п
announced their various tribes and the warlike deeds of their
alleestors surging in wa,,:,es over е а с Ь detachment: for to the т е п
ofNajd, т е п ofthe Central Arabian higblands, war and pilgrim­
age spring from the same souree ... And the numberless pilgrims
from other lands - from Egypt and India and North Africa and
З а п а с с о е to such wild abandon, scattered in panic
before our approach: for nobody could Ь а у е survived who stood
in the way of the thundering host - just as instantaneous death
\vould Ь а у е Ь с с п the portion of а rider у Ь о е Н from the saddle
in the midst ofthc thousands and thousands of galloping mounts.
24 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
Howe\'er mad that ride, 1 shared the madness and abandoned
myseIfto the Ь о и г а п д the whirr and the rtJsh а п д the г о а г with а
wild happiness in т у heart - a"d"the wind tbat rushed past т у
face sang out: 'Never again wilt thou Ь е а stranger ... п е м е г
again, arnong thy people!'
And а в 1 Н е in ш е sand under т у flapping а Ь а у а the г о а г of ш е
з п о г т seems to е с Ь о 'Never again wilt thou Ь е а stranger ...'
1 а т п о longer а stranger: А г а Ы а has Ь е с е т п у Ь о т е М у
Western past is like а distant dream - not и п г е а enough to Ь е
forgotten, and not г е а enough to ь е part of т у present. Not that
1Ь а у е Ь е с о т е а lotus-eater. О п thecontrary, \vhenever 1Ь а р р е п
о stay for some months in а town - as, for instance, in Medina,
where 1have а п А г а Ь wifeand а п infant son and а library fu11 of
books о п early Islamic history - 1 grow ц п е а в у aod begin т о
у е а г п for action and movement, for the dry, brisk air of the
desert, for the sme11 of dromedaries and the feel of the с а г п е т
saddle. OddIy enough, the urge to wander that has made т е в о
. restless for the greater р а п of т у life (1 а т а little over г
t\VO п о у and lures г а е again and again into а т а п п е г of
hazards and encounters, does not stemso т и с Ь from а thirst for
adventure as from а longing to find т у own restful place in thll::
\vorld - to arrive at а р о ш г where 1 could correlate all that
might Ь а р р е п to т е with а that 1might think and feel and Ш ..
sire. And if 1understand it rightly, it is this longing for inner dis­
с о у е г у that has driven т е over the years, into а world entirel:f
<!ifferent, both in its perceptions and its outer forms, from а to
\vhlch т у Е и г о р е а п birth and upbringing had seemed to
т е ...
WHEN Т Н Е STORM finally subsides, 1 shake myself free of
the sand that has Ь е е п heaped around т е М у dromedary is half
buried in it, but п о п е the worse for а п experience that must havf:
befallen it т а п у times. Т storm itself, it would seem at firs't
gIance, has not done us а п у damage apart from Ш п т у mouth,
ears and nostrils \....ith sand and bIowing away the sheepskin
Г г о т т у saddle. But soon 1 discover т у error.
А Н the dunes around т е have changed their outlines. М у о
tracks and those of the missing camel have Ь е е п bIown away. ][
з standing о п virgin ground.
THIRST
25
Now nothing remains but to go back to the с а т р - о г at least
to г г у to go back - with the help ofthc sun and the general sense
о Г direction which is almost а п instinct with в о п т е о п е accus­
tomed to travelling in deserts. But here these t\'{o aids а г е 110t с п
til'cly г е а Ы е for sand dunes do 110t allow у о и to go in а straight
Н п е and so to keep the direction у о и have chosen.
The в т о п п 113s т п а о е г п е tblrsty, Ь ш not е х р е с п п я to Ь е a\vay
from с а т р for т п о г е than а few hours, 111ave long ago drul1k the
last sip г о т т у small waterskil1. Н о у е у е г it с а п п о т Ь е far to
the с а т р and а hougl1 т у dromcdary has lbld 110 water since
о и г last stop at а \vp.1I some two days ago, it is а п old campaigner
а п ё с а п ь е relied ц р о п to с а г г у т е back. 1 set its nose toward
where 1 think the с а г п р must Н е and С start at а brisk р а с е
А п Ь о и г р а в в е в а в э с о п ё and а third, but there is п о trace of
Z'lyd о г of о и г camving ground. None of the orange-coloured
Ш р г е в е п в а а ш а а р р е а г а п с е it would Ь е difficult indeed
ю di5cover anything а т а г in ш е г п е у е п if there had Ь е е п п о
storm.
Late in the after:oon 1 с о т е и р о п а п outcrop of granite
rocks, so г а г е in th,' mid5t of these sand wastes, and recognize
them immediately: we passed them, Zayd and 1, yesterday after­
п о о п not long before we made с а т р Г о г the riight. 1 а т greatly
reHeved; for though it is obvioU5that 1 а т way beyond the р а с е
where 1·hoped to find Zayd - having р г о Ь а Ы у missed Ы Ь у а
couple of miles о г 50 ....: it seems to т е that it should not п о ь е
difficult to find Ы т Ь у simply going in а southwesterly direction,
as "."Cdid yesterday.
Т Ь е г е were, 1 г е т е т Ь е г about three hours between the rocks
alld о и г night с а т р but wben 1 now ride for tbree т о г е bours.
is п о sign of Ь е с а т р о г of Zayd. Have 1 missed ш
again? 1 pusb. forward. always to\vard southwest. taking Ь е
ю е е of the sun carefully into account; two т о г е hours
pass. but stilI there 15 п о с а т р and п о Zayd. When night falls. [
-decide it is senseless о continue further; better rest and wai. for
Hle moming light. 1 dismount. Ь о Ь Ы е the dromedary, try to eat .
some dates but а т too thirsty: and so 1 give them to the с а т е
al1d Н е down with т у head against its body.
It is а fitful doze into у Ы с Ь 1faH: not quite sleep a"d not quite
waking, but а succession of dream states brought about Ь у
fatigue, broken Ь у а thirst that has gradually Ь е с о т е distressmg;
26 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
and, somewhere in those depths which о п е does not want to ц п
covel' ю oneself, there is that grey, squirming mollusc о С
what will Ь а р р е п to т е if 1do not find т у way back to Zayd and
to our waterskins? - for, as far as 1 know, there is п о water and
п о settlement for т а п у days' journey in а Н directions.
At dawn 1 start again. Dunng the night 1 calculated that 1
must have gone too far to the south and that, therefore, Zayd"s
с а р ought to ь е somewhere north-northeast of the place wheI'e
1 в р е п т the night. And so toward north-northeast we go, thirsty
and tired and hungry, always threading our way in wavy lines
from valley to valley, circumventing sand hills now to the righ't,
now to the left. At п о о п we rest. М у tongue sticks to the roof of
т у mouth and feels like old, cracked leather;'the throat is в о г е
and the eyes inflamed. Pressed to the camel's Ь е у \vith т у а Ь а у а
dra\vn over т у head, 1 try to sleep for а while, but с а п п о т Т п е
aftemoon sees us again о п the march, this ш е in а more easter­
ly direction - for Ь у now 1 know that we have gone too far west
- but still there is п о Zayd and п о с а т р
Another night comes. Thirst has grown to ь е torment, and the
desire for water the о п е the overpowering thought in а mind
that с а п п о longer hold orderly thoughts. But as soon as dawn
lightens the sky, 1 ride о п through the morning, through п о о п
day, into the aftemoon of another day. Sand dunes and hea't.
Dunes behind dunes, and п о end. Or this perhaps the end ­
the end of all т у roads, of а и т у seeking and finding? Of т у
coming to the people among whom 1 would never а Ш п ь е а
stranger ... ? О God,' 1 pray, 'let т е not perish thus .. .'
In the aftemoon 1 climb а tall dune in the Ь о р е of getting а
better view of the landscape. When 1 suddenly discem а dark
point far to the east, 1could cry with joy, only 1 а т too weak for
, that: for this must ь е zayd's encampment, and the waterskins,
the two big waterskins full of water! М у knees shake as 1 re­
mount т у dromedary. Slowly, cautiously, we move in the direc:­
tion of that black point which с а п surely ь е nothing but Zayd"s
с а т р Т ш е 1 take every precaution not to п it: 1 ride in а
straight line, up sand hills, down sand valleys, thus doubling,
trebling our toil, but р п Ь у the Ь о р е that within а short
while, \\'ithin two hours at the most, 1 shall reach т у goal. And
finally, afterwe have crossed the last dunecrest, the goal comes
clearJy \vithin т у sight, and J rein .in the с а ш е and Jook down
THIRST 21
upon the dark something less than half а mile away. and т у
heart seems to stop beating: for what I see before т е is the dark
outcrop of granite rocks which 1 passed tbree days ago with
Zayd and revisited two days ago alone ...
For two days 1 Ь а у е going in а circle.
-4­
И Е 1 SLIDE DOWN from the saddle, 1 а т entirely е х
hausted. 1 do not even bother to hobble the camel's legs, and in­
deed the beastis too tired to think ofrunning away. 1 у е е р but
п о tears с о т е from т у dry, swollen eyes.
How long it is since 1 havewept ... But, then, is not every­
tJiling long past? Everything is past, and there is п о present.
Ъ е е is on1y thirst. And heat. And torment.
1 Ь а у е Ь е е п without water for nearly three days now, and it is
five days в ш с е т у dromedary has had its last drink. It could
probably carry о п like this for о п е day ш о г е perhaps two; but 1
cannot, 1 know it, last that long. Perhaps 1 sha11 go mad before 1
die, for the р in т у body is ensnarled with tbe dread in т у
д and the о п е makes the other grow, searing and whispering
and tearing...
1want to rest, but at the в а ш е ш п е 1 know that if 1 rest now 1
s:ball never ь е able to get и р again. 1 drag myself into the saddle
and force the dromedary with beating and kicking to get и р and
almost fall from the saddle when the а т а lurches forward
while rising о п its hind legs and, again, when it lurches back­
ward, straightening its forelegs. We begin to г п о у е sIo\\'ly, pain­
due west. Due west: what а mockery! What does 'due
west' amount to in this deceptive, undulating sea of sand hills?
Hut 1 want to live. And so we go о п
We plod with the rest о С our strength through the night. It
must ь е morning when 1 fall from the saddle. 1 do not fall haTd;
tJile sand is soft and embracing. Т Ь е с а т е stands Ш Г о г а \vhile,
tJilen slides down with а sigh о п its knees, then о п its hind legs,
and lies crouched Ь у т у side with its neck о п the sand.
1 Н е о п the sand in the narrow shadow of the dromedary's
body, wrapped in т у а Ь а у а against the heat outside т е and the
pain and thirst а п д dread within т е 1 cannot think а п у т о т е 1
cannot ,close т у eyes. Every movement о Г the lids is like Ь О Е
ш е о п the Ь а Т and heat; thirst and crushing
28 У Н Е в о х о Т О М Е С С А
а dry silence that swathes у о о in its з ш о С Ionetiness
and despair and makes the singing о С Ы in your earsand tbe
ca.mel'sOCC85ional sigb stand out, threateningly. as ш о о р these
were the last sounds о п earth and О о two. the man and tbe
Ь е а в г the last living beings, doomed р о п earth.
High а Ь о у е us, in the swimming heat. а vulture circles slowly.
without ever stopping. а pinpoint against the bard paleness of
the sky. free and а Ь о у е а horizons ...
М у throat is swollen. constricted. and every breatb moves: а
thousand torturing needles at the Ь of т у tongue - that bJig.
big tongue у Ы с Ь should not ш о е but с а п п о stop moving in
pain, Ь а с з fonvard.like а rasp against the dry cavity о С т у
mouth. л ш у insides are hot and intertwined in one unceasing
grip of agony. For seconds the steely sky becomes black to.my
wide-open eyes.
М у band ш о е е в as if ofits о and strikes against tbe Ь а м
butt of the carblne slung о п the saddle.peg. And the band stands
stil1. and witb sudden clarity tbe mind sees the fivegood sbells in
the magazine and the quick end that а pressure о п the trigger
could bring ... Sometbing in т е whispers: М о у е quickly. get
the carbine before you are unable to move agail1!
And then 1 е е т у lips ш о е е and shape toneless words that
с о т е from в о ш е dark recessesofт у mind: 'We sha1l try you ...
most certain1y try you .. .' and the bIurred words slowly assume
shape and а into pattem-a verse from Ф е К о We ю
most certainly г у у о и ,vith е а г Ш hUl1ger О with the lack о
possessions alld labour's г Ш В give t/le good tiding 10 Ihose
))'ho remain stead/ast 011d. у ь е ca/amity befol/s them, О у 'B't­
hold. о God е belong and Wlto Him do ,ve г е
Everything is hot and dark; but out of the Ь о darkness 1sen.'le
а cooling breath ofwind and hear it rustle 50ftly - wind rustling.
as if in trees - over \vater - and the water is Ф е sluggish littIe
stream between grassy banks. near the Ь о т е о С т у childhood. J
а т lying о п the bank, а little Ь о у of nine or ten years, chewing а
grass sta1kand gazing at the white cows \vhich grazenearby with
great. drcamy eyes and the innocence of contentment. In the dis­
з п с е peasant women \\'ork in the field. О п е of them wears а red
head-kerchief з п а blue skirt \vith broad red stripes. Willow
trees stand о п the bank of Ш е stream, and over its surface g1ides
а white duck. making the water g1itter in its з е And Ф е 50ft
Н 29
wind rustles о э е г т у face like ananimal's в п о п о Ь yes, it is п
deed а п animal's snort: the big white cow with the brown spots
has с о т е quite close to т е and now nudges т е snorting, with
its muzzJe, and 1 feel the movement о С its legs Ь у т у side...
1 о р е п т у е у е а and Ь е а г the snort о Г т у dromedary, and feel
the movement О Г its legs Ь у т у side. It has Ь щ С raised itself о п its
laind legs with uplifted neck а п д head, its nostrils widened as if
scenting а sudden, \velcomesmell in the п о о п air. It snorts again,
and 1 sense the excitement rippling down its long neck toward
the shoulder and the big. half-raised body. 1 have seen camels
snuffie and snort like this wben they scent water after long days
О Г desert travel; Ь ш there is п о water Ь е г е ... О г - 1S there? 1
lift ш у head and follow with т у eyes the direction toward which
the ca.mel has ш г п е ё its head. It is the dune nearest us, а lo\v
summit against tl1e steely bleakness о С the sky, empty of п ю у е
ш е п т о г sound. But there is а sound! There is а faint в о ц п ё like
the vibration О Г а п old Ь а г р very delicate and brittle, high­
JPitched: the high-pitched, brittlesound о Г а beduin voicechanting
о п the т а г с Ь п rhythm \vith Н е camel's tread - just Ь е у о п д the
summit oftlle sand Ы quite п е а г as distances go. Ь ш - 1kno\v it
in а fraction о С а п instant - С а г beyond т у г е а с Ь о г the sound о С
т у voice. Т г а г е people there, Ь и 1с а п п о т г е а с Ь them. 1 а т
ю о \veak е у е л to get и р 1 try to shout, but о п у а hoarse grunt
comes Г г о т т у throat. А п д then т у l1and strikes, as if о С its
0\\'11, against the Ь а г д butt of с а г Ы п е о п the saddle ... а п д
"'ith the е у е о С т у mind 1see the fivc good sheIls in the maga­
е ...
With а supreme effort 1 manage to unsling the weapon from
the saddle-peg. Drawing the boJt is like lifting а mountain, Ь и
finallyit isdone. 1stand the с а г Ы п е о п its butt and fire а shot ver­
tically into the aic. Т Ь е bullet \vhines into the emptiness with а
pitifuUy tmn sound. 1 draw Н е bolt again а п д fire again. а п д
then listen. Т Ь е harplike singing has stopped. For а mOnlent
there is nothing Ь и silence. Suddenly а head, and then
his shoulders, а р р е а г о е г the crest о Г tlle dUl1e; and another
т а п Ь у his side. Т Ь е у look д О У [01' а \vhile, then turn а г о и п д
and shout something to some invisible cOl11panions, and the man
in front clambers о у е г the crest а п д half runs, 11alf slides down
the slope toward т е
Т Ь е г е is commotion around т е t\VO, three meli - ....'hat а
э о Т И Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
crowd after а Н that о п е й п е в в - are trying to lift т е ц р their
movements а most confusing pattem of а г ш в and legs... 1 feel
something buming-cold, like ice and П е о п т у lips. and see а
bearded beduin face bent over т е his hand pressing а dirty"
moist rag against т у mouth. Т man's other hand is holding а п
о р е п waterskin. 1 make а п instinctive г п о у е toward it. but tbe
beduin gently pushes т у hand back, dunks the rag into the
water and again presses а few drops onto т у lips. 1 Ь а у е to bite
т у teeth together to prevent the water from burning т у throat;
but tlle beduin р п е з т у teeth apart and again drops some water
into т у mouth. It is not water: it is ri'l.olten lead. Why а г е tbey
doing this to т е 1want to run away from the ю п ш е but they ..
bold т е back, the devils... М у skin is buming. М у whole
budy is in flames. Do they want to Ш т е О Ь if only 1 had the
strength to get hold of т у rifle to defend myself! В ш they do not
е у е п let т е rise: they hold т е do\vn to the ground and pry т у
mouth о р е п again and drip water into it, and 1 Ь а у е to s\vaHow
it - and, strangely enough, it does not burn as rercely as а т о
ment ago - and the wet rag о п т у head feels good, and whelll
they pour water over т у body, the touch or the wet cl6thes
brings а shudder of delight...
And then а Н goes black, 1а т falling, falling down а deep well,
the speed of т у falling makes the air rush past т у ears, the rush­
ing grows into а г о а г а roaring blackness, black, black ...
• -5­
••• BLACK, BLACK, а 50ft blackness without sound, а goo(i
and friendJy darkness that ernbraces you like а warm b!anket
and mak.es you wish that you could always rernain like this•. so
wonderfuJlytired sleepyand lazy; and there is reaHy п о п е е д
for you to о р е п your eyes or to т о у е your а but you do т о у е
your arm and do о р е п your eyes: only to see dark.ness aboY€:
you, the woollen darkness of а beduin tent made of b!ack goat
hair, with а narrow opening in front that shows you а piece 01'
starry night sky and the soft curve of а dune shimmering undei'
the starlight... And then the tent-opening darkens and а rnan's
figure stands in it, the outline ofhis fiowing cloak sharplyetchedl
against the sky, and 1 hear Zayd's voice exclaim: Н е is awake"
Ь е is awake!' - and his austere face comcs quite close to т у OWnI
and his hand grips т у shoulder. Another т а п enters the tent; ]
• • • •
31 THIRST
cannot clearly see him, but as soon as Ь е speaks with а slow,
solemnvoice1 know Ь е is а Shammar beduin.
А 1С е е а hot, consumingtblrst and grip hard the bow1 о С
miilk wblchZayd ho1ds out toward т е but thereisп о о п в е с а п у
р Ш п when 1 gulp it down while Zayd с е а ш how tbls small
group о С beduins happened to с а т р п е а с Ы т at the time when
the sandstocm broke 100se, and how, when the strayed с а т е
ca1m.Iy г е ш г п е ё Ь у itselfduring the night, they Ь е с а т е worried
and went о ш all of them together, to search for т е and how,
after п е а с у three days, when they had almost given и р Ь о р е
they heard т у Ш е shots С с о т beblnd а dune...
And now theyhave erectedа teot over т е and 1а т ordered to
lie: in it tonight and tomorrow. Our beduin frieods а с е jn 00
П У their waterskins а с е full; theyhaveeveo Ь е е п able to give
three bucketfu1s to т у dromedary: for they know that о п е day's
joumey towacd the south will bring them, and ш to а п oasis
wJ!lere there js а \vell. And in the т е а п ш е the came1s have fod­
dc:r enough in the hamdh bushes that grow all around.
After а whi1e, Zayd he1ps т е о щ of ш е tent, spreadsа blanket
00 Ш е sand, and 1 lie doWn under the stars.
А FEW HOURS LATER 1 awaken to the с в of Zayd's
coffeepots; the smell of fresh coffee is like а woman's е т Ь с а с е
'zayd!' 1 с а о ш and ampleasantlysurprisedthat т у voice,
though stil1 tired, has 10st jts croak. 'Wilt thou give т е some
coffee1'
В у God 1 П О т у uncle!' answers Zayd, following the old
Arab custom of thus addressing'8. т а п to whom о п е wants to
showrespect, ь е Ь е older о с younger than the spealcer (asit Ь а р
pens, 1am а fewyears youoger than Zayd). Т и shalt bave as
Ш с coffee as thy heart desires!'
1 drink т у coffee and grin at Zayd's Ь а р р у countenance.
'Why, brother, do weexposeourselves to such thingsinstead of
а п in our homes like seosible peoplel'
Б е с а Zayd grins back at т е 'it is not for the 1ike of thec
and ш е to waitin our Ь о ш unti1 the limbsЬ е с о ш е stiffand old
а р overtakes us. Andbesides, do not р е о р е die in their Ь о з
aswell?Does oot mana1ways с а п у hisdestinyaround hisneck,
whcrever Ь е ш а у ь е l'
32 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
The word Zayd uses for 'destil1Y' isqisma - 'that which is а р
portioned' - better known to tlle West in its Turkish о п п kis­
т е г And whi1e1sip another с и р of coffee, it passes through т у
mind that this А г а Ы с expression has another, deeper meaning as
well: 'that in which о п е has а share.'
That ;11 и Ы с о п е ',as а share ...
These words strike а faint, elusive <:llOrd in т у г п е ш о г у ...
there was а grin that accompaniedthem ... whose grin ? А grin
behind а cloud о в ш о к е pungent smoke, like the smoke of
hashish: yes - it was the smoke of hashish, and the grin Ь е о п е
to one ofthe strangest т е п 1have ever т е - and 1met Ы т after
о п е о Г the strangest experiences of т у life: while trying to escape
from а danger that seemed-only seemed-to Ь е imminent in its
threat, 1had Ь е е п racing, \vithout knowing it, into а danger а г
т о г е real, Г а г т о г е imminent, than the one 1v/as trying to elude:
and both the г п г е а dal1ger а п the г е а о п е Ied to another es­
с а р е ...
lt а Н happened nearly eight years ago, \vhen 1 was travelling
о п horseback, accompanied Ь у т у Tatar scrvant П п а п п п г о т
Shiraz to Kirman in southern г а п - а desolate, thinly popu­
Iated, г о а е й е в в stretch п е а г Niris Lake. No\v, п winter, it was а
squeIchy, muddy steppe with п о villages in the vicinity, hcdged
in to the south Ь у Kuh-i-Gushnegan, 'the Mountains о Г tllc
Hungry'; toward the north it dissolved into thc swamps г п а г
bordered the lake. п the afternoon, as у е circumvent а п i50­
Iated hill, the lake с а т е suddenly into view: а motior.1ess green
surface without breath о г sound о г life, о the waier \vas so salty
that п о fish could live ш it. А р а п г о т а few crippled trees а п с
desert shr.ubs, the saltysoil п е а г its shores did not allowanyvege­
tation to grow. The ground was lightly covered with muddy
snow and over it, at а distance о about two hund red yards г о т
the shore, ran а thinly outlined path.
The evening е Н and the caravanserai о Khan-i-Khet - о ш
goaI о г the night-was nowhere in sight. But у е had to reach it
at а п у price; а г а п \vide there was п о other settlement, and the
nearness о the s\vamps made progress in darkness extreme]y
hazardous. In fact, we had Ь е е п warned in the morning not Ito
venture there alone, а г о п е [aIse step might easily ш е а п sudden
death. Apart г о т that, о и г horses were very tired а й е г а long
day's march over oozy ground and had to Ь е rested and [ed.
т н г в в т 33
With the coming of the night Ь е а у у rain set in. We rode, wet
and morose and silent, relying о п the instinet of the Ь о з
rather than о п our useless е у е з Hours passed: and п о с а г а с а п
serai appeared. Perhaps we had passed it Ь у in the darkness and
would now Ь а у е to spel1d the night in the о р е п under а down­
р о ц г that was steadily mounting in strength... Т Ь е Ь о о е е в of
our horses splashed through water; our sodden elothes elung
heavily to our bodies. Blaek and opaque hung the night around
us under its veils of streaming water; we were ebllled to the
Ь о п е but the knowledge that the swamps \vereso е ш е wa:: е ь е п
ш о г е ehilling. Should the horses at а п у time miss the solid
ground - 'then а у God Ь а у е merey ц р о п у о и we Ь а с Ь е е п
\\rarned in the morning.
1 rode ahead, with Ibrahim folIowing perhaps ten р а с е з 00­
hind. Again and again the terrifying thought: Had we Ieft К а п
К beblnd us in the darkness 1What а п е у Н prospect, to Ь а у е
ю spend the night under the eold rain; but ifwe proceeded far­
tJh.er - what about the а ш р 1
А Н of а sudden а soft, squishy sound from under т у horse's
hooves; 1 felt the animaI slide in the п ш с к sink in а little, dra\v
up о п е Ieg franticaHy, sIide again.- and the thought piereed т у
mind: the swamp! 1jerked the reins hard and dug т у heeIsinto
the horse's flanks. It tossed its head high and started working its
Iegsfuriously. М у skin broke о ш in eold perspiration. Т Ь е night
Vias so blaek that 1eould not е м е п diseem т у own hands, but in
the eonvulsive heaving of the horse's body 1 sensed its desperate
struggte against the embraee of the swamp. Almost without
thinking, 1 grabbed the ridillg erop whieh ordinarily hung un·
used at т у wrist and struek the horse's blndquarters with а Н т у
might, hoping thus to ineite it to utmost effort - for if it stood
still now, it would Ь е sueked, and 1 \vith it, deeper and deeper
into the mud... Unaeeustomed to such feroeious beating, the
poor beast - а Kashgai stallion of exceptional speed and power
_. reared о п its blnd Iegs, struek the ground with а fours again,
strained gaspingly against the mud, jumped, sIipped, heaved it­
self forward again, and slipped again - and а Н the time its
Ь о о у е з beat desperately against the soft, oozy mire...
Some mysterious object swept with а swish over т у head 1
raised р у hand and received а hard, incomprehensible ы о .
what from 1 Time and thought tumbled over one another and
34 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
Ь е с а ш е confused... Т the splasblng of the rain and tllC
panting of the horse 1 could Ь е а г for seconds that were like
hours, the relentless sucking sound о С the swamp... Т Ь е el1ld
must 00 п е а г 1 о о в е п е ё т у feet from the stirrups, ready ю
jump from the saddle ard try т у luck а о п е - perhaps 1 с о ш ё
save myself if 1 а у flat о п the ground - when suddenly - ц п
believably-the horse's hoovcs struck against hard ground, о п с е
twice ... and, with а sob о С relief, pulled the reins and brought
the quivering animal to а standstill. We were saved...
у now did 1 remember т у с о т п р а ш о в and cal1edout, full
ofterror, 'Ibrahim!' No arower. М у heart went cold.
'Ibrahim... !' - but there was о п у the blar:;" night around
т е and tbe falling rain. Had Ь е Ь е е п и п а Ы е to save himself?
With а hoarse voice 1 called out о п с е again, 'Ibrahim!'
And then, al.most Ь е у о п ё Ь е Н е С а shout sounded faintly from
а great о о з п с е Н е т е ... 1 а т Ь е т е
Now it was т у reason's turn to stand still: how had we 00­
с о т е so widely separated?
'Ibrahim!'
Н е г е ... here!' - and following the sound, leading т у horse
Ь у the reins and t:sting every inch of ground with т у feet, 1
walked very slowly, very carefully toward the distant voice: and
there was Ibrahim, sitting calmly in his saddle.
'What has happened to у о ц Ibrahim? Didn't you also Ы ц п
der into the swamp?'
'Swamp ... ? No - 1simply stood still when у о и su1denly, 1
don't know \vhy, galloped away.'
Ga//oped о о у ... Т Ь е riddle was solved. Т Ь е strugg1eagainst
the swamp had Ь е е п о у а fruit of т у imagination. М у horse
must Ь а у е sUnplystepped into а muddy rut and 1, thinking tha,t
we were OOing drawn into the morass, had whipped it into а fren,­
zied gallop; cheated Ь у the darkness, 1 had mistaken the а
mal's forward movement for а desperate struggle against the
swamp, and had Ь е е п racing blindly through the night, unaware
of the т а п у gnarled trees that dotted the plain.... Т trees,
and not the swamp, had Ь е е п the immediate, real danger: the
s11'lall twig that had struck т у hand could as well Ь а у е Ь е е п а lar­
ger branch, wblch might have broken mysku11and thus brougbt
т у journey to а decisive end in а п unmarked grave in southerll1
а п ...
Н 35
1was Curious with myself, doubIy furious because now we had
108t а Н orientation and could п о 10nger find а trace of the path.
Now we would never find the caravanserai...
But о п с е again 1 was mistaken.
Ibrablm dismounted to feel the terrain with his hands and so
perhaps to rediscover the path; and wblle Ь е was crawling thus
о п а fours, bls head suddenly struck а wall - the dark wal1 of
the caravanserai of К
But for т у imaginery bIundering into the swamp we would
have gone.о п missed the caravanserai and truly lost ourselves in
the swamps which, as we subsequently learned, began less than
two yards ahead...
Т caravanserai was о п е of the т а п у decayed remnants of
thle е р о с Ь of Shah Abbas the Great - mighty bIocks of masonry
\vith vaulted passageways, gaping doorways and crumbling fire­
places. Н е г е and there у о и could discern traces of old carving
over the lintels and с г а с к е ё majolica tiles; the few inhabitabIe
rooms \vere littered with old straw and horse duqg. When Ibra­
him and 1 entered the т п а п т Ь а we found the Qverseer of the
caravanserai seated Ь у а п о р е п fire о п the bare ground. At his
side was а bare-footed т а п of diminutive size draped in а tat­
tered cloak. Both rose to their feet at our appearance,and the lit­
Н е stranger bowed solemnly with а п exquisite, almost theatrical
gesture, the right hand placed over the heart. His cloak \vas
covered with innumerabIe multicoloured patches; Ь е was dirty,
entirely unkempt; but bls eyes were shining and bls face serene.
Т overseer left the room to attend to о ш horses. 1 threw otf
т у soaked tunic, while Ibrablm immediately set himselfto mak­
ing tea over the о р е п fire. With the condescension. of а great lord
who forfeits п о п е of bls dignity Ь у being courteous to his in­
feriors, the odd little т а п graciously accepted the с и р of tea
Ы с Ь Ibrahim held out toward him.
Without а п у show of undue curiosity, as if opening а drawing­
room conversation, Ь е turned to т е У о и are English,janab-i-a/i?'
'No, 1 а т а Namsalvi' (Austrian).
'Would it ь е improper to ask if it is business that brings you
to these parts 7' .
'1 а т а writer for ne\vspapers,' 1 replied. '1 а т г а е Ш п
through your country to describe it to the people о С т у о
Ъ е у love to kno\v how others live and what they think.'
36 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
Н е nodded with an approving smile and lapsed into в й е п с е
After а while he drew а small clay and а Ь а т Ь о о rod
from the folds of his cloak; he attached the rod to the clay ves­
sel; then he rubbed something that Jooked like tobacco Ь е в е е е п
his palms and placed it carefully, as if it \vere more precious than
gold, in the bowl of the pipe, covering it with live coals. With а
visible effort, he dre\v in the smoke through the Ь а т Ь о о rod,
violently coughing and clearing his throat п the process. П т е
water in the clay pipe bubbled and а biting о п о ц г Ь е р а ц to fill
the г о о ш And then 1 recognized it: it was Indian Ь е т р hashish
- and now 1 ц п ё е г в ю с ё also the man's strange mannerisms: he
\\'as а 110s11S110S!li, а п addict. His eyes \vere not veiled like those of
opium smokers; they shone \vith а kind of detached, impersonal
ц и е п в п у staring into а distance that was immeasurably remove.d
from the real world around them.
1 looked о п in silence. When he finished his pipe at last, Ь е
asked т е
'Will у о и not try it?'
1refused \\"ith thanks; 1 had tried opium о п с е о г twice(without
а п у particular enjoyment), but this hashish business seemed too
strenuous and unappetizing even to try. The hosllShosl1i laughed
soundlessly; his squinting eyesglided over т е with а friendly п о п у
'1 know what у о и а г е thinking, О т у respected friend: у о и are
tl\inking that hashish is the work ofthe devil and are afraid
Nonsense. Hashisll is а gift from God. Very good - especially
for the mind. Look herc, п а г п и let т е explain it to у о и О р п п п
is bad - there с а п Ь е п о doubt about it - for it awakens in т а п а
craving for ц п а п а ш а о things; it makes his dreams greedy, lik,e
those of an animal. But hashish silences а greed and makes one
indifferent to а Н things ofthe world. That's it: it makes one с о п
tented. У о и could place а mound of gold before а hoshshasbl-­
not just while he is smoking, but at а п у time - and Ь е would not
even stretch out his littlc finger for it. Opium makes people weak
а п cowardly, but hashish k.ills а Н fear and makes а т а п brave
as а lion. If у о и were to ask а 110shs!ms!li to dive into а п icy
stream in the middle of \vinter, he \vould simply dive into it and
laugh... For he has learned that to Ь е \\'ithout greed is to Ь е
\vithout fear - and that if т а п goes beyond fear he goes beyond
'
danger as well, kno\ving that \vhatever ]lappens to ш is but his
share in а Н that is happening... '
Н 37
And Ь е laughed again, with that short, sl1aking, soundless
laughter OOtween mockery and benevolence; then Ь е stopped
lauglUng and о п у grinned OOhind his cloud of smoke, his sbln­
ing eyes fixed о п а п irnmovable distance.
М у SHARE IN ALL that is happening .. .' 1 think to myself
as 1 lie under the friendly Arabian stars. '1 - this bundle of flesh
and Ь о п е of sensations and perceptions - Ь а у е О О е п placed
within the orbit of Being, and а т within all that is happening ...
"Danger" is onlyan illusion: never с а п it "overcome" т е for а
that happens to т е is р а п ofthe all-embracing stream of\vhicl11
myself а ш а part. Could it 00, perhaps, that danger .and safety,
death andjoy, destiny and fu1filment, а с е but different aspects of
this tiny, majestic bundle that is I? Wbat endless freedom, О
God, hast Thou granted to т а п ...'
I Ь а у е to close т у eyes, so sharp is the pain of happiness at
this thought; and wings of freedom brush т е silently from afar
in the breath of the wind that passes over т у face.
-6­
Г г в в ь в т в о к о ENOUGH to sit up now, and zayd brings т е
о п е of our camel-saddles to е а п upon. 'Make thyself comfort­
а Ы е О т у uncle. It g1addens т у heart to see thee well after I had
moumed thee for dead.'
Т hast Ь е е п а good friend to т е zayd. What would 1
Ь а у е done without thee а these years if thou hadst not follow­
ed т у call and с о т е to т е
"1 Ь а у е never regretted these years with thee, О т у uncle. 1still
г е ш е ш о е г the day when 1got thy letter, ш о г е than б е years ago,
с а Ш п т е to М е с с а ... Т thought of seeing thee again was
dear to т е especially as in the meantime thou hadst О О е п bless­
ed with the blessing of Islam. But just then 1 had married а
Muntafiq gi.rl, а virgin, and her love pleased т е exceedingly.
Т Iraqi girls, they Ь а у е narrow waists and hard breasts, like
Ы - and, smiling with remembrance, he presses his forefinger
against the hard pommel of the saddle о п which 1 а т leaning ­
'and it is difficult to let their embraces go... So 1 told myself,
"1 will go, but not just now: let т е wait for а few weeks." But the
weeks passed, and the months, and although 1 soon divorced
38 Т И Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
that woman .,... the daughter of а dog, she had Ь е е п making eyes
at her cousin - 1could not make и р ш у mind to forsake т у job
with the Iraqi agay/, and т у friends, and the joys о С Baghdad
and В а в г а а п always told myself, just now; after а little
while..... В ш о п е д а у 1 was riding away from our с а ш р where
1 Ь а д collected т у monthly р а у and was thinking of spending
the night in а friend's quarters, when suddenly thou camest to
myn'ind and 1 remembered \vhat thou hadst told т е in thy
letter ofthy dear rafiqa's· death - т а у God have ш е г с у о п her­
and 1 thought ofhow п е у thou must Ь е without her, and а at
о п с е 1 knew i had to go to tllee. А п д there а п д then 1 pu11ed off
the Iraqi star from т у iga/ and threw it away; then, without even
going to myhouse to coHect т у clothes, 1 tumed т у drome­
dary's head toward the Nufud, toward Najd, and started out,
stopping о п у а the п е х т village to buy а waterskin and some
provisions, and rode о п and о п unti1 1 т е thee at М е с с а four
weeks later. . .'
'And dost t!hou remember, Zayd, 0\'" firstjourney together in­
to the interior of А т а Ы а southward to the palm orchards and
wheat fields of Wadi Bisha, and thence into the sands о С Ranya
wblch had never before Ь е е п trodden Ь у а non-Arab?'
'And how well 1 remember it, О т у uncle! Т Ь о и wert so keen
о п seeing the Empty О ц а п е г where the jinns make Ь е sands
sing,under the sun ... And what а Ь о и those badu living о п its
п ш who had never у е seen glass in lives and thought Ь а
Ь у eyeglasseswere made о С frozen water? Theywere like jinns
themselves, reading tracks in Ь е sand а з other р е о р е read а
book, and from the skies and from the air tbe coming о С
а sandstonn before it с а т е ... And dost thou с е с а О
т у uncle, that guide we Ы at Ranya - that devil о С а
whom thou wantedst to shoot down when Ь е was about to aban­
don us in the midst о С the desert? How furious Ь е was а Ь о и Ш е
machine with' which thou makest pictures!'
We both laugh at that adventure Ы lies so far behind и з
But at the Ш е we did not feel at а Н like laughing. We were
к six orseven days' journey south о С Riyadh when that
guide, а fanatical beduin from the и о settlement о С Ar-Rayn,
• wire.
t Rub' К the vast, uninhabitcd sand desert which covers about о м
quarter or the AiabiaD Peninsular.
т н т в в т 39
feJl into а paroxysm of с а в е when I explained to him what
т у с а т е с а was foc. Н е wanted to leave us there and then ь е
с а ш е such heathenish picture-making endangered his soul. I
wou1dnot have minded getting ridof himhadit not Ь е е п thatwe
were just then iiJа region '.vithwhich neither Zayd п о с 1was fam­
i1iar and where,left to ourselves, we would с е г л у а е 10stour
way. At first 1 tried to г е а з о п with our 'devi1 of а beduin·, but
to п о avaiI; Ь е remained adamant and turned back his с а т е т о
ward Ranya. 1made it с е а г о Ы т that it would cost Ы т his 1ife
to leave us to a1most certain death from thirst. When in spite of
this waming Ь е set his dromedary in motion, 1aimed т у г Ш е at
Ы т and threatened to fire"": with every intention of doing so:
and this, at last, seemed to 9ut\veigh our friend's с о п с е г п about '
his soul. After some grumbling, Ь е agreed to lead us о Ь е next
а с в е settlement, three days ahead, where we could р а с е
our dispute Ь е С о с е the qadi for decision. zayd and 1 disarmed
him and took ш г п в standing guard during the night to р г е у с п г
him from slipping away. Т qadi at Quwa'iyya, to whom у е
appealed а few days later, а first gave judgment in favour of our
guide, 'for,' Ь е said, 'it is shameful to make pictures о Е living
beings' (basing it о п а wrong interpretation of а saying of the
Р г о р п е ь for despite Ь е - so prevalent among т а п у Mus­
lims to this day - that the pepicting of living beings is f::>rbidden,
Islamic Law contains п о injunction to tms effect}. Thereupon 1
showed the qad; the openletter from Ь е К 'to а Н amirs of Ь е
land and everyone who з у read this' - and tl1e qadi'sface grew
10nger and 10nger as Ь е read: 'Muhammad Asad is our guest and
friend and dear unto us, and everyone who shows Ы т
ness sho,vs it to us, and everyone who is hostile о Ы т wil1 Ь е
hostile о us.. .' Ibn Saud's words and seal had. а magic
effect о п Ь е severe'qadi: and Ь е ultimately decided that 'under
certain circun1stances' it might Ь е permissible о make pictures.
. . . Nevertheless, we let our guide go and hired ario.ther о lead
us о Riyadh. .
•And dost thou г е щ е т Ь е г those days in Riyadh, О т у unclc.
we у е г е guests of ihe King and tllOti wert so и п Ь а р р у to
the old stables о Г Ь е palace filled ,vith shiny new motorcars.
• . . And the К graciousness toward Ь е е ...'
'And dost thou г е т е т Ь е г Zayd, hOW he sent us out to е р Т С
Ь е secrets behind the beduin rebellion. а щ Ь о у е journeyed

40 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
tbrough т а п у nights, and stole into Kuwayt, and at last found
out the truth about the cases of glittering new riyals and rifles
that were coming to the rebels from across the в е а ... ?'
'And that other mission, О т у uncle, when Sayyid Ahmad,
т а у God lengthen his life, sent thee to Cyrenaica - and how we
secretly crossed the е е а to Egypt in а dJJOW - and how we made
our way into the Jabal Akhdar, eluding the vigilance of those
ltalians, т а у God's curse ь е upon them, and joined the mujahi­
di" under т al-Mukhtar1 Those were exciting days!'
.. And so we continue to other of the т а п у days,
the innumerable days we have Ь е е п together, and our 'Dost thou
г е ш е п ю е г 1 Dost thou remember l' carries us far into the nigbt,
until the campfire flickerslower and lower, and only а fewpieces
ofwood remain glowing, and zayd's face graduaHy recedes ш ю
the shadows and jtself becomes 1ikeа memory to т у heavy е у е з
In the starlit silence of the desert. with а tender, lukewarm
wind rippling the sands, the т of past and present inter­
twine, separate again and с а Н to one another with wondrous
sounds ofevoc.ation, backward through the years, back to the
beginningof т у Arabian years, to т у first pilgrimage to М е с с а
and the darkness that overshadowed those early days: to the
death of the т whom 1 loved as 1 have loved п о woman
since and who now lies buried under the soil of М е с с а under"а
4iimple stone without inscription that marks the end of her road
and the beginning of а new о п е for ш е а п end and а beginning,
а с а Н and а п е с Ь о strangely intertwined in the rocky valley of
М е с с а ...
'ZAYD, IS THERB some coffee leftT
А thy command, О ш у uncle,' answers zayd. Н е rises with­
out haste, the taH, narrow brass coffeepot in his left hand and
t\VO m.inute, handleless cups clinking in his right - one (or т е
and о п е for himself - pours а little coffee into the first cup and
hands it to ш е From under the shadow of the red-and-wblte­
checked kufiyya bls eyes regard ш е with solemn intentness, as if
this were а much more serious matter than а mere cup о С coffee.
!Т eyes- deepset and long-lashed, austere and sad in repose
but ever ready"to flash in sudden gaiety - speak of а hundr,ed
generations of life in steppes ч о т tbe е у е з of а т а п _
т н г в в т 41
whose ancestors have never Ь е е п exploited and have never
ploited others. But the most beautiful in Ы т are his movements:
serene, aware of their own rhythm, never hurried and never heSi­
tant: а precision and е с о п о т у that reminds you ofthe interplay
of instruments in а well-ordered symphony orchestra. У ou see
such movements often among beduins; the sparseness of the
desert is reflected in them. For, apart from the few towns and
village$, life in Arabia has Ь е е п so little moulded Ь у Ь ш п
h.andsthat nature in her austerity has forced т а п to avoid а dif­
ш о п in behavio ш and to reduce а doing dictated Ь у his м or
ь у outward necesrity to а few. very definite, basic forms. which
have remained the в а ш е for countless generations and havein
Ш е acquired the smooth sharpness of crysta1s: and this inherit­
ed simp1icity of а с ц о п is now apparent in the true Arab's gest­
ures as well as in his attitude toward Ш е
Т е т е Zayd, where are we going о п о
Zayd 100ks at т е with а smi1e: 'Why, О т у uncle, toward
Т а у т а о С с о ш е ... l'
. 'No, brother, 1 wanted to go to Т а у ш а but now 1do not want
it anymore. We are going to М е с с а •..' .
п
BEGINNING OF Т Н Е ROAD
-1­
Т IS NEARLY EVENING,· а fe'N days after т у е п с о ц п
К
ter with thirst, when zayd and 1 arrive at а forlom little
oasis where we intend to stop for the night. Under the rays
. о С the setting sun the sand hil1s in the east shine like irides­
cent masses о С agate with ever-changing pastel shadows and з и Ь
duOO light reflexes, so delicate in colour that even the е у е seems
to do violence to tbem а з it follows the barely perceptible fl)\V of
shadows to\vard the greyness of growing dusk. У о и с а п still see
clearly the feathery crowns ofthe palms and, halfhidden behind
them, the lowly. mud-grey bouses and garden walls; and the
wooden wbeeJs over the well are still singing.
We make the cameJs lie down at some distance о ш the vil­
laE;e. below the palm orchards, unload our heavy saddlebags and
re:move the saddles fromthe animals' bot backs. А few urchirls
assemble around the str".ngers and one of them, а е у О О littJle
Ь о у in а tattered ш ш с offers to sbow Zayd а place 'wbere б г е
wood is to ь е found; and while the two set out о п their errand, 1
take the с а ш е to tbe е П As 1 ]ower т у Jeather bucket and
draw it и р fillOO, some women с о т е from the vilJage to fetch
. water in 'copper basins and earthenware pitchers, which they
с а у й е е о п their beads witb both а г п в outstretched sidewis,e
and bent upward - so as to balance tbeir loads better - holding
the corners of their veils in uplifted hands like fluttering wings.
Р е а с е Ь е with thee, О wayfarer: they say.
And 1answer: • д with у о и ь е р е а с е and the of God.'
Т garments are black, and their faces - as almost always
with bOOuin and vi1lage \vomen in tms part of Arabia - uncover·
00, so that о п е с а п see their large black eyes. AJthough they bav,e
Ь е е п settled in а п oasis for many generations, they bave not yet
10st the earnest mien of their forefatbers' nomad days. Т
movements are clear and definite, and their reserve free of а
shyness as they wordlessly take the bucket rope from т у bands
42
BEGINNING OF У Н Е О Л 43
and draw water for т у camels-just as, four thousand у е а в а в о
that woman at the weJl did to А Ь а а ш servant when Ь е с а т е
from С а п to find for Ь з master's son Isaac а м С е from
а т о п в their kinsfolk in Padan-Aram.
Н е made his т kneel down witl,out the city Ь у а well о
,yater at the time о the evening, the time that у о т е К О out о
draw water.
And he said, о Lord Godо т у masterAbral,am, 1р г а у Т п е е
send т е good.speed t/,is day, and s/zow kindness и т о т у т а п е г
Abraham. Beho/d, 1standhere Ь у the wello/,yater; а м М daZlgh­
ters о the т е п о the city с о т е out to water. Let it с о т е to
р а з that the damse/ to whom 1shall say, Е е down thy pitcher, 1
р г а у thee, that1т а у drink,"-andsheshallsay, ..Drink, andl wi/I
give thy т drinkalso"..let the т Ь е she that Т и hast а р
poinled/or Т п Isaac; п thereby shalll know that Т и
hast showed kindness unto т у master.' .
And it с to pass, Ь е о г е Ь е haddone speakiirg, lhat, behold,
Rebecca с а т е out . . . withherpitcherи р о п hershoulder. And the
т was very ш г to look о а virgin, п had а у т а п
known her: and she wentdown to the well, andfilled Ь е г pitcher,
and с а т е р .
And the п г а п to meet her, п said, 'Let т е l р г а у thee,
drinkа litlle water о thypitcher.' A,ndshesnid, 'Drink, т у lord';
andshehastened, andlet down herpitcher р о Ь е г hand, п gave
Ы т drink. And when she had а о п е giving Ы т drink, she said, '1
»'ill drawwater о г thy camels also, until theyhavedone drinking.'
Andshehastened, andemptiedм г pitcherinto the trough, and г а
again unto the well о ,draw M'ater, and dre,.., о г a/l his camels. • .
т Biblical story floats through т У mind а 1 stand with ш у
two с а т е Ъ е о е the well о а litt1e oasis amidst the sands о С
the Great NuCud and gaze at the. women who have taken the
blucket rope from т у hands and now draw water for т у а
mals.
Far away is the country of Padan-Aram and А Ь а ш time:
but these women with the power о remembrance their
stately ш have evoked, obliterate all distance о space and
I1l1ake four thousand у е а п appear as о п о а С С О ш in time. I
М а у God bless your hands, ш у sisters, and keep you secure.'
44 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
'And thou, too, remain under Goo's protection, О wayfarer,'.
they с е р у and tum to their pitchers and basins to fill т with
water for their homes.
ON М У в в т ц в н to our camping р а с е 1 make the camels
kneel down and hobble their forelegs to prevent them from
straying at rught. zayd has already lit а fire а п ё is busy making
coffee. Water boils in а tall brass coffeepot with а о п в curved
spout; а smaUer pot of а similar shape stands ready at zayd's
elbow. In bls left hand Ь е holds а huge, flat iron spoon with а
handle two feet long, о п wblch Ь е is roasting а handful of coffee
Ь е а over the 510w б е for in А с а Ы а coffee is freshly roasted
for every р о г As 500n as the beans а с е lightly tanned, Ь е places
т in а brass ш о п а г and pound5 them. Т Ь е pours
some of the boiling water from the larger pot into the в ш а й е г
е ш р ц е а the ground coffee into it and р а с е the pot near the ш е
10let it 510wly в ц п ш е г When the brew is alm05t ready,he adds а
few cardamon seed5 to ш е it ш о г е bitter, for, as the saying
goes in з ь ш coffee, in order to ь е gooo, MU5t ь е 'bitter like
death and hot like love'.
But 1am not yet ready to enjoy т у coffee at leisure. Tired and
sweaty after the П о hot Ь о ш в in" the saddle, with clothes с в
ing dirtiIy to т у 5kin, 1 am 10nging for а bath; and 50 1 и о П
back to the well under the р а ш з в
It is a1ready dark. Т palm о с с Ь з а с е deserted; о у far
away, where the houses 5tand, а dog barks. 1 throw о П т у
clothes and climb down into the weU., holding о п with hands and
feet to the ledges and clefts in the masonry and supporting myself
Ь у the ropes о п wblch the waterskins Ь в down to the dark
water and into it. It is cold and reaches to т у chest. In the dark:­
ness Ь у т у side stand the drawing-ropes, vertically tautened Ь у
the weight of the large, now submerged, Skin5 wblch in daytime
а с е used to water the plantation. Under the soles ofmy feet 1с а п
feel the thin trickJe of water seep upward from the underground
spring that feeds the weU in а slow, unceasing stream of etema,l
renewal.
Above т е the wind hum5 over the rim of the well and makes
itS interior resound faintly Jike the of а Sea shell held
. _gainst the ear - а Ы в humming sea shell such as 1 10ved to
BEGINNING О Р Т Н В R-OAD 4S
1istento in т у father's house т а п у т а п у years ago, а child just
Ъ enough to look over the ы р 1 pressed the shell against
т у е а г and wondered whether the sound was always there or
onJy when 1 held it to т у ear. Was it something independent of
т е or did о п у т у listeningcaH it forth? М а п у tirtles did 1try to
outsmart the sheH Ь у holding it away from т е so that the.hum­
ming ceased, and then suddenly clapping it back to т у е а г but
there it was again - and 1 never found out whether it was going
о п when 1 did not Jisten.
1 did not know е л of course, that 1 was being puzzJed Ь у а
question that had puzzled т и с Ь wiser heads than mine for
с о п п е ages: the question' of whether there is such а thing as
'reality' а р а п from our minds, or whether our perception creates
it.. 1 did not know it thcn; but, 100king back, it seems to т е that
this great riddle haunted т е not о п у in т у childhood butalso
in later years-as it ы Ь а в haunted at о п е time or another,
consciously or unconsciously, every thinking buman being: for,
wbatever tbe objective truth, to every о п е of us tbe world mani- _
fests itself о п у in the shape, and to the extent, of its reflection in
our minds: and so е а с Ь of us с а п perceive of 'reality' о п у in с о п
л с о п with his own existence. Herein perhaps т а у Ь е found а
vaJid explanation for man's persistent belief, since the earliest
stirrings of his consciousness, in individual survival after death­
а belief too deep, too \\'idely spread tbrough а races and times
to ь е easily dismissed as 'wishful thinking'. It would р г о Ь а Ы у
not Ь е too much to say that it Ь е е п unavoidably necessitated
Ь у the very structure of tl1c ш а п mind. Т о think in abstract,
theoretical terms of one's own death as ultimate extinction т а у
not Ь е difficult; but to visualize it, impossible: for this \vould
т е а п п о less than to Ь е а Ы е to visualize the extinction of а Н
reality assucb - in other words, to imagine nothingness: some­
thing that п о man's mind is а Ы е to, do.
lt was not the philosophers and prophets who taught us to Ь е
е у е in Hfe after death; а Н they did was to give form and spiri­
tual content to а п instinctive perception as old а з т а п himsclf.
1 s м 11.Е 1N W А R DL У at the incongrui ty of speculating а Ь о и t
sucb profoundproblems while engaged in the mundane process
of wasbing away tbe grime and sweat of а 10ng day's journey.
46 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
В ш after all, is there aIways а clearly discemible borderlinc Ь е
tween the mundane and the abstruse in life? Could therc Ь а у е
. Ь е е п for instance, anything more mundane than setting out in
searchof а 108t camel, and anything т о г е abstruse. ш о г е dif6­
cu)tof comprehension, than a1most dying of thirst? .
. Perhaps it was Ь е shock ofthat е х р е п е п с е that has sharpened
т у senses and brought forth the need to render some 50rt of а е
count о myself: Ь е need to comprehend, ш о г е fully than 1 Ь а у е
ever done before, the course of т у о life. But, then, 1 reinind
myself, с а п а п у о п е г е а П у comprehend the meaning о his О П
Ш е 10ngа з he is aHve?We do know, о с о ц г в е what has Ь а р
р е п е д to us at this or that period о our lives; and we do т е
ш е з understand why it happened; but our destination - our
destiny- is not so easily espied: for destiny is the sum о Г all that
hasmoved in us and moved us, р а з and present, and all that
will move us and \\'ithin us in the future - and so it с а п unfold it­
self only at the end о the way,. and must always remain mis­
understood or о п у half understood as 10ng as we are treading
the way.
How с а п 1 say, at the age of thirty-two, what т у з у was
о г is?
Sometimes it seems to т е that 1 с а п almost see the lives о two
men when llook back at т у life. В ш с о т е ю think о it, are
those two parts о С т у Hfe rcaHy so different from о п е another ­
or was there perhaps, beneath all the outward differences о
forin and direction, always а unity о feelingand а purpose с о т
т о п to both? .
1 Ш т у head and see the round piece of sky over the п т о
the well, and stars. As 1 stand very still, for а very 10ngtime, 1
seem to see how they slowly shift their positions, moving о п and
о п so that they might complete the rows upon rows о millions
о years wblch never с о т е to а close. And then, without willing
it, 1 Ь а у е to think о the little rows о years that have happened
to т е - all those dim years spent inthe warm safety о child­
hood's rooms in а town where every nook and street was famil­
.iar to т е thereafter in other cities full of excitements and у е а т
ingsand hopes such а з only early youth с а п о у then in а new
world among р е о р е whose mien and bearing were outlandish а
first but in time brought forth а new familiarity and а new feelidg
of being at Ь о т е then in stranger and ever stranger landscapes,
BEGINNING О Р Т В О Л 47
in cities as old as the mind of man, in steppes without horizon, in
mountains whose wildness reminded у о о of the wildness of the
Ь о heart, :and in hot desert solitudes; and the slow growth
of new truths - truths new to т е - and that day in the snows
of the 'Hindu-Kush when, after а long conversation, а п Afghan
friend exclaimed in astonishment: В о у о о are а Muslim, only
у о о do not know it yourself ... !' And that other day, months
later, when 1 did с о т е to know it myself; and т у first р П т
age to М е с с а the death of т у wife, and the despair that
folJowed it; and these tirneless times among the Arabs ever
since: years of deep friendship with а royal т а п who with Ы
sword had carved for blmself а state out of nothingness and
stopped only о п е step short of rea! greatness; years of wander­
ing through deserts and steppes; risky excursions amidst Ara­
Ы а п beduin warfare and into the Libyan figbt for indepen­
dence; long sojoums in М е Ш п а where 1endeavoured to roundoff
т у knowledge of Islam in the Prophet's Mosque; repeated р
grimages to М е с с а marriages with beduin girls, and subsequent
divorces; warm Ь о т а п relationships, and desolate days of lone­
liness; sophisticated discourses with cultured Muslims from а
parts о С the world, and joumeys through unexplored regions:
а Н these years о С submergence in а world far removed from the
thoughts· and aims о С Western existence.
What а 10ng row of years ..
.А these sunken years now с о т е и р to the surface, uncover
their faces о п с е again and call т е with т а п у voices: and sud­
denly, in the start1ed jerk of т у heart, 1 perceive how long, how
endleSs т у way has been. У о о Ь а у е always been О у going and
going,' 1 say to myself. У о о Ь а у е never yet built your life into
something that о п е cou1d grasp with his hands, and never has
there been а п answer to the question "Whereto1" ..• У о и Ь а у е
Ь е е п going о п and о п а wanderer through т а п у lands, а guest
а т а п у hearths, Ь и has never Ь е е п stilJed, and al­
though у о и are а stranger п о more, у о о Ь а у е struck п о root.'
Why is it that, е у е п after Ш п т у р а с е among the people
who believe in the things 1 myself Ь а у е с о т е to Ь е Н е у е 1 Ь а у е
stl"uck п о root 1
Two years ago, when 1 took an Arab wife in Medina, 1 wanted
her to give т е а son. Through this son, Talal, who was Ь о т to
us а few months ago, 1 have Ь е to feel that the Arabs are У
48 Т Н О Л Т О М В С С А
kin as well as т у brethren in faith. I want Ы т to have his roots
deep in this land and to grOW. ц р in consciousness о С his great
heritage of blood as well as culture. Т о п е might tblnk,
shouId ь е enough to make а т а п desirous of settling down for
good, of building for himself and his family а lasting Ь о т е ·Why
is it, tben, tbat т у wanderings а г е п о yet over and that I have
still to continue о п т у way1Why is it tbat the Hfe which I myself .
have chosen does not П у satisfy т е 1 What is it tbat I find
1acking in this environment 1 Certain1y not the intellectua1 in­
terests of Europe. I have left them behind т е I do not miss
them. Indeed, I а т so remote from them tbat it has е in­
crea.singlydifficult for т е to write for the European newspapers
wblch provide т е with т у livelihood; every ш е I sendoff an
а т с е it seems as if I were throwing а stone into а bottom1ess
well: the stone disappears into the dark void and not even an
е с Ь о comes и р to tell т е tbat is has reached its goa1...
While 1 thus cogitate ц disquiet and perplexity, half sub­
merged in the dark waters of а well in an Arabian oasis, 1sud­
den1y hear а voice from the background of т у memory, the
voice of an old Kurdish nomad: If walerslandsmolionless in а
pool il gro}f,'sstale and т ш у but when it movesandj/o)vsit Ь е
comesclear:з о too, т а п in his wanderings. Whereupon, as if Ь у
magic, а disquiet leaves т е I Ь е to 100k upon myself with
distant eyes, as у о и might 100k at the pages of а book to read а
stoty from them; and lbegin to understand that т у l;fe could
not have taken а different course. For when I ask myself, "What
is tbe sum tota1 of т у е l' something in т е seems to answer,
У ou Ь а у е set out to exchange one world for another - to gain а
new world for yourself in exchange for an old one wblch you
never really possessed.' And 1 know with startling clarity that
such an undertaking might indeed take an entire е ш е
1 CLIMB OUT of the well, put о п the clean, 10ng tunic wblch 1
brought with т е and go back to the б е and to Zayd and the
camels; 1 drink the bitter coffee wblch Zayd offers т е and then
Н е down, .refreshed and warm, near the б е о п the ground.
-2­
М У Л М Л Е CROSSED under т у neck and 1 а т 100king in­
to this Arabian night which curves over т е black and starlY. А
OPPOSITB: Zayd .
BEGINNING О Р Т Н В в о ь о 49
о о п star flies in а tremendous а г с and there another, and
yet another: arcs of light piercing the darkness. Are they only
bits of broken-up planets, of sorne cosmic disaster,
now aim1essly flying througb the vastness of the universe? О Ь
. п о if you ask Zayd, Ь е wil1 tell you that tbese а г е the fiery jave­
lins with wblch angels drive away the devi1s that о п с е п а ш
nights stea1tbllyascend toward heaven to spy upon God's secrets
... Was it perhaps Iblis blmself, the king of а de-.i1s, who has
just received that mighty throw of В а т е there in the east . . . ?
Т legends connected with tbls sky and its stars а г е п ю г е
familiar to т е tban the Ь о т е о С т у cbi1dhood ...
How could it Ь е otherwise? Ever since 1с а т е to Arabial have
lived like а п Arab, worn only Arab dress, spoken only ArlblC,
dreamed т у dreams in Arabic; Arabian custorns and imageries
have imperceptibly shaped т у thoughts; 1havenot Ь е е п
hampered Ь у the т а п у mental reservations which usually makc
it impossible for а foreigner - ь е Ь е ever 50 well versed in the
manners and the language of the country - to find а true а р
proach to the feelings of its people and to make their wor1d his
own.
And suddenly I Ь а у е to laugb aloud with the laughter of Ь а р
piness and· freedom:- so 10ud thatzayd looks up in astonish­
ment and ш у dromedary turns its head toward т е with а slow,
faindy supercilious movement: for now 1 see how simple ai1d
straigbt, jn spite of а its 1ength, т у Ь М Ь е е п - т у rcad
from а world wblch 1 did not possess to а world truly ш у own.
М у с о ш п to this land: was jt not, in truth, а bome-coming?
Home-coming of the heart that has espied its old Ь о ш е back­
ward over а curve of thousands of years and now recognizes this
sky, т у sky, with р щ rejoicing? I:"or this Arabian sky - so
much darker, higber, more festive witb its stars tban а п у other
sky - vau1ted tbe 10ng of ш у ancestors, th,ose wander­
ing herdsmen-warriors, when, thousands of -years ago, tbey set
out in tbe powerof their morning, obsessed Ь у greed for latid
and booty, toward tbe fertile country of Chaldea and а п un­
known futurc: that small beduin tribe of Hebrews, forefathers of
tbat т а п who was to Ь е Ь о т in Ur of the Chaldees.
'That т а п Abraham, did not reallybelong in Ur. Н was but
о п е among т а п у Arabian tribes which at о п е ш е or another
had wound their way from tbe hungry deserts of the Peninsula
OPPOSITB: Author'.I1 Arab Wife Munira.and Son Talal (]932)
50 Т И Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
toward Ь е northern dreamlands Ь а were said ю Ь е flowing
with milk and Ь о п е у - the settled lands of the Fertile Crescent,
Syria and М е в о р о т а п п а Sometimes such tribes succeeded in
overcoming the settlers they found there and established them­
selves as ru]ers in their р т а с е gradua11y intenningling with the
vanquished р е о р е and evolving, together with them, into а new
п а п о п Ш е е the Assyrians and Babylonians, who erected their
kingdoms о п the ruins of the earlier Sumerian civilization; or
the Chaldeans, who grew to power in Babylon, or the Amorites,
who later с а т е to ь е к п о е п as Canaanites in Palestine and as
Phoenicians о п the coasts of Syria. At other times the oncomi.ng
nomads were too weak to vanquish those who had arrived earl­
ier and were absorbed Ь у them; о т altcrnatively, the settlers
pushed the nomads back into the desert, forcing them tofi.nd
other pastures and perhaps other lands to conquer. Т Ь е clan of
Abraham - \\'hose original п а т е according to the Book of
Genesis, \vas Ab-Ram, which in ancient Arabic means Н е ofthe
Н Desirc' - was evidently о п е of those weaker tribes; the
BibJical story of their sojoum at Ur о п the fringe of the desert
relates to the time у Ь е п they found that they could not win for
themselves new homes in the land of the Twin Rivers and were
about to п ю ч е northwest along the Euphratestoward Н а г а п and
thence to Syria.
Н е of the High Desire,' that early ancestor of mine whom
God had drivel1 toward unknown spaces and so о а discovery
of his own self, would Ь а у е well understood why 1 а т here - for
Ь е also had to wander through т а п у lands before Ь е could build
his Ш е into something that у о и might grasp with your hands,'
and had to Ь е guest а mai1y stiange hearths before Ь е was allow­
ed to strike root. Т о his awe-commandingexperience т у puny
perplexity would Ь а у е Ь е е п п о riddle. Н е would Ь а у е known-as
1 kno\v it now - t11at the rneaning of а т у wanderings lay jn а
bldden desire to ш е е rnyself Ь у meeting а world whose approach
to the innermost questions of Ш е to reality itself, was different
from а 1 had Ь е е п accustomed to in т у Cllildbood and youth.
-3­
И А Т А LONG WAY, frorn т у childhood and youth in С е п
tral Europe to т у present in Arabia; but what а pleasant way
for rememberance to travel backward ...
BBGINNJNG О Р т н в ltOAD 51
'were those early childbood· years in the Polisb city of
Lw6w - then П Д ustrian possession - in а Ь о ш е tbat' was as
quiet and dignified as tbe street о п which it stoOO: а П В strcct
of somewhat dusty elegance, bordered witb chestnut ё and
paved with woOO blocks that muflled the beat of thehorses'
booves and converted every Ь о и г of the day ioto а и у after­
п о о п 1 10'100 that о у е у street witb а consciousness far beyond
т у childish years, and not т е г е у because it was the street ofmy
Ь о т е 110vedН 1think, because oftbe а Г ofп о Ы е self-possession
witb which 1t flowed from Ь е gay с е т и г е of tbat gayest of cities
toward the stillness о tbe woOOs о п the city's т а г й п and tbe
gre.at cemetery that а у hidden in those woOOs. В с а г п
а е з would sometimes fly past о п silent wbeels 1:0 the а с с о т
paniment of Ь е brisk, rhytbmic trap-trap of prancing hooves,
о с if it happened to ь е winter and the street was blanketed with
foot-deep snow, sledges would glide over it and steam would
с о т е in cl0.uds from the horses' nostrils and their bells would
tinkle througb the frosty air and if у о и yourself sat in the sledge
and felt Ь е frost rush by.and bite у о и г cheeks, у о и г childish
heart knew tbat Ь е galloping horses were carrying у о и into а
happiness that had neitber beginning п о г end.
And tbere were the summer months й п the country,where т у
mother's father, а wealthy banker, maintained а large estate for
his а г в е family's pleasure. А sluggish litt1e streamwith Ш о
trees along its banks; bams fuH of placid cows, а chiarciscuro
mysteriously pregnant with the scent of animals and Ь а у and Ь е
laughter of Ь е Ruthenian peasant girls who were busy in Ь е
evenings with milking; у о и would drink the foaming warm milk
straight г о т Ь е pails - not because у о и were thirsty, but Ь е
cause 1t was exciting to drink sometbing that was Ш 50 close to
i15 animal source . . . Т hot August days spent in tbe fields
"ith tbe farmhands who were с Щ п Ь е wheat, and with Ь е
women who gathered and bound it in sheaves: у о и п в \vomen,
в о о о to 100k а - heavy of body, fuH of breast, with "'arm
arms, the strength of which you could feel when they i'Olledyou
о е г playfuny at' noontime а т о п в tbe \vheat 5tacks: but, of
course, у о и were т и с Ь о о young then todraw further е о п с и
sions from tbose laughing embraces ...
.And there were journeys with т у paren15to Vienna and В е г
Н п and the Alps and Ь е Bohemian forests and tbe North Sea
52 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
and the Baltie: places 50 di5tant that they alm05t seemed to ь е
new worlds. Every time о п е set out о п 5ueh а journey, the fir5t
whistle of the train engine and the first jolt of the wheels made
one's heart stop beating in antieipation of the wonders that were
now to unfold themselves . .. And there were playmates, boys
and girls, а brother and а sister and т а п у cousins; and glorious
Sundays of freedom after the dullness - but not too oppressive а
dullness - of weekdays in sehool: hikes through the countryside,
and the first в ц г г е р п п о ц в meetings with lovely girls of о п е в own
age, and the blush of а strange exeitement from which о п е г е
covercd only after hours and hours ...
It was а Ь а р р у childhood, satisfying е у е п in retrospect. М у
parents Н у е а in comfortable circumstances; and they lived п ю в т
ly for their ,;hildren. М у mother's placidity and unruffied,quiet
т а у have had 50mething to do with the ease with which.jn later
years 1 \vas able to adapt myself to unfamiliar and, о п о с с а з ю п
most adverse conditions; while т у father's inner restlessness is
probably mirrored in т у о у п
1F 1 Н А D to describe т у father, 1 would say that this lov,ely.
slim, middle-sized т а п of dark complexion and dark, passionate
eyes was not quite in tune with his surroundings. In his early
youth Ь е had dreamed of devoting himself to science, е в р е с т а й у
physics, but had never Ь е е п able to realize this dream and had to
content himselfwith being а barrister. Although quite successful
in this profession, in which his keen mind must Ь а у е found а
\velcome challenge, Ь е never reconciled himself to it fully; and
the air of lonelinesg.{hat surrounded him т а у Ь а у е Ь е е п caused
Ь у а п е у е г р г е з е г п awareness that his true calling had eluded
Ы т
His father had Ь е е п а п orthodox rabbi in Czernowitz, capital
of the then Austrian province of Bukovina. 1still remember Ы т
as а graceful old т а п \vith very delicate hands and а sensitive
face framed in а long, white beard. Side Ь у side with his deep in­
terest jn mathematics and astronomy - which he studied in his
spare time throughout his life - Ь е was о п е of the best chess
of t11e district. This was probably the basis of his long­
standing frjendship \vith е г е е О г о о х archbishop, him­
5elfа chess player of note. Т two would spend т а п у а п eveo­
BEGINNlNG OF THEROAD 53
ing together ovcr the chessboard and would round off thcir ses­
sions Ь у discussing the metaphysical propositions of thcir г е в
pe.ctive religions. О п е might have presumed that, with such а
Ь е п ofmind, т у grandfather would have welcomed his son's­
т у father's - inclination toward science. But apparently Ь е had
made и р his mind from the very first that his elde!it son \vould
с о п ц п ц е the rabbinical tradition which went back in the family
for several generations, and refused even to consider а п у other
с а г е е г for т у father. In this resolve Ь е т а у have Ь е е п strength­
ened Ь у а disreputable skeleton in the family cupboard: the
memory ofan uncle ofhis - that is, а great-great-uncle ofmine­
who had in the most unusual way 'betrayed' the family tradition
and even turned away from the religion of his forefathers.
Т almost mythical great-great-uncle, whose п а т е was
never mentioned aloud, seems to have Ь е е п brought и р in the
в а ш е strict family tradition. At а very young age Ь е had Ь е с о т е
а full-fledged rabbi and Ь е е п married off to а woman whom Ь е
apparently did not love. As the rabbinical profession did not
bring sufficient remuneration in those days, Ь е supplemented his
income Ь у trading in furs, which every year necessitated а о ц г
п е у to Europe's central fur market, Leipzig. О п е day, when Ь е
was about twenty-five years old, Ь е set out Ь у horse cart - it was
in the first half of the nineteenth century - о п о п е of these long
joumeys. Т п Leipzig Ь е sold his furs as usual; but instead of г е
turning to his Ь о т е town as usual, Ь е sold the cart and the horse
as well, shaved off his beard and sidelocks and, forgetting his ц п
10vedwife, "..ent to England. For а ш е Ь е eamed his living Ь у
т а work, studying astronomy and mathematics in the even­
ing. т patron т to have recogniZed his menta1 gifts and
enabled him to pursue his studies at Oxford, т where Ь е
emerged after а few years as а promising scholar and а convert
to Christianity. Shortly after sending а letter of to his
Jewish wife, Ь е married а girl.from among the 'gentiles·. Not
т и с Ь was known to our family about his later Hfe, except that
Ь е achieved considerable distinction as а п astronomer and и
versity teacher and ended his days as а knight.
Т horrifying example seems to Щ е persuaded т у grand­
father to take а very stern attitude regarding т у father's inclin&­
и о п toward the study of 'gentile' sciences; Ь е had to Ь е с о т е а
'rabbi, and that was that. М у father, however, was not prepared
54 Т Н Е &OAD Т О М Е С С А
to give in о easily. While Ь е studied the Ta1mud in daytime, Ь е
spent part of his nights in studyingsecretly, without the help of а
teacher, the curriculum of а humanistic т In time Ь е
confided in his mother. Although her $On's surreptitious studies
т а у Ь а у е burdened her conscience. her generous nature made
her realize that it would 00 с с и е to deprive him of а chance to
follow his heart's desire. At the age oftwenty-two. after complet­
ing t т е eight у е а г в course of а т within four у е а г в т у
fathrl presented himself for the baceaIaureate examination and
passed it with distinction. With the ш р о т а in hand. Ь е and his
mother now dared to break the terrible news to т у grandfather.
1с а п imagine the dramatic scene that ensued; but the upshot of
it was that т у grandfather ultimately relented and agreed that
т у father should give up his rabbinical studies and attend the
university instead. Т financia1 circumstances of the family did
п о т however. allow Ы ш to go in for his 0010' ed study of р Ь у
sics; Ь е had to turn to а п ю г е lucrative profession - that oflaw ­
aiid-1nш п е Ь е с а т е а barrister. Some у е а г в later Ь е settled in the
city о С Lw6w in eastem Galicia and married т у ш о ш е г о п е о С
the four daughters о С а rich local banker. Т in the summer
of 1900, 1 was Ь о т as the second of three children.
М у father's frustrated desire expressed itself in his wide read­
ing о п scientific subjects and perhaps a1s0 in his peculiar, though
extrernely reserved, predilection Cor his second son - myselC­
who also seemed to ь е ш о г е interested in things not immediately
connected with the making о С т о п е у and а successful 'career'.
Nevertheless, his hopes to make а scientist of т е were destined
to remainunfulfilled. Although not stupid, 1 was а у е с у indiffer­
ent student. Mathematics and natural sciences were particularly
: .->ring to т е 1Coundinfinitely more pleasure in reading the stir­
ring historical romances о С Sienkiewicz. the Cantasies of Jules
Veme, Red Indian storie8 byJamesFenimore С о о р е с and К
М а у and, later, the verses ofRilke and the sonorous cadences of
Alsosprac/J Zarathustra. Т mysteries о С gravity and electricity,
п о less than Latin and Greek grammar, left т е entirely cold ­
with the result that 1 a1ways got т у promotions о у Ь у the skin
о С myteeth. т ш must Ь а у е been а keen disappointment to т у
father, but Ь е т а у Ь а у е found some consoiation in the fact that :
ш у teachers seemed to 00 у е с у satisfied with т у inclination to­
ward literature - both Polish and German - as well as history.
BEGINNING О Р Т Н Е ROAD 55
In accordance with our family.'s tradition, 1 received, through
private tutors at Ь о т е а thorough grounding in Hebrew г е й
gious о г е This was not due to а п у pronounced religiosity in т у
parents. е у belonged to а generation which, while paying lip
service to о п е or another of the religious faiths that had shaped
the lives of its ancestors, never made the slightest endeavour to
confonn its practical life or everi its ethical thought those
teachings. In such а society the very concept of religion had Ь е е п
degraded to о п е о С two things: the wooden ritual of those who
clung Ь у habit - 'ilnd only Ь у habit - to their religious heritage,
or the cynical insouciance of the more 'liberal' о в е в Wl10 с о п
sidered religion as а п о ш п ю ё е ё superstition to which о п е might,
о п occasion, outwar у conform but of which о п е was secretly
ashamed, as of something intellectually indefensibIe. Т о aII а р
р е а г а п с е в т у belonged to the former category; but
at times 1 have а faintsuspicion that т у father, at е а в т inclined
toward the latter. Nevertheless, in deference to both his father
and his father-in-Iaw, Ь е insisted о п т у spending long hours
over scriptures. Thus, Ь у the age of thirteen, 1 п о о у
could Hebrew with great fluency but also spoke it freelyand
had, in addition, а fair acquaintance with Aramaic (which т а у
possibIy account for the ease with which 1 picked up Arabic in
later years). 1 studied the Old Testament in the original; the
М ishna and О е т а т - that is. the text and the commentaries of
the Talmud - Ь е с а т е familiar to т е 1could discuss with а good
deal of self-assurance the differences between the Babylonian
and Jerusalem Talmuds; andI immersedmyselfin the intricacies
of Biblical exegesis, called Targum, just as if 1 had Ь е е п destined
for а rabbinical career.
In spite of а this budding religious wisdom, or т а у Ь е Ь е
cause of it, 1 soon developed а supercilious feeling toward т а п у
ofthe premises ofthe Jewish faith. Т о ь е sure, 1did not disagree
with the teaching of moral righteousness so strongly emphasized
throughout the Je\vish scriptures, nor with the sublin\e God­
consciousness ofthe Hebrew Prophets - but it seemed to т е that
the God 01the Old Testament and t'he Talmud was unduly с о п
cemed with the ritual Ь у means of which Hi5 worsbippers were
supposed to worship Н ш It а occurred to т е that this God
wa5 strangely preoccupied with the destinies of о п е particular
nation, the Hebrews. Т Ь е very build-up of the 01d Testament as
56 Т Н Е К О А О Т О М Е С С А
а blstoiy of the deseendants of Abraham tended to make О
appear not as the creator and sustainer of а mankind but,
rather, as а tribal deity adjusting а Н и to the requirements
of а 'chosen р е о р е rewardin, with conquests if they were
,.ighteous, and making them at the hands of nonbelievers
whenever they strayed from the prescribed path. Viewedagainst
these fundamental shortcomings, е у е п the ethical fervour of the
later Prophets, like Isaiah and Jeremiah, seemed to ь е barren of
а universal message.
But although the effect of ш о в е early studies of е was the
opposite of what had Ь е е п intended -leading т е away from,
rather than closer т о the religion of ш у forefathers - 1 often
think that in later years they helped ш е to understand the funda­
mental purpose of religion as such, whatever its form. At that
time, however, т у disappointment with Judaism did not lead
meto а search for spiritual truths in other directions. Under the
influenee of а п agnostic е 1vironment, 1 drifted, like so т а п у
boys ofmy age, into а mat.er-of-fact rejection of all institutional
religion; and sinee т у religion had п е у е г ш е а п т т и с Ь moreto
т е than а series of restrictive regulations, 1 felt п о п е the worSe
for having drifted away from it. Theological and philosophical
ideas did not yet rea11y concern т е what 1was 100kingforward
to was not much different from the expectations of most other
boys: action,adventure, excitement.
Toward the end of 1914,when the Great War \vasalready rag­
ing, the first big с Ь а п е е to fulfil т у boyjsh dreams seemed to
с о ш е within grasp. At the age of fourteen 1 made т у escape
from school and joined the Austrian army under а false п а т е 1
was у е с у tall fOT т у years and easily passed for eighteen, the
minimum age for recruitment. But apparently 1 did not carry а
marshal's baton in т у knapsack. Mter а week or so, т у poor
father succeeded in tracing т е with the Ь е р of the poliee, and 1
\vasignominiously escorted back to, Vienna, where т у family
had settIed some time earlier. Nearly four years later 1was actu­
а у and legitimatelyj drafted into the Austrian а ш у but Ь у
then 1 Ь з ceased to dream of military glory and was searching
for other ,avenUel to, se1f-fulfilhnent. In а п у case, а few weeks
after т у iriduction the revolutioR broke out, the Austrian Е т
pire co11apsed, and the \var was over.
BEGINNING. Р Т Н Е ROAD 57
Р о в ABOUT TWO YEARS after the end of the Great War 1
·studied. in а somewbat desultory fashion, history of art and
philosophy at the University of Vienna. М у heart was not in
those studies. А quiet academic с а г е е г did not attract т е 1felt а
yearning to с о т е into more intimate griP5 with life, to enter it
without а п у of th05e carefully contrived, artificial defences
which security-minded people love to build и р around them­
selves; and 1 wanted to find Ь у myself а п approach to the spiri­
tua1 order of things which, 1 knew, п ш в т exist but which 1could
п о т у е discem.
It is п о е а в у to explain in 50 т а п у words what 1 meant in
those days Ь у а 'spiritual order' ; it certainly did not о с с ш т о т е
to conceive of the problem in conventional religious terms о с
for that ш а н е г in а п у precise terms whatsoever. М у vagueness,
to ь е Cair to mY5elf, was notof т у own making. It was the
vagueness of а п entire generation.
The opening decades of the twentieth century stood in the sign
of а spiritual vacuum. All the ethical va1uations to which Е ш о р е
have Ь е е п а с с ц в ю т п е ё о с so т а п у с е п ш п е в had Ь е с о т е а п ю г
phous under the terrible impact о what had happened Ь е в ч е е п
1914 and 1918. and п о new set о С values was yet an)'\\'here in
sight. А feeling of brittleness and insecurity was in the air - а
presentiment of social and intellectua1 upheavals that made о п е
doubt whether there could ever again ь е а п у р е п п а п е п с у in
man's thoughts and endeavours. Everything seemed to Ь е flow­
ing in а form1ess flood, and the spiritual restlessness of youth
could nowhere find а foothold. In the absence of а п у reliabIe
standards ofmorality, nobody could give us young people в а п в
factory answers to the т а п у questions that perplexed us. Science
said. 'Cognition is everything' - and forgotthat cognitio!\ with­
out а п ethical goal с а п lead о п у to Т Ь е social reformers,
the revolutionaries, the communists- а Н ofwhom undoubtedly
wanted to build а better, happier thinking only in
terms of outward, social andeconomic, circumstances; and to
bridge that defect, they hadraised their 'materialistic conception
of history' to а kind of new, anti-metaphysical metaphysics.
Т traditionally religious people, о п the other hand, knew
nothing better tMn to attribute to their God qualities derived
from their own habits о С thought, which had long since Ь е с о т е
rigid add meaningless: and when у е young people sa\.... that these
''1 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
often stooo in sharp contrast with what
was m the world around us, we told ourselves: Т
moving forces of destiny are evidently different from the quali­
ties which г ascnbed to God; therefore - there is п о God.'
And it occurred to only very few of us that the cause of а Н this
confusion might lie perhaps. in the arbitrarihess of the self­
righteous guardians of faith who claimed to Ь а у е the right to
'define' God and, Ь у clothing Him \vith their own garments,
separated Н т from т а п and his deStiny.
In the individual, this ethicallability could lead either to с о т
plete moral chaosand cynicism о г alternatively, to а search for
а creative, personal approach to what might constitute the good
life.
т instinctive realization т а у have Ь е е п indirectly, the г е а
son for т у choice of history ofart as т у т з п subject at the uni­
versity. It was the true function of art, 1 suspected, to evoke а
vision of the coherent, unifying pattcrnthat must underlie the
fragmentary picture of happenings which our consciousness г е
veals to us and which, it seemed to т е could ь е on1y inadequate­
ly formulated through conceptual thought. HowQVer, the courses
which 1 attended did not satisfy т е М у professors - some of
them, like Strzygowski and Dvorak, outstanding in their р а г ц с
ular fields of study - appeared to ь е п ю г е concemed with dis­
covering the' aesthetic laws that. govem artistic creation than
\vith baring its innermost spiritual impu1ses: in other words,
their approach to art was, to mymind, too narrowly confined to
the question of the /orms п which it expressed itself.
Т conclusions ofpsychoanalysis, to which 1 was introduced
in those days ofyouthful perplexity, left т е equaHy, iffor some­
what different reasons, unsatisfied. No doubt, psychoanalysis
was at that time а п inteHectual revolution ofthe first magnitude, '
and onefeltinone's bones that thisflinging-openofnew,hitherto
barred doors of cognition was bound to affect deeply - and per­
haps change entirely - man's thinking about himself and his
sockty. Т Ь е discovery of the role which unconscious urges play
in the formation of the human personality opened, beyond а п у
question, avenues to а more penetrating than
had Ь е е п offered to us ь у the psychological theories of earlier
times. А Н this 1 ,vas ready to concede. 'Indeed, the stimulus of
Freudian ideas ,vas as intoxicating to т у young mind as potent
59 BEGINNING OF Т Н Е ROAD
wine, and т а п у were the evenings 1 spent in Vienna's cafes lis­
tening to exciting discussions between some of the early pioneers
of psychoanalysis, such as Alfred Adler, Н е п п а п п Steckl and
Otto Gross. But while 1 certainly did not dispute the validity of
its analytical principles, 1 was disturbed Ь у the intellectual а г г о
gance of the new science, which tried to reduce а Н mysteries of
man's Self to а series of neurogenetic reactions. Т Ь е philo­
sophical 'conclusions' arrived at Ь у its founder а п ё its devotees
somehow appeared to т е too pat, too cocksure and over-simpli­
fied to с о т е anywhere within tlle neighbourhood of ultimate
truths; and they certainly did not point а п у new way to the good
life.
But although such problems often occupied т у mind,they
did not really trouble т е 1 \vas never given т и с Ь to meta­
physical speculation о г to а conscious quest for abstract 'truths'.
М у interests lay more in the direction of things seen and felt:
people, activities and relationships. And it was just then that Т
was beginning to discover relationships with women.
п the general process of dissolution of established
mores that followed the Great War, т а п у restraints betwcen the
sexes had Ь е е п loosened. What happened was, 1 think, 110t so
т и с Ь а revolt against the strait-lacedness of the nineteenth
century as, rather, а passive rebound from а state of affairs in
which certain moral standards had Ь е е п deemed eternal and
unquestionable to а social condition in which everytblng was
questionable: а swingi'ng of the pendulum from yesterday's с о т
forting belief in the continuity of man's upward progress to the
bitter disillusionment ofSpengler, to Nietzsche's mora1relativism,
and to the spiritual nihilism fostered Ь у psychoanalysis. Looking
backward о п those early postwar years, 1feel that the young т е п
and women who spoke and wrote with so т и с Ь enthusiasm
about 'the body's freedom' were very far indeed from the.ebul­
lient spirit of Р а п they so often invoked: their raptures were too
self-conscious to Ь е exuberant, and too easy-going to ь е revolu­
tionary. Their sexual relations had, as а rule, sometblng casual
about them - а certain matter-of-fact blandness \vhich often led
to promiscuity.
Even if 1 had felt myself bound Ь у the remnants of conven­
tional morality, it would have Ь е е п extremely difficult to avoid
being drawn into а trend that had Ь е с о т е so widespread; as it
60
Т Н Е ROAD М Е С С А
was, 1 rather gloried, like 50 т а п у о ш е г в of т у generation, in
what was considered а 'rebellion against the о Ц о conven­
tions.' Airtations grew easily into affair5, and some ofthe affairs
into passions. 1do п о think, however, Ь а 1was а libertine; for
in а Н those youthful loves of mine, however fiimsy and short­
lived, was always the lilt of а hope, vague but insistent,
that the frightful isolation wblch so obviously separated ш а п
from т а п might ь е broken Ь у the с о а т е е с е п с е of о п е т а п and
о п е woman.
М У RESTLESSNESS GREW and made it increasingly difficult
for т е to pursue т у university studies. At last 1 decided to give
them up for good and ю try т у hand at journalism. М у father,
with probably more justification ш а п 1 \vas tben willing to с о п
cede, strongly objected to such а course, maintaining that before
1 decided to make writing т у career 1 should at least prove to
myself that 1 could write; 'and, in а п у с а в е Ь е concluded after
о п е of our stormy discussions, а Ph.D. degree Ь з never yet р г е
vented а man from becoming а successful writer.' His reasoning
was sound; but Iwas very young, very hopeful and very restless.
When 1 realized that Ь е \vould not change bls mind, there
seemed.notblng left but to start life о п т у own. Without telling
а п у о п е of т у intentions, 1 said good-bye to Vienna о п е sununer
day in 1920 and boarded а train for Prague.
All 1 possessed, а р а п from т у personal belongings, was а dia­
mond ring wblch т у mother, who had died а year earlier, had
left т е Т 1 sold through the good· offices I;>f а waiter in
Prague's т literary cafe. Most .probably 1 was thoroughly
gypped in the transaction, but th& sum of т о п е у wblch 1 г е
ceived appeared !ike а fortune. With this fortune in т у pocket 1
to Berlin, where some Viennese friends introduced
т е to the magic circle of [itterateurs and artists at the old Cafe
des Westens.
1·knew that henceforth 1 would have to make т у way un­
aided; 1 would never again expect or а с с е р financial help from
т у family. Some \veekslater, when т у father's anger had 'abated
Ь е \vrote о т е '1 с а п already see ypu ending one day as а
tramp in а roadside ditch'; to which 1 repJied: 'No roadside
ditch for т е - 1 willс о т е out о п о р How 1would с о т е out о п
BEGJNNJNG О Р Т Ю в о х о 61
top was not in the least clear to т е but I knew that I wanted to
write and was, of course, convinced that the world of letters was
waiting for т е with а п п в wide о р е п
After а few months т у cash г а п out and I began to cast а Ь о и
for а job. Т о а young т а п with journaJistic aspirations, о п е of
the great а Ш е was the obvious choice; but I found out that 1
was п о 'choice' to them. 1 did not find it out а Н а о п с с It took
т е \veeks of tiresome tramping о у е г the pavements of Berlin­
for е у е п а subway о г streetcar fare had Ь у then Ь е с о т е а р г о Ь
lem - and а п endless п ш п о е г of humiliating interviews with
editors-in-chief and ne\vs editors and sub-editors, to realize tbat,
barring а т а fledgling without а single printed line to Ы
credit bad not the slightest с Ь а п с е of being admitted to the в а с
red precincts of а newspaper. No miracle с а т е т у way. Instead,
1 Ь е с а т е acquainted witb hunger and spent several weeks sub­
sisting almost entirely о п the tea and the two rolls which т у
landlady served т е in the morning. М у literary friends at the
Cafe des Westens cou]d not do т и с Ь for а raw and inexperi­
enced 'would-be'; п ю г е о е е г most of them lived in circum­
stances not т и с Ь different from т у own, hovering from day to
day о п the brink of nothingness and struggling Ь а г д to keep
their chins а Ь о у е water. Sometimes, in the flush of afI1uence р г о
duced Ь у а Iuckily placed article or а picture sold, о п е о г another
of them wou]d throw а р а п у with Ь е е г and frankfurters and
\\'ould ask т е т о partake of the sudden bounty; о г а rich в п о о
would invite а group of us strange il1teEectual gypsies to supper
in his flat, and would gaze at us with awe \vhile we gorged our
empty stomachs with caviar canapes and с а ш р а п е repaying
о и г host's munificence \Vit}l clever talk and а п 'insight into Ь о Ь е
mian life.' But such treats were only exceptions. Т Ь е rule of т у
days was stark hunger - and in the nights т у sleep was filIed
\vith dreams of steaks and sausages and thick slices of buttered
bread. Several times 1\vas tempted to \vrite to т у father and beg
him for help, which Ь е surely would nothave refused; but е у е г у
time т у pride stepped in and 1wrote to him instead of the won­
derful job and the good salary 1 had . .. .
А last а lllcky break с а т е 1 \Vas introduced to F. \V. М ш
п а и who jU5t then was rising to fame а т director (thi5 а
а е у yenr5Ь е Г о г е HollY'vooddrew him to 5till gre,lter Г а т е and
to а п untimely, tragic death); and М и т а и \vith that ""'himsical
62 Т Н Е а О А о Т О М Е С С А
impulsiveness whichendeared Ы т to а his friends;at о п с е took
а fancy to tbe young т а п wbo was 100king so е а в е с у and with
50 т ц с Ь Ь о р е in the face of adversity, tOward the future. Н е
asked т е if 1would not like to work under Ь п о п а new т Ь е
was about to begin: and although the job was to Ь е only tem­
э о г а г у 1saw the gates о С opening before т е as 1 т
nered, У es, 1 would ... '
For two glorious т free of а financial worries and е п
с е у absorbed Ь у а host of glittering е х р е п е п с е а unlike а п у
..ы п в 1 had ever kno\vn, 1 worked as ·Murnau's assistant. М у
,;elf-confidence т and it was certainly not
'iminished Ь у the fact that the leading lady of the fiIrn - а weB­
ш о п and very beautiful actress - did not р г о е е averse to а
flirtation with the director's young assistant. When the т was
finisbed and Murnau had to в о abroad for а new т 1
took е а у е т withш е convictionthat т у worstdayswereover.
Short1y afterward, т у good friend Anton Kuh - а Viennese
journalist who bad recently с о т е to р г о п ц п е п с е in В as а
theatre critic - invited т е to collaborate with Ь п о п а film sce­
п а п с which Ь е had Ь е е п commissioned to write. 1 accepted the
Idea with enthusiasm·and put, 1 believe, much work into the
script; at any rate, ш е producer who had commissioned it g1adly
paid the sum agreed ц р о п wblcbAnton and 1dividedfifty-fifty.
п order to celebr:ate our 'entry into the world offilms,' we р у е а
"arty ш о п е of the т fasblonable restaurants in В and
Ь we received tbe Ь we found that practically о ш entire
lrnings bad gone up in 10bster, caviar and Frencb wines. But
ш luck held out. V/e immediate1y sat down to writing another
с с о - а fantasy woven а О Щ the figure of В ш е and а
)izarre, е п П е у ш с у experienceof his - and found а buyer
;). tbe very д а у it was completed. т bowever, 1 refused
;) 'celebrate' our success, and \\'ent instead о п а sevetalweeks'
.10liday'to the Bavarian lakes.
After anotber у с а с П of adventurous ups and downs in vari­
'us citiesof Central Europe, involvingaIl т а е с of short-lived
>bs, 1succceded-at )as1 in breakinginto т е world ofjournalism..
Т ю BREAK-THROUGH took р а с е in the autumn о С 1921,
after another period offinanciall0W. е afternoon, while1was
63 BEGINNING О Р Т К Е ROAD
sitting in the Cafi des Westens, tiredand disconsolate, а friend
of п ц п е sat down at т у table. Wheri Irecounted т у ttoubles to
him, Ь е suggested:
Т might ь е а с Ь а п с е for у о и Dammert is start10g а news'
agency of his own in co-operationwith the United Prcss of
America. It will ь е called the United Telegraph. 1 а т ц г е that
Ь е will need а large number of 1'11 introduce у о и to
Ы ш if у о и like:
Or. Oammert was а well-known figure in the political circles
ofBerlin in the twenties. Prominent in the ranks ofth{ С а г ю й с
Centre Party, and а wealthy т а п in his own right, е е п о у е а п
excellent reputation; and the idea of working under п а р
pealed to т е
Next day т у friend took т е to Dr. DammerCs о т с е Т ele­
gant, middle-aged т а п was suave and friendly as Ь е invited us to
ь е seated.
'Mr. Fingal' (that was т у friend's п а т е 'has spoken to т е
about у о и Have у о и ever worked before as а journalist ?'
'No, sir,' 1 replied, 'but 1 have had plenty ofother е х р е п е п с е
1а т something of а п е х р е п о п Eastern Е ц г о р е а п countries and
know several of the (In fact, the ollly Eastern Е ц г о
р е а п language 1 could speak was Polish, а п ё 1 had only the
vaguest idea ofwhat was going о п in that р а п oftheworld; but 1
was resolved not to let т у с а п с е Ь е spoiled Ь у undue modesty.)
О Ь that is interesting,' remarked Dr. Oammert witll а half­
smile. '1 have а penchant for experts. But, unfortunately, 1 can't
use а п е х р е п о п Eastern European affairs just now.'
Н е must have seen the disappointment in т у face, for Ь е
qtlickly continued: 'Still, 1 т а у Ь а у е а п opening for у о и
although it т а у Ь е somewhat beneath у о и с standing, 1 won­
der .. .'
'What is the opening, sir?' 1enquired eagerly, thinking of т у
unpaid rent.
. 'Well ... 1 need several т о с е telephonists... ·О Ь п о п о
don'{ \vorry, not at а s\vitchboard: 1 т е а п telephonists to trans­
mit news О the provincial newspapers ...'
Т was indeed а comedown from т у high expectations. 1
looked at Or. Oammertand Ь е looked at т е and Ь е п 1 saw
the tightening of the humorous creases around his eyes, 1 k!lcw
that т у boastful game was и р
64 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
'1 accept, sir,' 1 answered with а sitili and а laugh.
Т Ь е following week 1 started т у ne:W job. It was а boring job
and а far cry from the journalistic с а г е е г 1 had Ь е е п dreaming
of. 1 had nothing to do but transmit Ь у telephone, several times
dai1y, news from а mimeographed sheet to е т а п у provincial
newspapers that subscribed to the service; but 1 was а good tele­
phonist and the р а у was good, too.
This went о п for about а month. At the end of the month а п
unforeseen opportunity offered itself to т е
In that у е а г of 1921 Soviet Russia was stricken Ь у а famine of
unprecedented dimensions. Millions of р е о р е were starving and
щ г е of thousands dying. Т Ь е entirc European press \vas
buzzing with gruesome descriptions of the situation; severaI
foreign re1ief operations were being planned, among them о п е
б у Herbert Hoover, who had done so т и с Ь for Central Е и г о р е
after the О г е а т War. А large-scale action "iithin Russia was
headed Ь у Maxim Gorky; his drarnatic appeals for aid were
stirring the entire world; and it was rumoured tI1at his wife
would shortly visit the capitaIs of Central and Western Е и г о р е
in а attempt to т о Ы и е public opinion for г п о г е effective
Ilelp.
Being only а telephonist, 1 did not participate directly in the
coverage of this sensational episode until а с Ь а п с е remark г
о п е of т у с Ь а п с е acquaintances (1 had т а п у of them in the
strangest places) suddenly dre\y т е into its midst. Т Ь е а с о ц а п п
а п с е was ц т е night doorman at the Н о т е Esplanade, о п с 01' В е г
Iin's sV.iankiest, and the remark had Ь е е 'This Madame Gorky
is а very pleasant Iady; о е would never guess that sIle is а В о
shie .. .'
'Madame Gorky? Where the Ь е did у о и see Iler ?'
М у informant 10wered his voice to а whisper: 'She is staying
at о и г hoteI. С а т е yesterday, but is registered under а assumed
п а т е Only the manager knows who she realIy is. She doesn't
\vant to Ь е pestered Ь у reporters.'
'And how do у о и know it?'
'We doormen know everything that goes о п in: the boteI,' Ь е
replied with а grin. 'Do у о и think we could keep о и г jobs for
lon!! jf we didn't1'
What а story it would make toget а exclusive intervie'f with
Madame Gorky - the more 80 as not а word of her presence in
BEGlNNING OF Т Н Е ROAD 6S
В hadso С а г penetrated to the press...·1 was а Н at о п с е о п
б г е
'Could У О 1 asked т у friend, 'somehow make it possible
for т е to see herT
'Wel1,1 don't know. She is obviously dead-set о п keep1ng her­
self to herself... But 1 couJd do о п е thing: if у о и sit in the
Ь Ь у п the evening, 1 might ь е а Ы е to point her out to у о и
That was а deal. Irushed back to т у office at the United Tele­
graph; almost е у е г у о п е had gone п о ш е Ь у that time, but fortu­
nately the news editor was still at his desk. 1 buttonholed Ы
П у о и give т е а press card if 1 promise to br1ng back а
sensational story Т
'What kind о С story?' Ь е enquired suspiciously.
У о и give т е the press card а п ё 1'11 give у о и the story. If 1
don't, у о и с а п always Ь а у е the card back.'
,Finally the old news-hound agreed, and 1 emerged С г о т the
о т с е the proud possessor О С а card which designated т е as а
representative о С the United Telegraph.
Т next few hours were spent in the Ь Ь У о С the Esplanade.
А т п е o'clock т у friend arrived о п duty. From the doorway
Ь е winked at т е disappeared behind the reception desk and г е
appeared а few minutes later with the information that Madame
Gorky was out.
'If у о и sit here long enough, you're sure ю see her when she
г е ш г п в
At about eleven o'clock 1 caught т у friend's signal. Н е was
pointing surreptitiously to а lady who had just entered the г е
volving door: а smalI, delicate woman П Ь е г middle forties,
dressed in а п extremely wel1-cut black gown, with а 10ng black
silk с а р е trai1ing о п the ground behind her. She was so genuinely
aristocratic П her bearing that it was indeed difficult to imagine
her as the wife of the 'working-man's р о е т and still т о г е diffi­
с и as а citizen of the Soviet Union. Blocking her way, 1 bo\ved
and proceeded to address г in т у most engaging tones:
'Madame Gorky ... ?'
For а п instant she appeared startled, Ь и then а soft smile
lighted her beautiful, black eyes and she answered in а О е г т а п
that Ь о г е only а faint trace of Slav accent: '1 а т not Madame
Gorky... У о и а г е mistaken - т у п а т е is so-and-so' (giving а
Russian-sounding п а т е which 1 Ь а у е forgottcn).
Е
66 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
'No, Madame Gorky,' 1 persisted, '1 know that 1 а т п not mis­
taken. 1 also know that у о и do not wa'i),t to Ь е bothered Ь у us
reporters - but it would т е а п а great deal, а very great deal to
т е to ь е allowed to speak to у о и for а few minutes. This is т у
й г ы . с п а п с е to establish myself. 1 а т sure у о и would not like to
destroy that с Ь а п с е ... 7' 1 showed her т у press card. '1 got it
only today, and 1will have to retum it unless 1produce the story
of т у intervie\v with Madame Gorky.'
Т Ь е aristocratic lady continued т о smile. 'And if 1 wereto tell
у о и о п т у word of honour that 1а т not Madame Gorky, would
у о и believe т е then ?'
'If у о и were to tell т е anything о п your word of honour, 1
would believe п . '
She burst out laughing. ' У о и seem to ь е а nice little Ь о у . ' ( Н е г
graceful head reached hardly to т у shoulder.) '1 а m not going to
t,.1I у о и any г п о г е lies. У о и win. But we с а п ' т spend the rest of
the evcning here in the lobby. Would у о и give т е the pleasure of
having tea with т е in т у г о о т п в ? '
And so Illad the pleasure of having tea with Madame Gorky
in her rooms. For nearly а п hour she "'ividly described the hor­
rors of the Г а г ш п е ; and when 1 left her after rnidnight, 1 had а
thick sheaf of notes with т е . .
Т Ь е sub-editors о п night duty at the United Telegraph opened
their eyes wide о п seeing т е at that unusual hour. But 1 did not
bother to explain, for 1 had urgent work to do. Writing с own т у
interview as quickly as 1 could, 1 booked, without w ~ .lting for
editorial clearance, urgent press calls to ;:.ll the newspapers we
served.
Next morning the Ь о т Ь burst. While п о п е of the great Berlin
dailies had а single word about Madame Gorky's presence in
town, all the provincial papers served Ь у our agency carried о п
their front pages tlle United Telegraph Special Representative's
exclusive interview with Madame Gorky. Т Ь е telephonist had
made а first-class scoop.
In the aftemoon а conference of editors took place in Dr.
Dammert's о т с е . 1 was called in and, after а preliminary lecture
in which it was explained to т е that п о news item of importance
ought ever to go out without first being cleared Ь у the news edi­
tor, 1 was informed that 1 had been promoted to reporter.
At last 1 was а journalist.
BEGlNNING OF Т Н Е ROAD 67
-4­
SOFT STEPS in the sand: it is Zayd, returning from the weH
with а fiHed waterskin. Н е lets it faH with а plop о п the ground
п е а г the fire and resumes cooking our dinner: rice and the meat
of а little lamb that Ь е bought in the village earlier in the evening.
Mter а final stir \vith his ladle and а burst of steam from the р о г
Ь е turns to т е
'Wilt thou eat now, О т у uncle?' - and without waiting for
т у reply, which, Ь е knows, с а п п о т Ь е anytblng but Yes, Ь е
heaps the contents of the pot о п to а large platter, sets it before
т е and lifts о п е of our brass cans, fiHed with water, for т е to
wash т у hands:
В and т а у God grant us life.'
And we а Н т о sitting cross-Iegged opposite е а с Ь other а п ё
eating with the fingers of the right hand. .
We eat in silence. Neither of us has ever Ь е е п а great talker.
Besides, 1 have somehow Ь е е п thrown into а mood of г е ш е ш
brance, thinking of the times that passed before 1с а т е to Arabia,
before 1 even met Zayd; and so 1 с а п п о т speak aloud, and speak
only silently within myself and to myself, savouring the mood of
т у present through the т а п у moods of т у past.
After our meal, as 1lean against т у saddle, myfingers playing
with the sand, and gaze at the silent Arabian stars, 1 think how
good it would Ь е to have Ь у т у side someone to whom 1 could
speak of а Н that has happened to т е in those distant years. But
there is nobody with т е except Zayd. Н е is а good and faithful
т а п and was т у companion in т а п у а day of Ioneliness; Ь е is
shrewd, delicate in perception and weH versed in the ways of
man. But as 1 look sidewise at his а с е - this clear-cut а с е
framed in long tresses, now bent with serious absorption over
the coffeepot, now turning toward the dromedaries which rest о п
the ground nearby and placidly cllew their cud - 1 know that 1
need quite' another listener: о п е who not only has had п о part in
that early past of mine but would also Ь е far away from the sight
and smell and sound of the present days and nights: о п е before
whom 1could unwrap the pinpoints of т у remembrance о п е Ь у
о п е so that his eyes might see them and т у eyes might see them
again, and who would thus help т е to catch т у own life within
the net of т у words. .
nut there is nobody here but Zayd. And з у is present.
III
WINDS
-1­
E R.IDE, RIDE, ю т е п о п two dromedaries, а п
'N
the щ о п glides past us.
'It is strange, very strange,' zayd's voice breaks
Н г о и в Ь the з й е п с е
'What is strange, Zayd?'
'Is it п о т strange, О т у ц п с е that о ш у а fcw days ago у е
were going to Т а у т а and nO\\I о и г cameIs' heads point toward
М е с с а 1 а т sure thou didst not know it thyself Ь е Г о г е that
night. о и art wayward Iike а badmvi ... like myself. Was it а
jinn, О т у uncle, у Ь о gave т е that е п decision, Г о ц г years
ago, to go to thee at М е с с а - and gave ш е с LlOW thy decision to
В О to М е с с а А г е we Ietting ourselves Ь е thus blown around Ь у
the winds because we do п о т kLlO\V what we. want?'
'No, Zayd - thou and 1, we alIow ourselv·es to Ь е blown Ь у the
winds because we do know what we want: о и г l1earts know it,
е у е п if о и г thoughts а г е sometimes sIoi-v г о folIow - but in the
end they do catch и р with о и г hcarts and then we tl1ink we Ь а е е
made а decision ...'
PERHAPS М У HEART knew it е у е п о п that day ten years
а в о when 1stood о п the planks of the ship tI1at was bearing т е
о п т у first journey to the Near East, south\vard through the
Black Sea, through the opaqueness of а \vhite, rimless, о в в у
night, through а foggy morning, toward the Bosporus. Т е sea
was Ieaden; sometimes foam sprayed о м е г е deck; the pound­
ing of the engines was Iike the beat of а heart.
1stood at the rail, looking out into the pale opaqueness. Ifyou
had asked т е what 1\\'as thinking then, о г what expectations 1
was carrying with т е into this first venture to the Е а з т 1
hardly Ь а у е Ь е е п а Ы е to give а clear ans\ver. Curiosity - р е г
11aps: but it was а curiosity which did not take itself у е г у serious­
- 68
WINDS 69
ly because it seemed to aim at things of п о great п п р о п а п с е Т Ь е
fog of т у uneasiness, \vhich seemed to find something related in
the welling fog over the sea, \vas not directed toward foreign
lands and the people of coming days. The images of а near fu­
ш г е the strange cities and а р р е а г а п с е в the foreign clothes and
manners which were to reveal themselves 50 soon to т у eyes
hardJy occupied т у thoughts. 1 regarded this journey as в о т п е
thing accidental and took it, as it were, il1 т у stride, as а pleasing
but п е с е п п е т е э в not too important interlude. At that moment
т у thoughts were perturbed and distracted Ь у what 1took to Ь е
а preoccupation \vith т у past.
The past? Did 1 haу е а п у 1 was twenty-two years old ...
But т у generation - the generation of those who had Ь е е п born
at the turn ofthe century - had lived perhaps т п о г е quickly т п а п
any other before it, and to т е it в е е г п е ё as if 1were looking back
into а long expanse of time. А Н the difficulties and adventures of
those years stood before т у eyes, а Н those longings and attempts
and disappointments - and the women - and т у first assaults о п
Hfe ... Those endless nights under stars, when е did п о т с ш г е
know wl1at о п е \val1ted and walked with а friend through the
empty streets, speaking of ultimate things, quite forgetting ho\v
empty the pockets were and how insecure the coming day ...
А happy discontent which only youth с а п feel, and the desire to
change the world and to build it anew .... How should с о п п п ц
nity ь е shaped so that т е п could live.rightly and in fuHncss?
How should their relationships Ь е .arranged so that they might
break through the loneliness which surrounded every т а п and
truly live in communion? What is good - and what evil? What
is destiny? Or, to put it differently: what should о п е do to i>e­
с о т е reaHy, and not merely in pretensions, identical with one's
о п lifeso that о п е could say, '1 and ш у dcstiny are о п е Dis­
cussions which never с а т е to а п end ... The literary cafes of
Vienna and Berlin, \vith their intermil1abIe arguments а Ь о и
'form,' 'style' and 'expression,' about the meaning of political
freedom, а Ь о и the meeting of П а п and У О П а п Hunger ,'or
understanding, and sometimes for food as у е В And tl1c
nights spent in passions \vithout restraint: а dishevellcd bed а
da\vn, \vhen the excitement of tl1c night \\'as ebbing. and slo\vly
Ь е с а т е grey and rigid al1d desolate: but \vhen the nlOrning с а т е
о п е had forgottcn the ashes of the da\vnand \valkcd ag;lin \\'itll
70 Т Н Е К О А О Т О М Е С С А
swinging steps and felt the earth trembIe joyfully under one's
feet . '.' Т Ь е excitement of а new book о г а new face; searching,
and finding balf-replies; and those very г а г е moments when the
world seemed suddenly, for seconds, to stand still, illumined Ь у
the flash of а п understandil1g that promised to reveal something
that had never Ъ е е п touched Ъ а п а п в е е е г to а Н the ques­
tions ...
Т Н Е У HAD BEEN strange years, those early T\venties in Central
Е ш о р е Т Ь с gent:ral atmosphere of social and т о г а insecurity
hfid given rise to а desperate hopefulness which expressed itself
in daring е х о е ш п е п т в in music, painting and the theatre, as well
as in groping, often revolutionary enquirjes into the morphology
о С culture; but hand-in-hand witb this forced optimism werit'а
spiritual emptiness, а vague, cynical relativism Ь о г п out о С in­
creasing hopelessness with regard to the future of т а п
In spite of т у youth, it had not remained hidden from т е that
after the catastrophe of the Great War things were п о longer
right in the broken-up, discontented, emotionaBy tense and
high-pitched Е и г о р е а п world. Its real deity, 1 saw, was п о о п
ger of а spiritual kind: it was Comfort. No doubt there were stiU
т а п у individuals who felt and thought in religious terms and
made the most desperate efforts to reconcile their т о г а beliefs
with the spirit of their civilization, but they were only е х с е р
tivns. Т Ь е average Е и г о р е а п - whether democrat о г communist,
ш а п ц а worker о г intellectual- seemed to know о п у о п е posi­
tive faith: the worship of material progress, the Ъ that there
could Ь е п о other goal in life than to make that very life continu­
а В у easier о г as the current expression went, 'independent of
п а ш г е Т temples of that faith were the gigantic factories,
cinemas, с Ь е с а laboratories, dance-halls, hydroelectric
works; and its priests were the engineers, politicians,
film stars, statisticians, captains of indu'stry, record airmen, and
commissars. Ethical frustration was evident in the г о п lack
of agreement about the meaning of Good and Evil and in the
submission of al1 social and е с о п о с issues to the г и е of'ex-­
pediency' - tbat painted lady of the streets, wil1ing to give Ь е г
self to anybody, at а п у time, whenever she is invoked ... Т Ь е
insatiabIe craving after power and pleasure bad, of necessity, led
WINDS 71
to the break-up of Westem society into hostile groups armed to
the teeth and, determined to destroy е а с Ь other whenever and
wherever their respective interests clashed. And о п the cultural
side, the о ш с о ш е was the creation of а Ь и т а п typc whose
morality appeared to Ь е confined to the question of practical
uti1ity alone, and whose highest criterion of right and wrong was
material success. "
1 saw how confused and и п Ь а р р у our life had Ь е с о ш е how
little there was of г е а communion between т а п and т а п des­
pite а Н the stridert, almost hysterical, insistence о п с о п п п ц п п у
and 'nation'; how far we had strayed from our instincts; and
how narrow, how musty our souls had Ь е с о т е I'saw all tbls:
but somehow it п е ъ е г seriously о с с ш т е ё to т е - as it never
seemsto Ь а у е о с с ш г е ё to а п у ofthe people around т е - that а п
answer, о г at least partial answers, to these perplexities might
р е ш а р а begained г о ш other than Europe's own cultural е х р е п
ences. Europe was the beginning and the end of а Н our thinking:
and even т у discovery of Lao-tse - at the age of seventeen or so
- had not altered т у outlook in this respect.
. Г т WAS А REAL discovery; 1 had never before heard of Lao-tse
and had not the slightest inkling of his philosophy when о п е day
1chanced и р о п а German translation ofthe Tao-te-king lying о п
the counter of а Viennese bookshop. Т Ь е strange п а т е and title
made т е mildly curious. Opening the book at random, 1glanced
at о п е of its в п о п aphoristic sections - and felt а sudden thrill,
like а stab of happiness, which made т е forget т у surroundings
and kept т е rooted where 1 stood, speHbound, with the book in
т у hands: for in it 1saw Ь и т а п life in а Н its serenity, free of а Н
cleavages and conflicts, rising и р in that quiet gladness which is
al\vays о р е п to the Ь и т а п heart whenever it cares to avail itself
of its own freedom ... This was truth, 1 knew it: а truth that
had a!ways Ь е е п true, although we had forgottenit: and п о у 1
recognized it with the joy ф whichone returns to long­
lost Ь о т е ...
From that time onward, for several years, Lao-tse was to т е а
window through which 1 could look out into the glass-clear rc­
gions of а life that was far away from а Н narrowness and а Н self­
created fears, free CJfthe childish obsession which was forcing us,
72 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
from moment to п ю ш е п т always to secure о и г existence anew
Ь у means of 'material improvemenC atany price. Not that
material improvement seemed т о Ь е wrong о г even unnecessary
to т е о п the с о п п а г у 1 conti.,ued to regard it as good and
necessary: but at the same ti'11c 1 was convinced that it could
never achieve its end - to increase the sum total of Ь и т а п happi­
ness - unlcss it were accompanied Ь у а reorientation of о и г spirit­
ual attitude and а new faith in absolute values. But how such а
reorientation could Ь е brought about and of what kind the п е у
valuations у е г е to Ь е was not quite clear to т е It would certain­
ly Ь а у е Ь е е п idle to е х р е с г that т е п would change their aims ­
and thus the direction of their endeavours - as soon as someone
started prcaching to т п е г п as Lao-tse did. that о п е should о р е п
oneself up to life instead of trying to grab it to himself and thus
to do violence to it. Preaching а о п е inte1Jectual realization
alone could obviously not produce а change in ц т е spiritual а ш
tude of European society; а new faith of the heart was needed,a
burning surrender to val\les which toleratedho Ifs and Buts: but
whence to gain such а faith ... ?
It someho\v did not enter т у mind that Lao-tse's ш у chal­
lenge was aimed not merely at а passing and therefore change­
а Ы е intellectual а п п ц ё е but at some of the most fundamental
concepts out of which that attitude р г п Had 1 known this, 1
would Ь а у с Ь е е п forced to conclude that Е и г о р е could not pos­
sibJy attain to that weightless serenity of soul of which Lao-tse
spoke, unlcss it summoned the courage to question its own spirit­
ual and ethical roots. 1 was, of course, too young to arri\'e с о п
sciously at such а conclusion: о о young to grasp the challenge of
Ь е Chinese sage in al1"its implications and its entire grandeur.
Т г и е his message shook т е to т у innermost; it revealed to т е
the vista of а life in which т а п could Ь е с о т е о п е \vith his des­
tiny -and so \vith himself: but as 1 did not clearly see how such а
philosophy could transcend mere contemplation and Ь е trans­
latedfnto reality in the context of the Europcan way of Jife, 1
gradually began to doubt whether it was rea1izable at а Н 1 had
not yet reached the point у Ь е г е 1\vould е е п ask myselfwhether
the European way of life was. in its ц п а е п а the only pos­
sibIe у а у In other \vords, like а Н the other people around т е 1
was entirely\vrapped и р in Europe's egocentric cultural outlook.
And so. although his voice was never q';lite silel1ced, Lao-tse
WJNDS 73
receded, step Ь у step, into the background of comtempIative fan­
tasies, and in time ceased to Ь е т о г е than the Ь е а г е г of lovely
poetry. О п е continued to read Ы т off and о п and felt each ц т п е
the stab of а Ь а р р у vision; but each time о п е put the book away
with а wistful regret that this was only а dream с а Н to з о т п е ivory
tower. And although 1felt very т и с Ь at odds with the discordant
bitter, greedy world of which 1 was а р а п 1 did not wish to live
in а п ivory tower.
Ш there was п о warmth in т е for а п у of the aims and е п
deavours which at that time flowed through Е ц г о р е в intel1ectual
atmosphere and fil1ed its literature, art and politics\vith а buzz
о С animated controversies - for, however contradictory to о п е
another most ofthose aims and endeavours т а у З е Ь е е п they
а Н had obviously о п е thing in с о т т о п : the п а у е assumption
that life could ь е lifted out of its present confusion and 'better­
ed' if only its outward - economic orpolitical - conditions were
bettered. 1strongly felt even then that materialprogress,by itself,
could not provide а solution; and although 1did not quite kno\v
where а solution might Ь е found, 1was never а Ы е to evince \vith­
in myself that enthusiasm which т у contemporaries had Г о г
'progress'. . .
Not that 1 was Ь а р р у 1 had never Ь е е п а п introvert, and
just then 1 was enjoying а т о г е than usual measure of success in
т у practical affairs. While 1 was hardly inclined to give п ш с п
weight to а с а г е е г а в such, woork at theUnited Telegraph - \vhere
owing to т у knowledge of languages, 1 was п о sub-editor in
.charge of the news service for the с з п п а п press - seemed
to о р е п т а п у avenues into the Ь г о а п е г world. Т Ь е С а г ё des
Westensand its spiritual succcssor, the Romanisches Cafe­
meeting places of the most outstal1ding writers, artists, jcur­
nalists, actors, producers of the day - represented something like
а п intellectual Ь о е to е 1 stood о п friendly and sometimcs
even famiJiar terms \\'itI1 \vho Ь о г е famous names, and
regarded ш у е - at lC:lst in outlook if П О in а ш е - as о п е !of
thern. с с р blcndships and fleeting loves с а т е т у way. Г е was
. exciting, и Н of promise and colourflJl in the varietyof its im­
pl·cssions. No, 1 was certainly not и п Ь а р р у only deeply dis­
satisfled, unsatisfied, not kno\\'ing what I \vas г е а Н у a[ter, and at
t11e same time \vith the absurd arrogance of youth,
З о п е day 1would kno\v it. And so 1s\vung along 011 tl1e р е п
74 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
dulum of т у heart's content and discontent in exactly the same
way as т а п у other young people were doing in those strange
years: for, while п о п е of us was г е а у и п Ь а р р у only а у е г у few
в е е ш е ё to Ь е consciously Ь а р р у
1 was not unhappy: but т у inability to share the diverse
social, economic and political hopes ofthose around т е - of а п у
group among them - gcew in time into а vague sense of п о
quite belonging to them, accompanied, vaguely again, Ь у а
desire to belong - to whom? - to ь е а р а п of something - of
what?
А н THEN ONE DAY, in thespring of 1922, 1 received а letter
from т у uncle Dorian.
Dorian \vas т у mother's youngest brother. О и г relationsblp
had always Ь е е п rather of friends than of uncleand nephew.
Н е was а psychiatrist - о п е of the early pupils of Freud - and а
that time headed а mental hospital in Jerusalem. As Ь е was п о а
Zionist himself and did п о particularly sympathize with the
aims of Zionism - п о г for that matter, was attracted to the
Arabs - he felt lonely and isolated in а world which had nothing
to offer Ы ш but work and ineome. Being unmarried, Ь е thought
of his nephew as а likely с о т п р а п ю п in his solitude. In his letter
Ь е referred to those exciting days ш Vienna whenhe had guided
т е into the new world of psychoanalysis; and Ь е concluded:
'Why don't у о и с о т е and stay some months with т е here? 1will
р а у for у о и г journey coIning and going; у о и will Ь е free to г е
tum to В е г й п whenever у о и like. And while у о и а г е Ь е г е у о и
will ь е living in а delightful old А г а Ь stone house ч Ы с Ь is с о о
in summer (and damned cold in winter). We shall spend о и г
time well together. 1 have plenty of books here, and when у о и
get tired of observing the quaint scenery а Г ш у о у о и с а п
read as т и с Ь as у о и want ...'
1made р т у mind with the promptness that llas always char­
acterized т у major decisions. Next morning 1 informed О г
Dammert at the Hnited Telegraph that т р о г а п Ь п е с о п
siderations' .forced т е to go to the Near East, and that 1 w<;Juld
therefore have to quit the agency within а week ...
Ifanyone had told т е at that time that т у first acquaintance
with the world of Islam у о и Ы go far beyond а holiday experi·
WINDS 75
е п с е a.nd indeed Ь е с о т е а tumiitg point in т у life, 1would have
laughed off the idea as utterly preposterous. Not that 1 was im­
pervious to the allure of countries associated in т у mind - as in
the minds of most Europeans - with the romantic atmosphere
of the А г а Ы а Nig/ltS: 1 did anticipate colour, exotic customs,
picturesque encounters; but it never occured to т е to anticipate
. adventures in the realm ofthe spirit as well, and the new journey
did not seem to hold out а п у special promise of а personal п а
ture. А the ideas and impressions that had previously с о т е ш у
way 1had instinctively related to the Western world-view, hoping
to attain to а broader reach of feeling and perception within the
о у cultural environment known to т е And, if you с о т е to
think of it, how cou1d 1 have felt differently? 1 was only а very.
veiy young European, brought и р in the belief that Islam and а Н
it stoOO for was п о more than а romantic by-path of man's his­
tory, not even quite 'respectable' from the spiritual and ethical
points of view, and therefore not to ь е mentioned in the same
breath, stillless to ь е с о ш р а г е ё with the only two faiths which
the West considers fit to ь е taken seriously: Christianity aod
Judaism.
It was with this hazy, European bias against things Islamic
(though not, of course, against the romanticized outward а р
pearances ofMuslimlife) that 1set out in the summer of 1922о п
т у joumey. If, il1 faimess to myself, 1с а п п о say that 1 was self­
absorbed in а п individual sense, 1 was п о п е the less, without
knowing it, deeply enmeshed in thatself·absorbed, culturally
egocentric mentality 50 characteristic of the West at а times.
AND NOW 1 STOOD о п the planks о а ship о п т у way to the
East. А leisurely О П е у had brought т е to Constanza "and
thence into this foggy morning.
А red sail emerged out of the veils of fog and slipped Ь у close
to the ship; and because it had Ь е с о т е visible, о п е knew that the
suo was about to break through the fog. А few pale rays, thin as
threads, е П о п the mist over the sea. Their paleness had some..,
thing of the hardness of metaI. Under their pressure the milky .
masses of fog settled slowlyand heavily over the water, then beni
apart, and б п а у rose to the right а п д Ieft of the sun i'ays in
widespread, drifting arcs, like wings.
76 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
'Good morning,' said а deep, fuU voice. 1 turned around and
recognized the bJack cassock of т у companion of the previous
evening, and the friendly sm1le о п а face which 1 had grown to
Jike during the few hours of our acquaintance. Т Ь е Jesuit padre
was half PoJish and half French and taught history at а co))egein
Alexandria: Ь е was now returning there from а vacation. We
had spent the evening after embarkation in lively talk. Although
it soon Ь е с а е а р р а г е п т that we differed widely о п т а п у issues,
we had, nevertheless, т а п у points of interest in с о п п п о п and 1
was already mature enough to recognize that here \vas а bril­
liant, serious and at the в а ш е time humorous mind at work.
'Good moming, Father Felix; look at the sea.. .'
Daylight and colour had с о т е up with Ь е sun. We stood in
the Ь О У ofthe Sl1ip under the morning wind. Tempted Ь у the п п
possibility, 1 tried to determine for myself the movement of
colour i11 the breaking \vaves. В Green? Grey? It could have
Ь е е п blue - but already а shimmer of amaranth red, reflecting
the sun, glided over the с о п с а у е slopc of the wave, while the
crest broke up into snowy о а п and steel-grey, crinkly rags raced
over it. What а п ю ш е п т ago had Ь е е п а wave-hill was now а
trembling г п о у с ш е п г - the breaking-open of а thousand п п п ш е
independent eddies in whose shaded cavities the amaranth red
changed into dcep, satiated green; then the green rose up, chang­
ing into oscil1ating violet, which at first е П back into wine red,
but immediately after shot up as turquoise bJue and Ь е с а т е the
crest of the wave, о to break up agam; and again the wblte
foam spread i15 net dommeeringly over the writhing water-hills
.... And о п and о п went the unending play... '
It gave т е а п alrnost physical sensation of disquiet never to
ь е а Ы е to grasp tbls play of colours and its eternally changing
rhythm. When 1 looked at it quite superficia11y, only from the
corncr of т у е у е as it were, 1felt, for seconds, that it might Ь е
possible to catch а this п а п integrated image; but delj:·
berateconcentration, the habit of connecting о п е isolated с о п
cept with another, led to nothing but а series ofbroken-up, separ­
ate pictures. But out of this difficulty, this strangely irritating
confusiol1, а п idea с а т е 10 ш е with great clarity - or so i1
seerned to т е at the time - and 1said, almost involuntarily:
"Vhoever could grasp а this with his senses \vould ь е а Ы е to
master C1estiny.'
WINDS 77
'1 know what у о и ш е а п replied Father Felix, 'But why
should о п е desire to master destiny? Т о escape from suffering?
WouId it п о ь е better о Ь е с о т е free of destiny?'
У о и а г е speak.ing almost like а Buddhist, Father Felix. 00
у о и ю о regard Nirvana as the goalof а Н being Т
О Ь 00, certainly not. " We Christians do not aim at the е х
й п с ц о п of life and feeling - we desire only to lift life out of the
region of the rn:aterial and seosual into the realm of the spirit.'
В ш is this not renunciation l'
'It is п о renunciation, т у young friend. lt is the only way to
true Н С с to р е а с е .. .'
The Bosporus opened itself to us, а broad \vaterway framed
о п botll sides Ь у rocky hIOs. Н е г е and there о п е could see pil­
lared, airy palaces, terracedgardens, cypresses rising и р in а Н
their dark height, and old janissary castles, heavy masses of
stone hanging over the water like Ь е nests of birds of prey. As if
г о ш а great distance, 1 heard the voice of Father Felix с о п
tinue:
У о и see, the deepest symbol of longing - а Н people's longing
- is the symbol ofParadise; у о и find it in а Н religions, always in
е г е л imageries, but the т е а л is always the same - namely
the desire to ь е free from destiny. Т people of Paradise had п о
destiny; acquired it only after they succumbed to the temp­
tation of the flesh and thus е Н into \Vhat we с а Н Original Sin:
the stumbling of the spirit over the hindering urges of Ь е body,
which are indeed о л у the animal remnants within man's nature.
Т esscntial, the Ь и т а п the humanly-divine р а п 01' т а п is his
soul alone. Т soul strives toward light, which is spirit: but Ь е
cause о С the Original Sin its way is hampered Ь у obstacles arising
from the material, non-divine composition of the body and its
urges. What Ь е Christian teaching aims at is, therefore, man's
freeing himselffrom the non-essential, ephemeral, carnal aspects
of his С е and returning to his spiritual heritage.'
Т ancient, twin-towered fortress of Rumili Hissar а р
peared; о п е of its creneHated walls sloped down almost to the
water's cdge; о п the shore, within Ь е semicircle formed Ь у the
fortress walls, lay dreaming а little Turkish ceJnetery \vith
broken-down tombstones.
Н т а у ь е so, Father Felix. В щ 1 feel - and this is the feelil1g
of т а п у people of т у generation - 1 feel that there is something
78 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
wrong in making а distinction between the "essential" and the
"non-essential" in the structure of т а п and in separating spirit
and flesh ... in short, 1с а п п о т agree with your'flenyingа Н right­
eousness to physical urges, to the flesh, to earthbound destiny.
М у desire goes elsewhere: 1 dream of а form of life - though 1
must confess 1 do not see it clearly as yet - in which the entire
т а п spirit and would strive after а deeper and deeper
fulfilment of his Self - in which the spirit and the senses would
not Ь е enemies to о п е another, and in which т а п c,ould
achieve unity witllin himself and with the meaning of his des- .
у 50 that о п the summit of his days Ь е could say, "/ а т т у
destiny." ,
'That was the Hellenic dream,' replied Father Felix, 'and
where did it lead? First to the Orphic and Dionysian mysteries,
then to Plato а п ё Plotinus, and so, again, to the inevitable
г е а й з а ц о п that spirit and flesh are opposed to о п е another ...
Т о make the spirit free from the domination of the flesh: this is
the meaning of Christian salvation, the meaning of our belief in
the Lord's self-sacrifice о п the Cross.. .' Here, Ь е interrupted
himself and turned to т е with а twinkle: О Ь 1fiill not always а
missionary pardon т е if 1speak to у о и of т у faith, which is
not yours '
Б и 1 Ь а у е п о п е 1 assured Ы т
'Yes,' said Father Felix, '1 know; the lack of faith, о г rather
the inability to Ь е й е у е is the central i1lness of our time. У о и
like so т а п у others, а г е living in а п illusion which is thousands
of years old: the i1lusion that intellect alone с а п give а direction
to man's striving. В ш the intellect с а п п о т reach spritual know­
ledge Ь у itself because it is too т и с Ь absorbed in the а с Ы е у е
ment of material goals; it is faith, and faith alone, that с а п re­
lease us from such а п absorption.'
'Faith ... ?' 1 asked. У о и again bring in this word. There is
one thing 1 can't understand: у о и say it is impossible to attain
through intellect alone to knowledge and to а righteous Ы е
faith is needed, у о и say. 1 agree with у о и entirely. Б how does
о п е achieve faith if о п е has п о п е Is there а у а у to it - 1т е а п а
way о р е п to our wi1l1'
М у dear friend - will alone is no.t enough. Т Ь е way is only
opened Ь у God's grace. Б it is always opened to Ы т who
prays from the innermost of his heart for enlightenn1ent.'
WINDS
Т о pray! But when о п е isа Ь е to do this,Father Р е ш о п е а
ready hasfaith. You choose to lead т е around in а circle - for if
а т а п prays, Ь е must already ь е of the existence of
Him to whom Ь е prays. How did Ь е с о т е to this conviction?
Т his intellect? Would not this amount to admitting that
faith с а п ь е found through the intellect? And а р а п from that,
с а п "grace" т е а п anything to somebody who has never had а п
experience of this kind '/'
Т Ь е priestshrugged his shoulders, regretfully, it seemed to
т е 'If о п е has not Ь е е п а Ы е to е х р е п е п с е God Ь у himself, о п е
should allow himself to ь е guided Ь у the experiences of others
who Ь а у е experienced Н ц п .. .'
А FEW О А У З LATER we landed at Alexandria and the same
aftemoon 1 went о п to Pa1estine.
Т train swept straight as а п arrow through the aftemoon
and the soft, humid Delta landscape. Nile canals, shaded Ь у the
sails of т а п у barges, crossed our path. SmaJl towns, dust-grey
clusters of houses and lighter minarets, с а ш е and went. Villages
consisting of box-shaped mud huts swept past. Harvested cotton
fields; sprouting sugar-cane fields; abundantly overgrown palms
over а village ш о в с ц е water buffa]oes, bIack, heavy-limbed,
now going Ь о т е without guide from the muddy pools in which
they had Ь е е п wallo\ving during the day; In the distance, т е п in
long garments: they seemed to Boat, so light and clear was the
air under the high, Ы ц е sky of glass. О п the banks of the с а п а в
reeds swayed in the wind; women in bIack tulle c.loaks \vere
scooping water into earthenware jars: wonderful women, s]en­
der, 10ng-limbed; in their wa]k they reminded т е of 10ng-stem­
med plants that sway tenderly and yet fu1] of strength in the wlnd.
Young girls and matrons had the same floating walk.
Т dusk grew and flowed like the breath of some great, rest­
ing, living being. As tbe slim т е п were walking homeward from
the fields, their movernents appeared lengthened and at tbe same
щ е lifted out of the slowly disappearing day: е а с Ь step seemed
to Ь а у е а п existence of its own, rounded in itself: between eter­
nity and eternity always that о п е step. This appearance oflight­
п з and sD100thness was perhaps due to the exhilarating е у е п
ш light of the Nile Delta - perhaps also to т у own rest]essness
80 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
at seeing з о т а п у new things - Ь ш whatever the cause, 1sudden­
у felt in myselfа Н the weight of Е и г о р е the weight of deliberate
р и з е iri а Н о ц г actions. 1 thought to myself, 'How difficult it
is for, us to attain to rea1ity... We always try to grab it: but it
does not like to ь е grabbed. О п у where it г т а п does
it surrender itself to Ы т
Т step of the Egyptian field labourers, already 10st in dis­
tance and darkness, continued to swing in т у mind 1ikeа Ь у т п
of а Н high things.
We reached 'the Suez С а п а made а turn at а right angle, and
glided for а while toward the п о п п al011g the grey-black bank. It
was like а drawn-out melody, this 10ng п е of the с а п а at night.
Т Ь е moonlight turned the waterway into something like а г е а
but dream-broad way, а dark band of shining metal. Т Ь е sati­
ated earth of the Nile valley had with astonishing rapidity made
г о о т for chains of sand dunes which е п с ю в е ё the с а п а о п both
sides with а paleness and sharpness rarely to Ь е seen in any other
night landscape. In the listening silence stood, here and there,
the skeleton of а dredge. Beyond, о п the other bank, а с а т е
rider rushed Ь у rushed Ь у - hardly seen and already swaHowed
Ь у the night ... What а great, simple stream: from the Red Sea,
through the В Lakes, to the Mediterranean Sea - right
across а desert - so that the Indian О с е а п might beat о п the
quays of Е и г о р е ...
At Kantara the trainjourney \vas interrupted for а whi1e and а
lazy ferry carried the traveHers across the si1ent \vater. Т Ь е г е was
almost an Ь о и г before the departure of the Palestinian train. 1
sat down before the st'ation building. Т Ь е air was warm and dry.
Т Ь е г е was the desert: to the right and to the left. Shimmering
grey, smudged over, broken through Ь у isolated barking р е г
haps it was jackals, perhaps dogs. А beduin, heavi1y 10aded
with saddlebags made of bright carpet cloth, с а т е from the
ferry and walked toward а group in the distance, \vhich о у now
1 recognized as motionless т е п and crouching camels, ready­
saddled for the т а г с Ь It seemed that the new arrival had been
expected. Н е threw his saddlebags over о п е of the anima1s, а few
words were exchanged, а Н the men mounted and, at the same
moment, the camels rose, first о п their hind legs, then ontheir
forelegs - the riders rocked г and back\vard - then they
rode away with soft, swishing sounds, and for а while у о и could
WINDS 81
fol1ow Ь е light-coloured. swaying bodies of Ь е animals and the
wide. brown-and-white-striped beduin cloaks.
А railway workman strol1ed toward т е Н е wore а blue over­
а and seemed о ь е lame. Н е lit his cigarette from mine, then
asked т е in broken French:
У ou are going о Jerusalem?' And when 1 said Yes, Ь е с о п
tinued: 'For the first п ш е
I nodded. Н е was а Ь о и to go о п Ь е п turned back and said:
'Did у о и в е е over there Ь е big caravan from Ь е Sinai Desert?
No? е п с о т е along, let us visit Ь е т У о и have time.'
Т Ь е soles of our shoes crunched in Ь е sand as we walked
through the silent emptiness и р а narrow, г о е п path
wmch led into Ь е dunes. А dog barked in Ь е darkness. As we
went о п stumbling over low thornbushes, voices reached т у
ears - confused, mufRed, as of т а п у people - and Ь е sharp and
nevertheless soft smel1 of т а п у resting animaI bodies mingIed
with the dry desert а п Suddenly - just as у о и might see in а city,
during а foggy night, the shimmer of а п as yet invisibIe Iamp
grow и р from behind а street comer and make only the fog
sh.ine - а narrow streak of Iight appeared from down below, as
if from under ground, and climbed steeply into the dark air. It
was Ь е shine of а fire, coming from а deep gorge between two
sand dunes, so thickl)' covered with thornbushes that о п е could
not see its Ь о п о ш 1 could now clearly hear men's voices, Ь ш the
speakers were'still invisible. 1 heard Ь е breathing of camels, and
how Ь е у rubbed against о п е another in the narrow в р а с е А big,
black Ь и т а п shadow fell over Ь е light, ran и р Ь е opposite
slope and down again. After а few more steps 1could see it а Н ­
а great circle of crouching cameIs with heaps of pack-saddles
and bags here and there, and among them the figures of т е п
Т Ь е animal smell was sweet and heavy like wine. Sometimes о п е
of the cameIs moved its body, which was smudged out of its
shape Ь у the darkness around it, lifted its neck and drew in the
night air \vith а snorting sound, as if sighing: and thus 1 heard
fo[ the first time Ь е sighing ofcameIs. А sheep bleated softly; а
dog growled; and everywhere outside the gorge the !light was
black and starless.
It was already late; 1 had to get Ь а с о the station. But 1
walked very sIo\vly,down the path Ь у which we had с о т е dazed
and strangely shaken, as и Ь у а mysterious experience which had
F
82 Т Н Е ROAD У О М Е С С А
caught bold of а comer of т у beart and would not let т е go.
Т Н Е TRAIN CARRIED М Е through the Sinai Desert. 1 was
exbaustOO, sleepless from the cold of tbe desert night and the
rocking ofthe train over rails resting о п loose sand. Opposite т е
sat а Ь е ё ш п in а voluminous brown а Ь а у а Н е also was freez­
ing and bad wrapped his а с е in his headcloth. Н е sat cross­
legged о п the bench, and о п bls knees lay а curvOO sword in а
scabbard о г п а ш е ш е ё with silver. It was nearly moming. You
could almost recognize the outlines of the dunes outside, and the
cactus bushes.
I с а п still remember how tbe dawn broke - grey-black, paint­
ing shapes, slowly drawing outlines - and how it graduaHy lifted
the sand dunes out of the darkness and built tbem into har­
monious masses. In the growing half-light, а group of tents а р
р е а г е ё and rushed Ь у and near them, silver-grey, like fog с ц г
tains in the wind, fishing nets spread verticaHy between poles for
drying: fisblng nets in the desert - blowing in the morning wind
- dream veils, transparent, unreal, between night and day.
Т о tbe right was the desert; to the left the sea. О п the shore а
lonely camel-rider; perhaps Ь е had Ь е е п riding а Н night; now Ь е
в е е ш е ё to ь е asleep, slumped in the saddle, and they both rock­
00, man and camel, in а с о т т о п rhythm. Again black beduin
tents. Already there were women outside \vith е а г ш е п с а г е jars
о п their heads, ready to go to the weU. Out с half-light that
grew into light а diaphanous world was emerging, moved Ь у in­
visible pulses, а wonder of all that is sirnple and с а п never end.
Т Ь е sun struck out over the sand with broader and broader
rays and the greyness of dawn burst into an orange-golden fire­
work. We sped о п through the oasis of A1-Arish, through colon­
nadOO cathedrals of palms with а thousand pointed arches of
palm fronds and а brown-green latticework oflight and shade. 1
saw а woman with а fiHed jar о п her head coming from the well
and going slowly и р а path under the palms. She wore а red-and­
blue dress with а long train and was lilce а high lady from а
legend.
Т palm orchards of AI-Arish disappeared as suddenJy а з
tbey had с о т е We were now travelling through shell-coloured
light. Qutside, behind the shaking windowpanes, а stillness such
WINDS
83
as 1 never had thought po!'sible. А о п and movements were
devoid of а yesterday and а tomorrow - they were simply there,
in а heady uniqueness. sand, built up Ь у the wind into'
soft hillocks that glowed p:lle orange under the sun, like very old
parchment, only softer, brittle in their breaks and curves,
swinging in sharp, decisivc violin strokes о п the summits, infi­
n;tely tender in the with translucent water--colour sha­
dows - purple and а с а щ rusty pink - in the shallow dips and
hollows. Opalescent cloutls. cactus bushes here and there and
sometimes long-stemmed. hard grasses. О п с е о с twice 1 saw
в р а г е barefooted Ь е ё ш п and а camel с а г а у а п loaded with
palm fronds which they wcre carrying Г с о т somewhere to в о ш е
where. 1 felt enwrapped Ь у the great landscape.
Several times we stoppcd at smal1 stations, usua11y п о п ю г е
than а Г е у barracks oftimtler and tin. Brown, tattered boys с а п
around with baskets and olfered figs, hard-boiled eggs and fresh,
flat loaves о Г bread for sa/c. Т Ь е beduin opposite т е rose slow­
Iy, unwound his headcloth ш opened the window. His Г а с е was
thin, brown, sharply drawJ1, о п е о Г those hawk faces which al­
ways look intently ahead. Н е bought а piece о Г cake, turned
around and was about to sit down, when his е у е fel1 о п т е а п ё
without а word, Ь е broke 11is cake in two and offered т е half.
When Ь е saw т у Ь е в п а ц о п and astonishment, Ь е smiled - and 1
saw that the т е п ё е г smile fitted his Г а с е as we11 as the intentness
о Г а moment ago - and sl.1id а word which 1 could not under­
stand then but now know was ta/addal- 'grant т е the favour.' 1
took the cake and thanked Ы т with а nod. Another traveller ­
Ь е wore, with the exceptiol1 ofhis red fez, European clothes and
т а у Ь а у е Ь е е п а sma11 tradcr - intervened as translator. In halt­
ing English Ь е said:
Н е say, you trave11er, Ь е trave11er; your way and his way is to­
gether.' .
When 1 now think о Г thi:; little occurrence, it seems to т е that
а т у later love for the А с а Ь character must Ь а у е Ь е е п influen­
ced Ь у it. For in the gesture of this beduin, who, over а bar­
riers о Г strangeness, sensetl а friend in а п accidental travelling
companion and broke bread with him, 1 must already have fclt
the breath and the step О Г а humanity Г с е е о Г burden.
After а short while с а т е old Gaza, Ш е е а castle о Г mud, living
its forgotten Н Г е о п а sand Ш Ь е е е п cactus wa1ls. М у beduin
84 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
collected his saddlebags, saluted т е with а grave smile and а nod
and left the carriage, sweeping the dust behind Ы т with the lorig
train of his cloak. Two other beduins stood outside о п the plat­
form and greeted Ь ш with а handshake and а kiSs о п both
cheeks. •
Т English-speaking trader put his hand о п т у а п п С о т е
along, still quarter-hour ш п е
Beyond the sation building а caravan was encamped; they
were, т у companion informed т е beduins from northem
Н Т Ь е у had brown, dusty, wild-warm faces. Our friend was
among them. Н е appeared to ь е а person of some account, for
they stood in а loose semicircle around Ы т and answered his
questions. Т Ь е trader spoke to е ш and they tumed toward us,
friendly - and, 1 thought, somewhat superciliously - considering
our urban existence. А п atmosphere of freedom surrounded
them, and 1 felt а strong desire to understand their lives. Т Ь е air
was dry, vibrating, and seemed to р е п е п а т е the body. It loosen­
cd а Н stiffness, disentangled а Н thoughts and made them lazy
and still. There was а qua1ityoftimelessness in it which made а
things seen and heard and smeHed assume distinct values in their
own right. It began to dawn о п т е that people who с о т е from
the environment of the desert must sense Н С е in а way quite dif­
ferent from that о С people in а other regions; they must Ь е free
from т а п у obsessions - perhaps also from т а п у dreams ­
peculiar to inhabitants of colder, richer lands, and certainly from
т а п у oftheir limitations; and because they Ь а у е to rely more in­
timately' о п their own perceptions, these desert dwellers must set
а quite different scale о С values to the things о С the world.
Perhaps it was а presentiment of coming upheavals in т у own
life that gripped т е о п that first day in а п Arab country at the
sight of the beduins: the presentiment of а world which lacks
а Н defining limits but is, п о п е .the less, never formless; which is
fuHy rounded in itself - and nevertheless о р е п о п а Н sides: а
world that was soon to Ь е с о т е т у own. Not that 1 was then
conscious of what the future held in store С о т т е of course not.
It was, rather, as when you enter а strange house for the first
time and а п indefinable smeH in the hallway gives you dimly а
hint of things which will Ь а р р е п in this house, and will happen
to you: and if they are to Ь е joyful things, you feel а stab of rap­
ture in your heart - and you wilJ remember it much later, when
WINDS 85
а Н those happenings have long since taken place, and you will
tell yourself: А Н this 1 have sensed long ago, thus and in п о .
other way, in that first moment in the Ь а Н
-2­
А STRONG WIND blows through the desert, and for а while
Zayd thinks we а г е going to have another sandstorrn. But al­
though п о sandstorm с о ш е в the wind does not leave us. It fol­
lows us in steady gusts, and the gusts flow together into а single,
unbroken sough as we descend into а sandy valley. Т Ь е р а
village in its с е п п е consisting о С several в е р а г а т е settlements ­
е а с Ь surrounded Ь у а mud waH- is veiled in а mist о С whirling
sand dust.
This а г е а is а kind ofwind hole: every day from dawn to sun­
set the wind beats here with strong wings, settling down during
the night, only to rise again the next 'moming with renewed
force; and the palm trees, eternaHy pressed down Ь у its blows
с а п п о т grow to their fuH height but remain stunted, close to the
ground, with broad-spread fronds, always in danger from the
encroaching dunes. Т Ь е village would have long ago Ь е е п buried
in the sands had not the inhabitants planted rows of tamarisks
around every orchard. These taH trees, more resistant than
palms, form with their strong trunks and ever-green, rustIing
branches а living waH around the plantations, offering them а
doubtfuI security.
We alight before the mud house ofthe village amir, intending
to rest here during the п о о п heat. Т Ь е а И
а
set aside for the г е
ception of guests is bare and poverty-stricken and displays only
о п е small straw mat before the stone coffee hearth. But, as usual,
А г а Ы а п hospitality overcomes а Н poverty': for hardly have we
taken our places о п the mat when а friendly fire of twigs crackles
о п the hearth; the ringing sound of the brass mortar in which
г у г о а coffee beans are being pounded ,gives а livable
character to the room; and а mighty platter piled with light­
brown dates meets the hunger of the travellers.
Our host - а smaH, Iean old т а п with rheumy, squinting eyes,
clad only in а cotton tunic and а headcloth - invites us to р а г
. take of this fare:
М а у God give у о и life; this house is your house, eat in the
п а т е of God. This is а Н we have' - and Ь е makes а п apologetic
86 Т Н Е а О А О Т О М Е С С А
gesture with his Ь а а single movement in Ы с Ь the whole
weight of bls fate is expressed with that artless power о С evoca­
tion so peculiar to people who live close to their instincts - 'but
the dates are п о bad. Eat, О wayfarers, of what we с а п offer
you ....
Т dates are reaUy among the best 1 have ever eaten; and the
host is obviously pleased Ь у our hunger which Ь е с а п satisfy.
And Ь е goes о п
Т wind, the wind, it makes our life hard; but that is God's
wiU. Т wind destroys our plantations. We must always strug­
g1e to keep them from being Covered Ь у sand. It has п о always
Ь е е п thus. In earlier times there was not so much wind here, and .
the village was big and rich. Now it has grown smaH; т а п у of
our young т е п а г е going away,for п о everyone с а п bear such а
life. Т sands are closing in о п us day Ь у day. Soon there wiH ь е
п о room left for the ш т wind ... But we do п о
complain... As you know, the Prophet - т а у God bIess
him - told us: "God says, Revile о destiny,for, behold - / о т
destiny ..." ,
1must have started, for the old т а п stops speaking and looks
at т е attentively; and, as if comprehending why 1 started, Ь е
sm.iles with almost а woman's smile, strange to see in that tired.
wom-out face, and repeats softly. з if to himself:
'. . . behold, / am destiny' - and in the nod with which Ь е а с
companies his words lies а proud, silent а с с е р т а п с е о С his own
р а с е in"life; and never have 1seen, even in Ь а р р у people, а У es
to reality expressed with so much quiet and sureness. With а
wide, vague. almost sensual tum of his а ш Ь е describes а "circle
in the air - а circle which encompasses Ы that belongs
to this life: the poor, dusky room. the wind and its etemal roar.
the relentless advance of the sands; longing for happiness, and
resignation to what с а п п о Ь е changed; the platter fu1l of date!l;
the struggling orchards behind their shield of tamarisks; t11e П е
о п the hearth; а young woman's laughLer somewhere in the
courtyard beyond: and in а Н these things and in the gesture that
has brought them out and together 1seem to hear the song of а
stroog spirit wblch knows п о barriers of circuJ11stance and is at
р е а с е with itself. .
1 а т carried back to а ш е long past, to that autumn day in
Jerusalem ten years ago. when another poor old т а п spoke to
WINDS 87
т е of surrender to God, whicb alone с а п с а ш е о п е to ь е at
р е а с е with Him and 50 with о о destiny.
DURING Т Н А Т А UTUMN 1 was living in т у uncle Dorian's
house just inside the Old City of Jerusalem. It rained almost
every day and, not being а Ы е to go о ш т и с Ь I often sat at the
window which overlooked а Iarge yard behind the house. Т
yard belonged to а п old Arab who was called а Л because Ь е
had performed the pilgrimage to М е с с а Ь е rented out donkeys
Г о г riding а п ё carrying and thus made the yard а kind of с а г а
vanserai.
Every moming, shortly Ь е Г о г е dawn, loads о Г vegetable5 and
fruits were brought there о п camels Г г о т the surrounding viI­
lages and sent out о п donkeys into the narrow bazaar streets о Г
the town. ln daytime the Ь е а е у bodies о Г the cameIs could ь е
seen resting о п the ground; т е п were always noisily attending to
them and to the donkeys, unless they were forced to take refuge
in the stables from the streaming rain. Т Ь е у were р о о г ragged
т п е п those с а т е and donkey drivers, but they behaved like
great lords. When they sat together at meals о п the ground and
ate flat loaves о Г wheat bread with а little bit of cheese о г а few
olives, 1could not but admire the nobi1ity and ease oftheir Ь е а г
ing and their inner quiet: у о и could see tl13t they had respect С о г
themselves and the everyday things of their lives. Т Ь е /,ajji, Ь о Ь
bling around о п а stick - for Ь е suffered С г о т arthritis and had
swoHen knees - was а kind of chieftain among them; they а р
peared to о Ь е у Ы г п \vithout question. Several timesa day Ь е а в
sembled them for р г а у е г and, if it was not raining too hard, they
prayed in the о р е п а Н the т е п in а single, long row and Ь е as
their imam in· front of them. Т Ь е у were like soldiers in the р г е
cision of their movements - they would bQ\\' together in the
direction of М е с с а rise again, and then kneel down and touch
the ground with their foreheads; they seemed to foHow the in­
audible \\'ords of their leader, who bet\veen the prostrations
stood barefoot о п his р г а у е г carpct. eyes closed, arms folded
over his chest, soundlessly movil)!! his Ilps and ob'v"iously lost in
deep absorption: у о и could see that Ь е w...s praying with his
whole soul. .
Jt somehow disturbed т е to see so г а р г а у е г combined
88 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
with almost mechanical body movements, and о п е з у 1 asked
the hajji, who understood а little English:
'Do you really Ь е е у е that God expects you to show Н ш your
respect Ь у repeated bowing and kneeling and prostration?
Might it not ....: better only to look into oneself and to pray to
Him in thc 8tilloc:::58 of о п е в Ь е а г т Why alI these movements of
у о и с у
As soon as 1 had uttered these words 1 felt г е п ю г в е for 1 had
not intended to injure the old man's religious feelings. But the
hajji did not а р р е а с in the least offended. Н е smi1ed with 00
toothless mouth and replied:
'f,low else then should we worship God? Did Н е not create
both, soul and Ь у together? And tOO being so, should man
nqt р г а у with 00 body as well as with his soul? Listen, 1 will tell
у о и why we Muslims pray as we pray. We turn toward the
К а а Ь а God's holytemple in М е с с а knowing that the faces of
а Н Muslims, wherever they т а у Ь е а г е turned to it in prayer,
and that we are 1ike о п е body, with н as the centre of our
thoughts. First we stand upright and recite from the Н у
Koran, г е т е т Ь е г в that it is Н Word. given to т а п that Ь е
т а у Ь е upright and steadfast in life. Т we say, "God is the
Greatest," reminding ourse1ves that п о о п е deserves to ь е wor­
shipped but Н т and bow down deep Ь е с а ц в е we honour н
а Ь о у е all, and praise His power and glory. Thereafter we pros­
trate ourselves о п о ц г foreheads because we feel that we are but
dust and nothingness before Н ц п and that Н е is о и с Creator
and Sustainer о п Ш в Ь Т Ь е п we lift our faces from the ground
and remain sitting, praying that Н е forgive us our sins and Ь е
stow His в г а с е и р о п us, and guide us aright. and give us health
and sustenance. Т е п we again prostrate ourselvesо п the ground
and touch the dust witl1 our foreheads before the might and 'the
glory of the О п е After that, \ve rcmain sitting and р г а у that Н е
bIess the Prophet Muhammad who brought Н message to us,
just as Н е blessed the earlier Prophets; а п д that Н е bless us as
weH, and а Н those who follow the right guidance; and we ask
Him to give us of the good of this world and of the good of the
world to с о т е In the end we turn our heads to the right and to
the left, saying, Р е а с е and the grace of God Ь е и р о п у о и - and
thus greetaH who а г е righteous, wherever they т а у Ь е
'It was thus that our Prophet used to pray and taught his fol­
WINDS 89
lowers to р т у for а times, 50 that Ь е у might \\;llingly surren­
der themselves to God - which is what Islam т п е а п в - and so ь е
at р е а с е with Him and with their own destiny:
Т old т а п did not, of course, use exactly tl\cse words, but
this was their mea.ning, and this is how 1 г е ш е п ю с г Ь е т У ears
later 1 realized that with his simple explanation the а Д had
opened to т е tnefirst door о Islam; but е у е п ш с п long before
у thought that Islam might Ь е с о т е т у own faith entered т у
mind, 1 began to feel а п unwonted т Ш у у Ь е с у е г 1saw, as 1
often did, а т а п standing barefoot о п his р г а у с г rug, о г о п а
straw ш а г о г о п the Ь а г е earth, with his arms '·olded о у е г his
chest and his head lowered, entirely submerged \vithin himself,
oblivious of what was going о п а г э ш ш him, whether it was in а
ш о в е ц е or о п the sidewa1k of а busy street: а т а п at р е а с е with
himself.
Т Н Е • А а А В STONE Н О ц в в of which Dorian had \vritten
was г е а П у delightful. It stood о п the fringe ofthe Old С Н у п е а г
the Jaffa .Gate. Its wide, high-eeilinged rooms secmed to ь е sat­
urated with memories of the patrician life th'lt had passed
thrOUg11 them in earIier generations and the wal1s reverberated
with the living present surging into tOOm г the ba:zaarп е а г Ь у
- sights and sounds and е П that were unlike Л у п 1 had
experienced before.
From the roof terrace 1could see the sharply outIined а г е а of
the Old City with its network of irregular streets and alleys с а г
ved in stone. At the other end, seeming1y п е а г in its mighty е х
panse, was the site ofSolomon's Т е т р е the А Л а Mosque­
the most sacred after those of М е с с а and Medina - stood о п its
farthest ш and the Dome of the Rock in the cel1tre. Beyond it,
the 01d City waUs fell off toward the У а е у of Kidron; and 00'"
yond· the у а е у grew soft1y rounded, barren hills. their slopes
thinly spotted with olive trees. Toward the east there was а litt1e
more fertility, and you could see there а garden sloping down to­
ward the road, dark-green. hedged in Ь у walls: the Garden of
Gethsemane. From its midst shone between oJivc trees and с у
presses the golden, onion-shaped domes of the Russian Church.
Like а п oscil1atingbrew from ana1chemist's retort. с е а г and
nevertheless П of а thousand undefinable colours, beyond
90 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
words, beyond е У the grasp о С thougbt: thus у о и could в е е
Crom the Mount о С О у е а the VaUCY о tbe Jordan and the Dead
Sea. Wavy bills and wavy Ш outlined, breath-like, а о
opalescent air, with the deep-blue Itreak of tbe Jordan and thc
rounding of tbe Dead sea Ь е у о о о - and still fartber beyond, 0­
othet world in itself, tbe dusky Ы П of М о а Ь а landscape of
such an incredible, multitonn beauty that your heart trembled
with excitement.
Jerusalem was а п new world to т е Т were bis­
toric memories seeping from every corner of the ancient city:
streets that had beard а ц preach, cobblestones over which
Christ had walked, walls that had Ь е е п old when tbe Ь е а у У step
of Roman legionaries echoed from them, arches over doorways
tbat bore inscriptions ofSaladin's time. Т was the deep blue
of tbe skies, wblch migbt not Ь а у е Ь е е п unfamiliar to someone
who knew other Mediterranean countries: but to т е who had
grown up in а far less friendly climate, tbis blueness was like а
с а П and а promise. Т bouses and streets в е е ш е ё to ь е covered
witb а tender, oscillating glaze; the р е о р т е were П of в р о п
taneous movement and grand ofgesture. Т Ь е people -tbat is, the
Arabs: for it was tbey wbo from tbe verybeginning impressed
themselves о п т у consciousness as the people oftbe land, people
who had grown out of its soi1 and its history and were о п е with
tbe surrounding air. Т garments were colourful and of а
Biblical sweep of drapery, and е а с Ь oftbem.Jel1a11 or beduin (for
you could often see beduins who с а т е to town to Ь и у orsell
tbeir goods), wore tbem in а manner quite his own, ever so
51ightly differenHrom tbe others, as ifhe had invented а personal
fashion о п tbe spur of tbe moment.
In front of Dorian'5 house, at а di5tance of perhaps forty
yards, rose tbe 5teep, time-wom walls о David's Castle, wblch
was part of tbe ramparts о the Old City - а typical medieval
. Л Ь citadel, probably erected о п Herodian foundations, with а
51im watchtower like а minaret. (Although it has п о direct con­
nection witb К David, the Jews Ь а у с always called it after
him because bere, о п Mount Zion, tbe old royal palace is said to
Ь а у е stood.) О п the Old City side there was а 10w, broad tower,
througb whicb tbe gateway went, and а bridge о stonelP'ched
across the old moat to tbe gate. Т Ь а arched bridge w3s а р
parently а customary place of rendezvous for beduins when
WINDS 91
bad к to с о т е into the city. О п е day 1 noticed а ш Н Ь е
duin standing there without motion, 5ilhouetted again5t the
silver-grey sky like а figure from а п old legend. His face, with
sharp cheekbones framed in а 5hort, red-brown beard, Ь о т е а п
expression of deep gravity; it was sombre, as if Ь е expected
something and yet did not fee) expectant. His wide, brown-and­
wblte-striped cloak was wom and tattered - and the fanciful
idea с а т е to т е 1 do not know why, that it had Ь е е п worn out
in т а п у п ю п ш в of and flight. Wa5 Ь е perhaps, о п е of
that handful of warriors who had accompanied young David о п
ы flight from т е dark jealousy of Saul, his king? Perhaps
David was asleep just now, hiding somewhere in а cave in the
Judean hills, and this т а п Ь е т е this faithful and brave friend,
had stealthily с о т е with а с о т о п into the т о у а city to find
out how Saul felt about т е П leader and whether it was safe for
him to retum. And now this friend of David was waiting Ь е т е
for his comrade, С и Н of dark forebodings: it was not good news
that т е у would bring David ...
Suddenly т е beduin moved. 5tarted walking down т е г а ш р
and т у dream-fantasy broke.And then 1 т е т е т Ь е т е д а
start: this т а п was an А т а Ь while those others, those figures of
the Bible - were Hebrews! But т у astonishment was only of а
moment's duration; for а at once 1 knew, \vith that clarity
which sometimes bursts within us like lightning and lights и р the
world for т е length of а е а Ь с щ ihat David and David's
time, like А Ь т а Ь а ш and Abraham's ц ш е were closer to their
А г а ш а п roots - and 50 to the beduin of to-day - than to the Jew
of today, who claims to ь е their descendant ...
1 often sat о п the stone balustrade below the Т Gate and
watched the throng ;of people going into о т coming out of the
Old City. Here they rubbed against е а с Ь other, jostled о п е а п
other, Arab and Jew, all possible variations ofboth. There were
т е strong-boned fellahin with their white or brown headcloths
or orange-coloured turbans. There were beduins with sharp,
clear-cut and, almost without exception, lean faces, wearing
their cloaks in а strangely self-confident manner, frequently with
hands о п blps and elbows wide apart, as if they took it fOT gran­
ted that everyone would make way for them. Т Ь е т е were peasant
women in black or Ы и е calico dresses embroidered П \vhite
across т е bosom, often carrying baskets о п their heads and
92 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
moving with а supple, easy grace. Seen г о т behind, т а п у а
woman of sixty could ь е taken for а young gitl. Т eyes also
seemed to remain clear and untouched Ь у age - unless they Ь а р
pened to ь е affected Ь у trachoma, that evil ·Egyptian' е у е disease
which is the curse of all countries east of the Mediterranean.
А п д there were the Jews: indigenous Jews, wearing а tarbush
and а wide, voluminous cloak, in their facial type strongly г е
sembling the Arabs; Jews from Poland and Russia, who seemed
to с а п у with them so т о с Ь of the smal1ness and narrowness of
"their past lives in Europe that it was surprising to tblnk they
claimed to ь е ofthe same stock as the proud Jew г о т Morocco
о г Tunisia in his white Ь и т и з But although the Е и г о р е а п
were so obviously out of а Н Ь а о п у with the р ю ш г е that в ш
rounded them, it was they who set the tone of Jewish life and
politics and thus seemed to ь е responsible for the almost visible
friction between Jews and Arabs.
What did the average European know of the Arabs in those
days? Practical1y nothing. When Ь е с а т е to the Near East Ь е
brought with him some romantic and е г г о п е о ц в notions; and if
Ь е was well-intentioned and inteHectuaHy honest, Ь е had to ad­
mit that Ь е had п о idea at all about the Arabs. 1, too, before 1
с а ш е to Palestine, had never thought of it as а п Arab land. 1had,
of course, vaguely known that в о ш е Arabs lived there, but I
imagi.ned them to ь е only nomads in .desert tents and у Ш с
oasis dwellers. Because most of what 1had read about Palestine
in earlier days had Ь е е п written Ь у Zionists - who naturally had
only their о problems in view - 1 had not realized that the
towns also were full of Arabs - that, in fact, in 1922 there lived
in Palestine nearly five Arabs to every Jew, and that, therefore,
it was а п Arab country to а far blgher degree than а country of
Jews.
When 1remarked о п Ы to Mr. Ussyshkin, chainnan of the
Zionist Committee of Action, whom 1 met during that ш е 1
had the impression that the Zionists were not inclined to give
П и с Ь consideration to the fact of Arab maJority; п о г did they
seem to attribute а п у real importance to the Arabs' opposition
to Zionism. Mr. Ussyshkin's response showed nothing but с о п
tempt о г the Arabs:
i.s п о г Arab movement Ь е г е against ш that is, п о
ffiQ'It.:ment with roots" in the people. А Н that у о и regard as о р
WINDS 93
position is in reality nothing but the shouting of а few disgrun­
tled agitators. It will collapse of itself within а few months о г at
most а few years.'
This argument was far from satisfactory о т е From Ь е у е г у .
beginning 1 had а feeling that Ь е whole idea of Jewish settle­
ment in Palestine was artificial, and, what was worse, Ь а it
threatened о transfer а Ь е complications and insoluble р г о о
lemsofEuropean life into а country which might have remained
happier without them. Т Ь е Jews were not г е а у coming ю it а э
о п е returns о one's homeland; ш е у were rather bent о п making
it into а homeland conceived о п Е и г о р е а п patterns and with
European aims. In short, Ь е у were strangers within Ь е gates.
And 801 did not find anything wrong in the Arabs' determined
resistance о Ь е idea of а Jewish homeland in their midst; о п
Ь е contrary, 1 immediately realized that it was the Arabs who
were being imposed и р о п and were rightly defending themsleves
against such а п imposition.
In Ь е Balfour Declaration of 1917, which promised Ь е Jew8 а
'national Ь о т е in Palestine, 1 saw а с г и е politicalmanoeuvre
designed о foster Ь е old princip1e, с о т т о п о а Н colonial
р о м е г в of 'divide and г ш е In Ь е case of Palestine, this р п п
ciple was Ь е т о г е flagrant as in 1916 Ь е British had promised
Ь е ш е п ruler of М е с с а Sharif Husayn, as а price о г his help
against Ь е Turks, а п independent А г а Ь state which was о с о т
prise а Н countries between the Mediterranean Sea and Ь е Р е г
sian Gulf. Т Ь е у not о п у broke their promise а у е а г later Ь у с о п
cluding with France Ь е secret Sykes-Picot Agreement (which е з
tablished French Dominion о у е г Syria and the Lebanon), but
also, Ь у implication, excluded Palestine г о т Ь е obligations
they had а п т е with regard о the Arabs.
Although of Jewish origin myself, 1conceived г о т Ь е outset
а strong objection о Zionism. Apart г о т т у personal sym­
pathy о г the Arabs, 1 considered it immora] that immigrants,
assisted Ь у а foreign Great Power, should с о т е г о т abroad
with Ь е avowed intention of attaining о majority in Ь е country
and thus о dispossess the people ....'hose country it had Ь е е п sincc
time immemoria1. Consequently, 1 was inclined о take Ь е sidc
of Ь е Arabs whenever the Jewish-Arab question \vas brought и р
- which, of course, happenedvery often. This attitude of mine
was beyond Ь е comprehension of practically а Н Ь е with
94 Т Н Е R.OAD Т О М Е С С А
whom 1 с а ш е in contact during those т о п з 1hey could not
understand what 1 saw in the Arabs wbo, according to them,
were п о more than а ·mass о С backward people whom they
looked upon witb а feeling not much different from tbat о С the
European settlers in Central Africa. Т Ь е у were oot in tbe least
in what the Atabs thought; almost п о п е ofthem took
pains to learn Л Ы с and everyone accepted without question
.the dictum that Palestine was the rightful heritage of the Jews.
I.still remember а brief discussion 1had о п this score with Dr.
Chaim Weizmann, the undisputed leader of the Zionist move­
ment. Н е had с о т е о п о п е of his periodic visits to Palestine (his
р е п п а в е п т residence was, 1 believe, in London), and 1 met Ы т
in the house of а Jewish friend. О п е could not but ь е impressed
Ь у the boundless energy of this т а п - а п energy tbat manifested
itself even in his bodily movements, in the 10ng, springy stride
with which Ь е р а с О О up and down the room - and Ь у the power
of intellect revealed in the broad forehead and the penetrating
g1ance of his eyes.
Н е was talking of the б п а п с ш difficulties which were Ь е
setting the dream of а Jewish National Н о ш е and the insuf­
ficient response to this dream among р е о р е abroad; and 1 had
the disturbing impression that even he, like most of the о ш е г
Zionists, was inc1ined to transfer the moral responsibility for а Н
that was happening in Palestine to the 'outside world'. Т im­
pelled т е to break through the deferential hush with which а Н
the other р е о р е present were 1istening to Ы т and to ask:
Л п what about the Л г а Ь
1 must have committed afaux pas Ь у thus bringing а jarring
note into the conversation, for Dr. Weizmann turned his face
slo\vly toward т е put down the с и р Ь е had Ь е е п holding in his
hand, and repeated т у question:
'What about the Л г а Ь ... l'
'Well- how с а п у о и ever hope to make Palestine your Ь о т е
land in the face of the vehement opposition of the Arabs who,
after а Н are in the majority in this country?'
Т Ь е Zionist leader sltrugged his shoulders and answered drily:
'We expect they won't Ь е in а majority after а few years.'
У о и have Ь е е п dealing with this problem for
years and must know the situation better than 1 do. But quite
apart from the political difficulties which Arab opposition т а у
WINDS 9S
о с т а у not put in у о и с way - does 1\ot the т о с а aspect of the
questicn ever bother you? Don't yo1.i think that it is wrong о п
your р а п to displace the people who Ь а у е always lived in this
country?'
Б it is о г country,' replied О г Weizmann, raising his е у е
brows. 'We а г е doing п о т о г е than taking back what we Ь а у е
Ь е е п wrongly deprived of.'
В ш you Ь а у е Ь е е п away from Palestine for nearly two thou­
sand years! Б е о г е that you had rufed this country, and hardly
ever the whole of it, for less than five hundred years. Oon't you
tblnk that the Arabs could, with equal justification, demand
Spain for themselves - for, after з they held sway in Spain for
nearly seven hundred years and lost it entirely о у five hundred
years ago?'
О г Weizmann had Ь е с о т е \'isibly impatient: 'Nonsense. Т Ь е
Arabs had only conquered Spain; it had в е у е г Ь е е п their original
homeland, and so it was о у right that in the end they were
driven out Ь у the Spaniards.'
'Forgive т е 1 retorted, 'but it seems to т е that thereis some
bistoric!:il ovetsight Ь е г е After а Н the Hebrews also с а ш е as
с о п о ц е г о г в to Palestine. Long before them were т а п у other
Semitic and п о п Б е ш ш с tribes settled Ь е г е - the А т п о г п е в the
Edornites, the Phi1istines, the Moabites, the Н Those
tribes continued living Ь е г е е у е п ii.l the days of the Jdngdoms of
Israel and Judah. Т Ь е у continued living Ь е г е а й е г the Romans
drove о ц г ancesto.rsaway. Т Ь е у а г е IivingЬ е г е today. Т Ь е Arabs
who scttled in Syria and Palestine after their с о п о ц е в г in the
seventh century v"ere alv.ays only а small rninority ofthe popula­
tion; the г е з г of what we describe today as Palestinian or Syrian
"Arabs" are in reality only the Arabianized, original inhabitants
of the country. Sorne of them Ь е с а т е Muslims in the course of
centuries, others remained c:hristians; the М uslims naturally
inter-married with their co··religionistsfrorn А г а Ы а But с а п you
denythat the bulkofthosepeople in Palestine, who speak А г а Ы с
whether М uslirns о г Christians, а г е direct-line descendants of the
original inhabitants: original in the з е п з е of having lived in this
country centuries before the Hebrews с а т е to it?'
О г Weizmann smiled politely at т у outburst and turned the
conversation to other topics.
Ldid not feel Ь а р р у about the outcome of т у intervention. 1
96 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
.Ь а д of course not expected а п у of those present - least ofall Dr.
Weizmann himself - to subscribe to т у conviction that the
Zionist idea was mghly vu1nerabIeо п the mora1 pjane: but 1 had
hoped that т у defence of the Arab cause would at least give rise
to some sort of uneasiness о п the part of the Zionist leadersblp ­
а п uneasiness which might bring about п ю г е introspection and
thus, perhaps, а greater readiness to admit the existence of а р о в ­
sible moral right in the opposition of the Arabs... None of tbls
had с о т е about. Instead, 1 found myself facing а blank wall of
staring eyes: а censorious disapproval of т у temerity, wblch
dared question the unquestionabIe right of the Jews to the land
of their forefathers ...
How was it possibIe, 1 wondered, for people endowed with so
т и с Ь creative intelligence as ~ b e Jews to think of the Zionist­
Arab conflict in Jewish terms alone? Did they not realize that
the problem of the Jews in Palestine с о и И , in the long г ц п , ь е
solved only through friendly co-operation with the Arabs? Were
they so hopelessly blind to the painful future wmch their р о Н с у
must bring? - to the struggles, the bitterness and the hatred to
which the Je\vish island, е у е п if temporari1y successful, would
forever remain е х р э з е ё in the midst of а hostile Arab sea?
And how strange, 1 thought, that а nation which had suffered
50 т а п у wrongs in the course of its long and sorrowful diaspora
was now, in single-minded pursuit of its own goal, ready to ш ­
flict а grievous wrong о п э п о ш е г nation - and а nation, too,
thatwas innocent of а Н that past JewisI1 suffering. Such а р Ь е п о ­
т е п о п , 1 knew, wasnot unknown to history; but it made т е ,
п о п е theless, very sad to see it enacted before т у eyes.
В У Т Н А Т Т I M E т у absorption in the poHtical scene in Pales­
tine was grounded not merely in т у sympathy for the Arabs and
т у worry about the Zionist experiment, but also in а revival of
т у journalistic interests: for 1 had Ь е с о т е а special correspon­
dent ofthe Frankfurter Zeifllng, then о п е ofthe most outstanding
newspapers in Europe. This connection had с о т е aboutalmost
Ь у accident.
О п е evening, while sorting out old papers which were clutter­
ing и р о п е of т у suitcases, 1 found the press card issued to т е а
year belore in Berlin as а representative ofthe United Telegraph.
WINDS 97
1 was about to tear it up when Dorian grabbed т у hand and
jokingly exclaimed:
'Don't! Ifyou present this card at the о П с е ofthe High С о
missioner, у о и will receive а fewdays later а п invitation to lunch
at Govemment House ... Joumalists are very desirable с г е а
tures in this country.'
Although 1did tear и р the useless card, Dorian's joke struck а
response in т у mind. 1 was, of course, not interested in а ц п
cheon invitation from Government House - but why should 1
not uti1ize the г а г е opportunity of being in the Near East at а
time when so few joumalists from Central Europe could travel
there? Why should 1 not resume т у journalistic work - andnot
with the United Telegraph but with one ofthe great а Ш е And
as suddenly as 1 had always been wont to make important deci­
sions, 1 now decided to break into realjoul"..cilism.
Despite т у year's work at the United Telegraph, 1 had п о
direct connection with any important newspaper, and as 1 had
never yet published anything in т у о п а т е it was entirely ц п
known to the dai1ypress. Т .. liowever, did not discourage т е
1 wrote an article о п some of т у impressions in Palestine and
sent copies of it to п о less than ten German newspapers with а
proposal to write а series of articles о п the Near East.
Т was in the last months ofl922 - а ш е of the mostcatas­
tropblc.inflation in О е ш у Т О е г ш а п press was hard-put
to survive, and on1yа very few newspapers could afford to р а у
foreign correspondents in hard currency. And so it was п о in
the least surprising that о п е after another of the ten newspapers
to wblch 1 had sent the sample article replied in more or less
polite terms of refusal. Only о п е of the ten accepted т у sugges­
tion a.nd, apparently impresSedЬ у what 1had written, appointed
file its roving special correspondent in the Near East, enclosing,
in addition, а contract for а book to ь е written о п т у return.
Т one newspaper was the п Zeitung. 1 was almost
bowled over when 1 saw that 1 had not merely succeeded in es­
Ы а connection with а newspaper - and what а news­
paper!'" but had at the first stroke acbleved а status that might
Ь е envied Ь у т а п у an old journalist.
Т was, of course, а snag in it. Owing to the inflation, the
Frankfurter Zeitung couId not р а у т е in hard currency. Т re­
muneration wblcb they apologetically offered т е was in tenns of
о
98 Т Н Е R.OAD Т О М Е С С А
German marks; and 1 knew as weH as they did that it would
hardly suffice to р а у for the stamps о п the envelopes wblch
would с о п т у articles. But to ь е special correspondent о С
the Frankfurter Zeitung was а distinction that Ь у far outweighed
ш е temporary handicap of not being paid for it. 1 Ь е р п to write
articles о п Palestine, hoping that sooner or later some lucky
twist of fortune would е п а Ы е т е 10 travel а Н о у е г the Near East.
1 NOW HAD т а п у friends in Palestine, both Jews and Arabs.
Т Zionists, it is true, looked upon т е with some sort of
puzzled suspicion because of the sympathy for the Arabs wblch
was so apparent in т у dispatches to the Frankfurter Zeitung.
Evidently they could not make up their rninds whether 1had Ь е е п
'bought' Ь у the Arabs (for in Zionist Palestine people had ь е
с о т е accustomedto explain almost every happening in terms о С
т о п е у or whether 1 was simply а freakish intellectual in love
with the exotic. But not а Н Jews living in Palestine at that time
were Zionists. Some of them had с о т е there not in р ш ы ш о С а
political а ц п but out of а religious longing for the Н о у Land
"and its Biblical associations.
Т о this group belonged т у Dutch friend Jacob de И а а п а
small, plump, blond-bearded т а п in ш з early forties, who had
formerly tau!ht law at о п е of the leading universities in Holland
and was now special correspondent of ш е Amsterdam· Handels­
blad and ш е London Daily Express. А т а п of deep religious
convictions - as 'orthodox' as а п у Jew of Eastem Е ц г о р е - Ь е
did not approve о С the idea of Zionism, for Ь е believed that the
retum ofhis people to the Promised Land had to await the с о т
ing о С the Messiah.
'We Jews,' Ь е said to т е о п т о г е than о п е occasion, 'were
driven away from the Holy Land and scattered all over the
world because we had fallen short of the task God had conferred
upon us. We had Ь е е п с Ь о з е п Ь у Н т to preach His Word, but
in our stubbom pride У е began to believe that He.had made us а
"chosen nation" С о г our о sakes - and thus we betrayed Him.
Now nothing remains for us but to repent and to cleanse our
hearts; and when we Ь е с о т с worthy о п е е again to ь е the hear­
crs о С н Message, Н е will send а Messlah to lead н servants
back to the Promised Land .. .'
WINDS 99
'But,' 1 asked. 'does not tbis Messianic idea under1ie т е
Zionist movement as well?Vou know that 1do not approve of
it: but is it not а natural desire ofevery people to Ь а у е а national
Ь о ш е of its own l'
Dr. de Н а а п looked а г т е quizzically: О о you think that his­
tory is but а series of accidents? 1 don't. It was not without а
purpose that God made us lose our land and dispersed us; but
т е Zionists do not want to admit this tC' themselves. Т suffer
from the same spiritual bIindness Ш А caused our downfal1. Т
two thousand years of Jewish exile and unhappiness Ь а у е 18ught
them nothing. Instead of making а п а е п р to unders18nd the
innermoit causes of our unhappiness. they now try to circum­
vent it, as it were, Ь у building а "national Ь о т е о п foundations
provided Ь у Western power politics; and in the process ofbuild­
ing а national Ь о т е they are committing the crime of depriving
people of its Ь о т е
Jacob de Haan's politica1 views naturally made him ш ц п
popular with the Zionists (indeed, а short ш п е after Heft Pales­
·tine, 1 was shocked to leam that Ь е had Ь е е п shot down о п е
night Ь у teriorists). When 1knew him, bis social intercourse was
limited to а very few Jews of his own way ofthought, some
EU!opeans, and Arabs. For the Arabs Ь е seemed to Ь а у е а grcat
affection, and they, о п their part, thoughthighly ofhim andfre­
quently invited Ы т to their houses. As а matter о Г а с at that
period \vere not yet universally prejudiced against Jews as
such. It was on1y subsequent to the Ba1four Declaration - that
is,.after centuries ofgood-neighbourly relations al1dа conscious­
ness of racial kinship - that the Arabs had begun to look upon
т е Jews as political enemies; but е у е п in the changed circum­
stances of the early Twenties, they Ш clearly differentiated Ь е
tween Zionists and Jews who were friendly toward them like Dr.
de Н а а п
Т И О Е FATEFUL MONTHS of т у first sojoum among the
Arabs set in motion а whole train of impressions and refiections;
some inarticulate hopes ofа personal nature demanded to ь е ad­
mitted to т у consciousness.
1 bad с о т е face to face with а life-sense tliat was entirely new
10 т е А warm, human ,breath seemed to flow out of these р е о
100 Т Н В ROAD Т О М В С С А
ple's Ы into their thoughts and gestures, with п о п е of those
painfu1cleavages of the spirit, those phantoms of fear, greed а п д
inhibition that made Е и г о р е а п lifeso uglyand о С so little promise.
In the Arabs 1beganto find something 1had al\vays unwittingly
Ь е е п looking for а п emotionalligl1tness of а р р г о а с п to а Н ques­
tions of 1ife- а в ц р г е г п е с о т т о п sense of feeling, if о п е might
с а П it so.
In time it Ь е с а т е most important to meto grasp the spirit of
these Muslim р е о р е not because their religion а п г а с т е ё т е
(for at that time 1knew very lit.tleabout it), but because 1cecog­
nized in themthat organic с о п е г е п с е of е mind and the senses
which we Europeans had lost. blight it not ь е possibIe, р е г п а р в
Ь у better understanding theIife Ofthe Arabs to di5cover the bld­
den link between' о и г Westetn suffering - the corroding lack о С
п п е г integration - а п д the roots of that suffering? Т о find out,
perhaps, what it was that had т а д е us Westerners г и п away
г о т that solemn freedom of lifewhichthe Arabs seemed to pos­
sess, even in their social а п ё political decay, and which we a1so
must have possessed at some earlier time? - о г el5e how could
we haveproduced thegreat act of о и г past, the Gothic с а ш е
drals о Н с Midd1e Ages, tIie е х ц о е г а п г joy of the Renaissance,
Rembra:ndt'$ chiar()scuro,the' fugues of В а с Ь and the serene
dreams о С Mozart, ф е prideofthe peacock's tail in the art о С
our peasaIits, and Beethoven's roaring, 10ngiIig ascent toward
the misty, hardly р е г с е р т й н е peaks о п which т а п could say, '1
and т у destiny,are о п е ...'
Being unaware oftheir true п а ш г е we cou1dп о 10nger right1y
use о ш spiritual powers; never again would а Beethoven о г а
Rembrandtarise aqlOngus. Instead, we now knewonly that des­
perate groping after 'new forriIs ofexpression' in art, sociology,
politics, and that bitter between opposing slogans and
meticulously devised, prini::iples; and а Н о и г machines and sky­
scrapers could do nothing to restore the broken wholeness о С о и г
souls ... And yet - wa5 that 105t spiritual glory of Europe's
past г е а П у 105t forever? Wr.5 it to recover something
of it Ь у finding out ,wr<).ng wlth us?
And what at fi.rst т о г е than а sympathy for
the po1iticalaim5 of ф е А г а е ()utwar? of Л
а

Ы а п Hfe and the percelved П lt5 people, un·
perceptibly changed into а personal quest.
IV
VOICES
-1­
RIDE, AND ZAYD SINGS. Т Ь е dunes а г е
lower now and wider в р а с е ё , Н е г е and there the
W
E
sand gives way to stretches о С gravel and splintery
basalt, and in front о С ц в , С а г to the south, rise the
shadowy outlines of Ы l l ranges: the mountains о С Jabal Sham­
т п а г ,
Т Ь е verses о С Zayd's song penetrate in а bIurred way into т у
sleepiness, but precisely in the measure that the words escape
т е , they seem to gain а wider, deeper significance quite ц п ­
related to their outward meaning.
It is о п е of those camel-rider songs у о и so often qear in А г а ­
Ы а - chants which т е п sing to keep their aninlals to а regular,
quick р а с е and not to faH asleep themselves - chants of desert
т е п а с с ц и о ш е а to spaces that know neither limits п о г echoes:
always sounded in the major key at о п l у о п е tone level, loose
and some\vhat husky, coming С г о т blgh и р in the throat, tender­
Iy fading in the dry air: breath о С the desert caught in а Ь и т а п
voice. None who has travelled through desert lands will е у е г for­
get this voice. lt isalways the same where the earth is Ь а г г е п , the
air hot and wide о р е п , and Н С е hard.
~ e ride, and Zayd sings, as his fiHher must Ь а у е sung Ь е С о г е
him, and а 1 1 the other т е п of his tribe and о С т а п у other tribes
о у е г thousands of years: for thousands о С years were needed to
mould these intensive, monotonous melodies and to brii1g"them
to their final form. Unlike the polyphonous Western music,
which almost always tends to cxpress individual feeling, these
А г а Ы а п melodies, with their eternally repeated tone-sequence,
seem to Ь е о n l у tonal symbols С о г а п emotional knowledge
shared Ь у т а п у people - not meant to evoke moods but to г е ­
mind у о и of у о и г own spiritual experiences. Т Ь е у were Ь о r n
у с г у 10ng ago out of the atmosphcre of the desert, the rhythms
of the ",-ind and о С nomad Н С е , the С е е l о С wide expanses, the с о п ­
102
И 103
templati<mо С а п е ю present: and just as the basic things о С
Ь ш а п life always г е т ш п the same, these melodies are timeless
and changeless.
Such melodies are hardly thinkable in the West, where poly­
р Ь о п у is а п aspect not only о С music but о С г п а п в feelings and
desires. Cool climate, running waters, the sequence о С four в е а
sons: these elements give to life so multiform а significance and
so т а п у directions that Westem т а п must needs have т а п у
longings and, thus, а strong urge to do tblngs С о г the sake о С do­
ing. Н е must always create, build and overcome in order to see
himself again and again reaffirmed in the complexity of his life­
forms; and this ever-changing complexity is reflected in his
ш ц ы с as well. Out о С the sonorous Westem singing, with tbe
voice coming С г о т the chest and always playing in severallevels,
speaks that 'Faustian' nature which causes Westem т а п ю
ё г е а ш т и с Ь to desire т и с Ь to strive after т и с Ь witb а will to
conquer - but perhaps also to miss т и с Ь and miss it painfully.
For, the world ofthe Westemer is а world ofhistory: eternal Ь е
coming, happening, passing away. It laclcs the restfulness о С
staying Ш time is а п е п е т у always to ь е viewed with suspi­
cion; and п е с е г does the Now carry а sound о С eternity ...
Т о the Arab о С the .desert and steppe, о п the other hand, bls
landscape is п о enticement to dreams: it is hard like the day and
knows п о twilight offeelings. Т Ь е Outer and the Inner, the 1 and
the World, а г е to Ы not opposite - а п С mutually opposed ­
entities, but only different aspects о С а п unchanging present;
bls Н Г е is not dom.inated ь у secret Cears; and whenever Ь е does
tblngs, Ь е does them because outward necessity and not 11 desire
for inner security demands action. In result, Ь е has not progres­
sed in material achievement as rapidly as the Westerner- but Ь е
has kept his soul together.
FOR HOW LONG, 1 ask myself with alm08t а physical start,
will zayd, and Zayd's people, Ь е а Ы е to keep their souls together
in th, face of the danger that is so insidiousJy, 80 relentlessJy
closiqg in о п them? We а г е living in а time in which the East с а п
п о longer г е ш а passive in the С а с е о С the advancing West. А
thousand forces - politicaI,social and economic а г е Ь а ш е г
ing at the doors о С the Muslim world. Willthis world succumb
104 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
to the pressure о С the Western twentieth century and in the р г о
cess lose not only its о traditional forms but its spiritual roots
as well?
-2­
THROUGHOUT Т Н Е YEARS 1 Ь а у е spent in the MiddJe East
- as а sympathetic outsider from 1922 to 1926, and as а Mus­
lim sharing the а and hopes of the Islamic community ever
since - 1 Ь а у е witnessed the steady European encroachment о п
. Muslim culturallife and political independence; and wherever
Muslim peoples try to defend themselves against this encroach­
ment, European р и Ь Н с о р о п invariably labels their resistance,
with а п air of hurt п о с е п с е as х е п о р Ь о Ы а
Europe Ь а з 10ngЬ е е п accustomed to simplifyin this crude way
all that is happening in the MiddJe East and to view its cutrent
history under the aspect of Westem 'spheres of interest' а п е
While everywhere in the West (outside of Britain) public о р о п
has shown т и с Ь sympathy for the Irish struggle for indepen­
dence о г (outside of Russia and Germany) for Poland's dream of
nationa! resurrection, п о such sympathy is everextended to simi­
lar aspirations among the Muslims. Т Ь е West's ш а argument is
always the political disruption and е с о п о ш с backwardness of
the Middle East, and е у е с у active Western intervention is sanc­
timoniously described Ь у its authors as aiming not merely at а
protection of 'legitimate' Western interests but also at securing
progress for the indigenous themselves.
'Forgetting that е у е с у direct, and е у е п benevolent, interven­
tion from о и з о о с а п в о т Ь ш disturb а nation's development,
Western в ш ё е ш в ofMiddJe Eastern affairs Ь а у е always Ь е е п
ready to swallc:>w such claims. Т see о п у the new railroads
builtby colonial powers, and not the destruction of а country's
socia1 fabric;they count the kilowatts ofnew electricity, but not
the blows to а nation's pride. Т same people who would never
Ь а у е accepted Imperial Austria's 'civi1izing m.i.ssion' as а valid
excuse for Ь е г interventioris in the Balkans indulgent1yaccept а
simi1ar р е а in the case of the British in Egypt,· the Russians in
Centra1 Asia, the French in Morocco or the ltalians in Libya.
. And lt п е у е е у crosses their minds that т а п у of the social and
е с о п о ш с i1ls from wblch the Middle East is sufi'ering are а direct
outcome of that у е т у Western 'interest'; and that, in addition,
VOICBS 105
WeStern intervention invariabty seeks to perpetUate and to
widen the a1ready existing inner disroptions and 50· to make it
imVOSsible for the peoples concerned to с о т е into tbeir О
1 FIRST BEGAN Т О realize tbls in Palestine. in 1922. when 1
observed the equivocal role о С the British administration with
regard to the confliet between the Arabs and the Zionists; and it
Ь е с а т е fully о Ь щ to т е early in 1923. when after months of
wandering а Н over Palestine 1 с а ш е to Egypt. which at that ш п е
was in almost contiaual upheaval against the British 'proteetor­
а т е В о ш Ь were often о о п в thrown at public places frequented
Ь у British soldiers. tc ь е answered Ь у various repressive т п е а
sures - martial law, politica1 arrests, deportations о С leaders,
prohibitions of newspapers. But п о п е of these measures, how­
ever severe, could deaden the peoj>le's' desire for freedom.
Through the entire Egyptian nation went something like а wave
о С passionate sobbing. Not in despair:it was rather the sobbing
of enthusiasm at having discovered the roots of its own potential
strength.
Only the rich pashas, owners of the tremendous landed е з
tates, were in those days conciliatory toward British ru1e.. Т .
innumerable others - including the miserable fel/amn, to whom
о п е а с г е ofland appeared to ь е а bountiful possession for а п с п
ц г е family - supported the freedom movement. One OOy the itin­
erant newspaper vendors would cry in the streets. 'Allleaders о с
the Wafd arrested Ь у order of the М Ш Oovernor' - but the
next day new leaders had taken their places. the gaps were fi1led
а Ш п and again: the hunger for freedom and the hatred grew.
And Europe had only о п е word for it: х е п о р Ь о Ы а
М у coming toEgypt in those days had been due to т у wish to
extend the scope ofmy work for the Frankfurter Zeitung to other
countries besides Palestine. Dorian's circumstances did not per­
mit him to finance such а tour; but when Ь е saw how strongly 1
desired it. Ь е advanced т е а smaUsum sufficient for the railway
journey from Jerusalem to Cairo and а fortnight's 5tay there.
п Cairo 1found lodgings in а narrow а е у in а quarterinhab­
ited mainly Ь у Arab artisans and small Greek shopkeeper5. The
landlady was an old Triestine, П thickset, с ш п Ь г о grey; she
drank fTOffi moming till evening heavy Greek wine and floun­
I
106 Т В R.OAD Т О ..в с с х
dered from о п е т into another. Н е г в was а violent,passion­
а ю temperament that neverseemed to Ь а у е found itself; but she
was friendly toward т е and made т е е е well in ber р г е а е а с е
After а week о г 50, т у cash а з approacblngits end. А з 1 did
not want to retum 80 soon to Palestine and the safety of т у
uncle'5 Ь о в в е 1 bega,n to look around for some other means of
subsistence.
М у Jerusalem friend. Dr. de Н а а п had given т е а letter of
introduction to а business т а п in з о an'd to him 1 went in
search.ofadvice. Н е proved to ь е а large, genial Hol1anderwith
intel1ectual interests far exceeding bls о р Ь е с е о С activities.
From Jacob de Haan's letter Ь е leamed that 1 was а correspon­
dent о С the г о ш е г Zei/ung,' and when, at his щ 1
showedhim в о ш е of т у recent articles. Ь е raisedhis eyebrows· in
astonishment:
Т е и т е how old а с е youl'
'Twenty-two.,.
Т е п tel1 т е sometblngelse, please: who has heIped you with
these articles- de Н а а п l'
1laughed. 'Ofcourse not. 1wrotethem myself. 1always do т у
work myself. В щ why do you doubt it l'
Н е shook ы head, as if puzzled: В ш it's astonisblng ...
Wheredid you get the maturity to writesuchstuff? Howdo you
manage to convey in а half-sentence а п almost mystical signifi­
с а п с е to things that а с е apparently 50commonplace7'
1 was fiattered beyond word5 а the implied compliment, and
т у self-esteem rose accordingly. In the course of our с о а у е г в а
tion, it transpired that т у newfound acquaintancehad п о о р е п
ing in his own business, but Ь е thought Ь е might Ь е а Ы е to place
т е in а п Е Ш п firm with wblch Ь е had dealings.
\
Т Ь е office to whichЬ е directedт е layin о п е ofthe older quar­
ters о С Cairo, п о far from т у lodgings: а dingy, narrow lane
bordered Ь у once-patrician houses now converted into offi.ces
and с Ь е а р apartments. М у prospective employer, а п elderly,
bald-headed Egyptianwith the face of ii time-mellowed vulture,
happened to ь е in п ш of а part-timeclerkto take chargeof his
French correspondence; and 1 was а Ы е to satisfy him 1
couldfill the role in spiteof т у utter laekof bus'iness е х р е П е п с е
We quickly struck а bargain. 1 would Ь а у е to у о Ц с о у three
hours а day; the saJary wascorrespondingly low, Ы it wouldЬ е
VOICBS 107
enough to р а у for т у rent and to keep т е indefinitely in bread,
milk and olives.
В т у lodgings and т у о т с е а у Cairo's red-light dis­
trict - а tangled т а и о lanes in which the great and little С О Ш
resans spent their days а п д nights. In the aftemoon, о п т у way
10 work, the е з were empty а п д silent. In the shadow о а Ь а у
window а woman's у would stretch itself languorously; 81
little tables before о п е or another ofthe houses girls were sedate­
ly drinking coffee in the с о т р а п у of grave, bearded т е п and
conversing. with every appearance о seriousness, about things
that seemed to lie far Ь е у о п д all excitement а п д physical aban­
д о п
But in the evening, when 1was returning Ь о т е the quarter was
п ю г е wide-awake than а п у other, humming with the tender а с
cords о Arabian lutes and drums а п д the laughter о WOmeD.
When you walked under the shine of the т а п у electric lamps
and coloured lantems, at every stepa soft а would wind itself
around у о ш neck; the а п п might ь е brown or white - but it al­
ways jingled with gold and silver chains and bangld and always
sme11ed of musk, frankincense д warm animal sklin. You had
to ь е very determined 10keep yourse1ffree of all thesc laughing
embraces а п д frorn the callsofу а hablbi О dar1ing') and saada­
lak Cthy happiness'). У ou had to thread your way between shim­
rnering п Ь в that were most1y luscious а п д fair to 100k upon
а п д intoxicated you with their suggestive convolutions. А Н
Egypt broke over you, Morocco, Algeiia, a1so the Sudan and
Nubia, also Arabia, ш е Syria, Iran ... М е п in о п с sil­
ken р ш е п з sat side Ь у side о п benches along the Ь о з walls,
p1easant1y excited, laughing, с а Ш п с out to girls or silentIy з т о
king their nargiles. Not а ofthem were 'customers': у had
с о т е simp1y to spend а p1easant hour or two in the exhilarating,
unconventionaI atmosphere of the quarter ... Sometimes you
had to step back before а ragged dervish from the Sudan, who
sang his begging songs with а п entranced face and Ш Н у
stretched arms. Qouds of incensc from the swingingcenser of an
itinerant perfume vendor brushed your face. Off and о п you
heard singing in chorus, and you Ь е р п to understand the т е з п
ing of some of the wblrring, tender Arabic SQunds ... And
again and again you heard the soft, rippling voices of р з ш е ­
the animal pleasure of these girls (for they undoubtedly were е п
108 Т Н Е в О А О Т О М Е С С А
joying themsetves) in their tight-btue, yeHow, red, green, white,
gotd-glittering garments of flimsy silk, tuHe, voile о г damask .:..
andtheir laughter seemed to run with tittle cat-steps о у е г the
cobbted pavement, rising, ebbing down, and then growing и р
again from other lips . . . .
How they could laugh, these Egyptians! How cheerful1y they
walked day in, day out over the streets о С Cairo, striding with
swinging steps in their long, shirtlike а П а Ы у у а that \vere
striped in every colour of the rainbow -lightheartedly, Г г е е
mindedly - so that о п е might Ь а у е thought that а П the grinding
poverty and dissatisfaction and political turmoil were taken seri­
ously only in а relative sense. Т Ь е violent, explosive excitement
ofthese people always seemed to ь е readyto make room, without
а п у visibte transition, Corperfect serenity and е у е п indolence, as
if nothing had ever happened and nothing \vere amiss. Because
о С this, most Europeans regarded (and р г о Ь а Ы у do е у е п now)
the Arabs as superficial; but even in those early days 1 realized
thatthis contempt for the Arabs had grown out of the West's
tendency to overestimate emotions that а р р е а г to Ь е 'deep', and
to denounce as 'superficial' п that is light, а п у и п
weighted. Т Ь е Arabs, 1felt, had remained free ofthose inner т е п
sions and stresses so peculiar to the West: how could we, then,
apply our own standards to them? If they seemed to Ь е в ц р е г
ficial, it was perhaps Ь е с а ц в е their emotions flowed v/ithout fric­
tion into their behaviour. Perhaps, under the impact of'Wester­
nization', they also would gradually lose the blessed immediacy
oftheir contact.with reality: for although that Western influence
acted in т а п у ways as а stimulus and fertilizing agent о п с о п
temporary А г а Ь thought, it inevitably tended to produce in the
Arabs the same grievous problems tllat dominated the spiritual
and social scene in the West.
QpposrTE М У HOUSE, so close that у о и could almost
touch it, stood а little mosque with а tiny minaret from which б у е
times а day the с а Н to prayer was sounded. А white-turbaned
т а п \vould appear о п the gallery, raise his hands, and begin to
chant: 'Allahll akbar- God is the Greatest! And 1 Ь е а г witness
that Muhammad is God's Messenger ... ' As he slo\,]y turned
to\vard the four points of the the ring of l1is voice
VOICBS 109
climbed ,.pward, grew into the clear air, rocking о п the deep,
throaty sounds of the Arabic language, 5waying, advancing and
retreating. Т voice wa5 а dark baritone, в о й and 5trong, с а р
а Ы е of а great range; but you could perceive that it was fervour
and not art that made it so beautiful.
Т chant of the и azzin was the theme song of т у days and
evenings in Cairo - just as it had Ь е е п the theme song in the 01d
City of Jerusalem and was destined to г е ш а ш in а Н т у later
wanderings through Muslim lands. It sounded the same е у е с у
where in spite of the differences of dialect and intonation which
might Ь е evident in the people's daily speech: а unity of sound
Ы made т е realize in those days at Cairo how deep was the
inner unity of а Muslims, and how aftificial and п щ с а п
were the dividing lines between them. Т were о п е in their
way of thinking and judging between right and wrong, and о п е
in their perception of what consiitutesthe good Ш е
It seemed to т е that for the first tim.e 1 had с о т е across а
community in'whichkinship between т а п and т а п was not due
to accidents of с о т т о п racial or economic interests but to
something far deeper and far ш о г е stable: а щ р of с о т т о п
outlook which lifted а barriers of 10neliness between т а п and
т а п
IN Т Н Е SUMMER OF 1923, enriched Ь у а better under­
standing of Middle Е а ы е г п life and р о й ц е з 1 retumed to Jeru­
з е т
Т т у good friend Jacob de Н а а п 1 Ь е с а т е acquainted
with Amir Abdullah of neighbouring Transjordan. who invited
т е to visit Ы з country. Т 1 saw for the first ш е а true
beduin land. Т Ь е capital, А т т а п - built о п the ruins of Р а
delphia, the Greek colony of Ptolemaeus Philadelphus - was at
that time а little to\vn of hardly more than six thousand inhabit­
ants. Its streets were filled with beduins, the real·beduins ofthe
open whom о п е rarely saw in Palestine; free warriors and
т breeders. Wonderful horses galloped through the streets;
е у е с у was armed. carried а dagger in his sash and а ritle о п
his back. Circassian oxcarts (for tM town had Ь е е п originally
.settled Ь у Circassians who had migrated there after the Russian
conquest of their homeland in the nineteenth century) plodded
110 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
heavi1y through thc bazaar, which in spitc of its sma1lness was
fu11 of а bustle and commotion worthy of а т и с Ь larger city.
As there were п о adequate buiJdings in the town, Amir А Ь
dullah lived in those days in а tent с а т р о п а Ы overlooking
Amman. His own tent was somewhat larger ш а п the others and
consisted of several rooms formed Ь у canvas partitions and dis­
tinguished Ь у utmost simplicity. In о п е ofthem, а black bearskin
made а bed о п the ground in а corner; in the reception г о о ш а
с о и р е of beautift.il camel-saddles with silver-inlaid pommels
served а з armrests when о п е sat о п the с а г р е г
Except for а Negro servant richly dressed in brocade, with а
golden dagger in his belt, there was nobody in the tent when 1
entered it in the с о т р а п у of Dr. Riza Tawfiq В е у the amir's
chief adviser. Н е was а Turk, formerJy а university professor,
and Ь а д Ь е е п for three years, before К е т а Ataturk, Minister of
Education in the Turkish cabinet. А п Abdullah, Ь е told т е
would ь е back in а few m.inutes; just now Ь е was conferring with
л п е beduin chieftains about the latest Najdi raid into southern
Transjordan. Т Najdi 'Wahhabis', Dr. Riza е х р ш п о о to т е
played within Islam а role not unlike that of the Puritan refor­
mers in the Christian world, inasmuch as they were bitterly о р
posed to а saint worship and the т а п у mystical superstitions
that had crept into Islam over the centuries; they were also ir­
reconcilable enemies ofthe Sharifian family, whose head was the
а т й father, К Husayn of the Hijaz. According to Riza
Tawfiq В е у the religious views ofthe Wahhabis could п о ь е г е
jected out of hand; ф е у did, in fact, с о т е closer to the spirit of
the Koran than the views prevalent among the masses in most of
the other Muslim countries, а п д m.ight thus in time exert а Ь е п е
б а influence о п the cultural development of Islam. Т Ь е е х
и е т е fanaticism of these р е о р е however, made it somewhat
difficult for other Muslims to appreciate the Wahhabi move­
ment П у and this drawback, Ь е suggested, might not ь е и п
welcome to 'certain quarters', to whom а possible reunification
of the А т Ь peoples was а dreadful prospect.
А и Н е later the amir с а т е in - а т а п ofabout forty years, of
middle size, with а short, blond beard - stepping 50ftly о п smal1,
black patent-leather slippers, clad in loose Л Ь garments о С
swishing white silk with а п almost transparent white о о П е п
а Ь о у а over them. Н е said:
VOJCES 111
'Ahlan wa-sahlan' - 'Family and plain' - and tbat was t6e first
time 1 beard this graceful Arabian ё
Т was something attractive: and almost captivating in the
personality of А п Abdullah, а strong sense of humour, а
wannth of expression and а ready wit. It was п difficult to see
wby Ь е was so popular in those days witb bis people. А ф о
т а п у Arabs were not Ь а р р у about the role Ь е had played in the
British-inspired Sbarifian revolt against the Tu.rks and regarded
it as а betrayal of Muslims Ь у Muslims, Ь е had gained а certain
prestige Ь у his championship of the Arab с а ш е against Zionism;
and the day was yet to с о т е when the twists and ш г в е of Ы
politics would make his п а ш е odious throughout the Arab
world.
Sipping coffee from minute cups that were banded round Ь у
the black retainer, we talked - occasionally assisted Ь у Dr. Riza,
who spoke fluent French - of the administrative diffie'llties in
tbis new country of Transjordan, where everyone W2S accus­
tomed to с а п у а п п в and to о Ь е у о п у the laws of his о clan ­
, - but,' said the amir, 'the Arabs Ь а у е plenty of common
sense; even the beduins are now beginning to realise that they
must abandon their old lawless ways ifthey want to ь е free from
foreign domination. Т intertriba1 feuds of which thou must
Ь а у е heard 50 often are now gradually subsiding.'
And Ь е went о п describing tbe у uneasy beduin tribes
wblcb used. to fight with one another о п tbe slightest pretext.
Т и blood feuds often lasted for generation5 and в о ш е ш в е в
handed down from father т о son, е у е п for centuries, leading to
ever new bloodsbed and new bittemess after the origina1 с а ш е
had almost Ь е е п forgotten. Т was only о п е way to bring
about а peaceful end: if а у о и п т а п from the tribe and с of
the last victim abducted а virgin of thc tribe and clan of the с и
prit and made her bls wife, the blood of the bridal night - blood
ofthe killer's т Ь е - symbolically, and а у avenged the blood
that had Ь е е п spilled in homicide. Occasionally it·happened that
two tribes had grown weary of а vendetta wblch Ь а д Ь е е п going
о п for generations, sapping the strength of both parties; and in
such а case. а п 'abduction' was not infrequently arranged
througb а middleman from а third tribe.
'1 have done е у е п better than that,' Amir Abdu11ah told т е '1
Ь а у е established proper "blood feud commissions" composed of
112 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
trustworthy т е п who travel around the country and а е the
symbolic kidnappings and m.arriages between, hostile tribes.
But' .- and Ь е г е his eyes twink1ed - '1 always imprcsS upon the
т е ш Ь е з of these commissions to ь е very careCul in the choicc о С
the virgins, С о г 1 would not like to see intemal С п у feuds arisc
о п the grounds о С the bridegroom's possible disappointment...'
А Ь о у of perhaps twelve years appeared from behind а parti­
ц о п swept across the dusky т е п т г о о ш with quick, noiseless
steps and jumped without stirrup о п to the р г а п Ь о г в е out­
side the tent wmch а servant had Ь е е п holding in readiness for
him: the am;r'seldest П Talal. In his slim у in Ы з rapid
vau1t о п to the horse, in his shining е у е з 1 saw it а that
dreamless contact with т з own life wblch set the А г а Ь з о Car
apart from ш that 1 had known in Е ц г о р е
Observing т у obvious admiration of his son, Ш е а т г said:
Н е 1ike every other А г а Ь child, is growing и р with but о п е
thought in mind: freedom. We Arabs do not Ь е е у е ourselve5to
ь е faultless о г free from е г г о г but we want to commit our errors
ourselves and з о learn how to avoid them- just а з а tree е а т з
how to grow right Ь у growing, о г as running water finds its р г о
per course Ь у flowing. We do not want to Ь е guided to wisdom
Ь у р е о р е who Ь а у е п о wisdom themselves - who Ь а у е only
power, and ц and т о п е у and О у know how to lose friends
whomthey could so easily keep as friends .. .'*
1 ш п н о т INTEND to remain indefinitely in Р а е з п л е and it
was again Jacob de Н а а п who helped т е Himself а joumalist of
established reputation, Ь е had т а п у connections а over Е и р е
Н з recommendation secured for т е contracts with two small
ilewspapers, о п е in Holland and the other in for а
series of articles to ь е paid in Dutch guilders and Swiss francs.
As these were provincial newspapers of п о great standing, they
could not afford to р а у а large remuneration; but to т е whose
habits were simple, the т о п е у 1 received from them appeared
ample to finance т у planned journey through the Near East.
* At that tirne (1923) nobody could have foreseen the bitter antagonism which
in later years would mar the relations between Amir А Ы и а Ь and his 50n Talal­
the 50n hating his Cather's complaisance with regard to British policies in the Arab
world, and the father resenting his son's passionate outspokenness. Nor could 1
see о п that or о п laer occasions у sign of the 'mental in Talal Ь а
led о bis enforced abdication from the throne о Jordan in 1952.
VOICES 113
1wanted to go to Syria fir5t; but the French а ю г е 50 г е
centlyestablished there in the midst о С а hostile population, were
п Ш п to giv<:i а visa to а п Austrian е х е п е т у а е п This was
а bitter bIow, but there was nothing 1could do about it; and 50 1
decided to go to Haifa and there to board а ship С о г Istanbul,
which in а п у case wa5 included in т у programme.
О п the train journey С г о т Jerusalcm to Haifa а calamity Ь е С е
т е 1 lost а coat containing т у \vallet and passport. А Н that 1
had left е г е the С С silver coins in т у trousers pockct. А у о у
age to Istanbul \vas, С о г the time bcil1g, о ш of the question: п о
passport, п о money. Nothing rcmained but to г е ш г г Ь у i"US to
Jerusalem; the fare would Ь а у е to Ь е paid о п arrival with г т о п е у
Ь о г г о е с е с as usual, from Dorian. In Jerusalem 1 would Ь а у е to
wait С о г wceks for another passport С г о т the Austrian с о п я п а т е
in С а п о С о г а that time thcre was п о п е in Palestine) and С о г
further driblets о С т о п е у С г о т Holland and S\vitzerland.
An.dso it с а т е а Ь о и that о п the next morning 1found myself
before а bus office о п thc outskirts of Haifa. Т Ь е negotiations
about the С а г е с г е completed. Т Ь е г е was о п е Ь о и г until the de­
р а г ш г е о С the bus, and to while away tl1e time 1 paced и р and
down the road, deeply disgusted with myself and with the fate
that had forced т е into so ignominious а rctreat. Waiting is al­
\vays а п evil thing; and the thought ofreturning to Jerusalem de­
feated, with т у tail bet\veen т у legs, was most galling - the
т о г е 50 as Oorian had al\\'ays Ь е е п sceptical about т у ability to
realize Ш plam; о п the basis о С such meagre funds. М о г е о у е г 1
\vould п о в е с Syria now, and God alone knew if 1 would е у е г
с о т е back to this part о С the world. It was, of course, al\vays
possibIe that at some later date the П с г Zcitung \vould
financc а т ю е г journey to the Middle East, and that о п с day the
French might 11ft the embargo о п е х е п е т у aliens; Ь и that \vas
not certain, and in the meantime 1\vould п о scc Damascus ...
Why, 1 asked myself bitterly, was Damascus den icd to т е
But - was it г е а П у О С course - п о passport, п о n1Oney. В и
was it absolutely neccassry to Ь а у е а pass;1ort and т о п е у .. ?
And, having с о т е 50 far in т у thoughts, 1 suddenly stoppcd
in т у tracks. О п е could, if о п е had grit el1ough, travel о п foot,
availing oneself о С tbe hospitality о С А г а Ь viIlagers; and о п е
could, perhaps, somehow smuggle oneself across the frontier
without bothering about passports and visas ...
н
114 Т Н Е а О А О Т О М Е С С А
And before 1 was quite aware ofit, т у mind was made и р 1
was going to Damascus.
А couple of minutes sufficed о explain to Ь е bus people that
1had changed т у mind and was п о going о ]erusalem after а
I! took т е а few т о г е to change into а pair ofblue"overalls and
а п А г а Ь kufiyya (the best possible protection against the А г а
Ы а п sun); to stuff а few necessities into а knapsack, and to а г
range for т у suitcase о ь е despatched to Dorian, С О О And
then 1 set out о п т у Iong trek to Damascus.
е overwhelming sense of freedom that filled т е was indis­
tinguishable from happ,iness..1 had only а few coins in т у р о с
ket; 1 was embarking о п а п iIlegal deed that might Iand т е in
prison; the problem о С crossing the frontier lay abead in а vague
uncertainty; 1 was staking everything о п т у WiLS а ю п е but the
consciousness о С having placed а о п а single stake made т е
Ь а р р у
1 WALKED ON Т Н Е ROAD to а а е е In the afternoon the
Plain о С Esdrelon Iay о п the right below т е f.ecked with rags of
light and shadow. 1 passed through Nazareth and night­
а П reached а п А т а Ь Ш а е shaded Ь у р е р р е т trees and cypress­
es. At the door о С the first house sat three о г С о и г т е п and wo­
т е п 1, stopped, asked whether this was Ar-Rayna, and after а
Yes was about to move о п - when о п е о С the у о т е п с а П е after
т п е
У а 'sidio- wilt thou not refresh thyself?' - and, as if divining
т у thirst, stretched а pitcher of cold water toward т е When 1
had drunk т у fill, о п е о С the т п е п - obviously her husband­
asked т е
'Wilt thou not eat bread with us, and remain in our house
ovemight?'
Т Ь е у did п о ask т е who 1was, where 1wa5going о г what т у
business was. And 1 stayed ove!'night as their guest.
Т о Ь е а guest о С а п А т а Ь е у е п schoolchildren Ь е а т about it in
Europe. Т о ь е а gue5t ofа п А т а Ь means to enter for а few hours,
for а time, truly andfully, into the lives ofpeople who want to ь е
у о и т brother5 a'-Id sisters. It is not а mere п о Ы е tradition which
enabIes the А г а Ь to Ь е hospitable in so effu5ive а way: it is their
inner freedom. Т Ь е у are 50 С т е е о Г di5trust of themselves that
VOICES IIS
they с а п easily о р е п their lives to another т а п Т Ь е у п е О О п о п е
of thespecious security of the walls which in the West е а с Ь р е г
son Ь и ш between himself and hisneighbour.
We supped together, т е п and women, sitting cross-Iegged о п
а mat around а huge dish filled with а porridge of coarsely
crushed wheat and milk. М у hosts tore small pieces с о т large,
paper-thin о а у е а ofbread with which they deftly scooped и р the
porridge without е у е г touching it with their fingers. Т о т е they
had given а spoon; but 1 refused it and attempted, not \vithout
success, and to the evident pleasure of т у friends, to emulate
their simple and nevertheless dainty т а п п е с of eating.
When we lay down to sleep - about а dozen р е о р е in о п е and
the в а ш е с о о т - 1 gazed at the wooden beams а Ь о у е т е from
which strings of dried peppers and eggplant were hanging, at the
т а п у niches in the walls fiiled with brass and stoneware utensils,
at the bodies of sleeping т е п and women, and asked myself
whether at Ь о т е 1 could е ь е г Ь а у е felt т о с е at Ь о т е
In the days that followed, the ru&t-brown of the Judean hills
with their bluish-grey al1d violet shadows gradually з у е way to
the г п о г е gay and mellow hills of Galilee. Springs and little
streams unexpectedly made their а р р е а г а п с е Vegetation Ь е
с а т е more luxuriant. In groups stood thickly leafed olive trees
and з dark cypresses; the last summer flo\vers could still ь е
seen о п hill-sides.
Sometimes 1 \valked part of the way with с а т е drivers and
enjoyed for а while their sirnple warmth; we drank \vater from
т у canteen, 5moked а cigarette together; then 1 walked о п
alone. 1 spent "the nights in А г а о houses and ate their bread with
them. 1 tramped for daY5 through the hot depression along the
Lake of а а е е and through the 50ft coolness around Lake
Hule, which was like а mirror of metal, "with si1\·ery mists,
slightly reddened Ь у Ш е last rays of the evening sun that Ь о у е с
ed over the water. Near the shore lived Arab fishennen in huts
bui1t of stra\\' mats loosely Ш around а frame\vork of
branches. Т Ь е у у е с е у е с у р о о с -but they did not seem to need
more than the5e airy huts, ш е few faded garments о п their backs,
а handful of wheat to make breadand the fish they caught е ш
selves: and always they seemed to Ь а у е enough to ask the wan­
derer to 5tep in and eat with them.
116 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
Т Н Е NORTHERNMOST POINT in Palestine was the Jewish
colony of Metulla, which, 1 had leamed earlier, was а kind of
gap between British-administered Palestine and French Syria.
О п the basis of an agreement between the two governments, this
and two c010nies were shortly to Ь е incorporated
into Palestine. During those few weeks of transition MetuHa was
not effectively supervised Ь у either of the two govemments, and
thus appeared to Ь е а п ideal place from which to slip into Syria.
It was, 1 understood, only later, о п the high\\'ays, that identifica­
tion р а р е г в would Ь е demanded of the traveller. Т Ь е Syrian с о п
trol \vas said to ь е very strict; it was р г а с п с а й у irrtpossibleto go
far \'Iithout being stopped Ь у gendarmes. As Metutla \vas offici­
а у Ш с о ш е г р а п of Syria; е у е г у о п е о е its adult inhabi­
tants held, like elsewhere in the country, а п identity certificate
issued Ь у the Freneh authorities. Т о secure such а paper for т у
self Ь е с а т е т у most pressing task.
1 made some discreet enquiries and was finaHy guided to the
house of а т а п who might Ь е prepared to р а п \vith his certifi­
с а г е for а consideration. Н е was а large person in his late thirties
and \Vas deseribed а я such in the crumpled and greasy document
which Ь е pulled о ш of his breast pocket; but as the р а р е г bore
п о photograph, the problem was not insoluble.
'How much do you want for it?' 1 asked.
'Three pounds.'
1 took from т у pocket а Н the coins 1 possessed and counted
them: they с а т е to fifty-five piasters, that is, а little over half а
pound.
'This is а Н 1 Ь а у е 1 said, 'As 1 must keep something for the
rest ofmy journey, 1 с а п give you п о more than twenty piasters'
(which was exactly one·fifteenth of what Ь е had demanded).
After some minutes of haggling we settled о п thirty-five pias­
ters, and the doeument was mine. lt consisted of а printedsheet
with t\\"O columns - о п е French and the other Arabic - the rele­
vant data having Ь е е п inserted in ink о п the dotted Iines. Т
'personal description' did not bother т е с Ь for, as is usuaI
with such descriptions, it was wonderfuIly vague. But the age
mentioned was thirty-nine - \vhile 1 \vas twenty-three, and
looked t\venty. Ь е п а very careless poliee officer would im­
mediately tlOticc the discrepancy; and 50 it Ь е с а т е necessary to
change tlle age entry. Now if it had Ь е с п mentioJ1ed in о п е place
VOICES 117
only, the change would not have Ь е е п 50 difficult, but unfortu­
11ately it wa5 given in French as well а з in А с а Ы с De5pite т у
careful penning, 1 achieved what could only ь е described as а п
unconvincing forgery; о а п у о о о у \vith eyes in his head it would
Ь е obvious that the figures had Ь е е п altered in both columns.
But that could п о т Ь е helped. 1 \>Jould have to rely о п т у Iuck
and the negligence of thc gendarmes. '
EarIy in the morning т у business г е п led т е о а gully Ь е
hind the village, pointed о some rocks а о о ш halfa mile Ь е у о п с
and said, 'There is Syria.'
1 rnade т у way across the guIley. Although the hour
early, it was very hot. It rnust also have Ь е с п 110t to the old А г а Ь
woman who в а г under а tree п е а г the rocks beyond \vhich ",as
Syria; for she called о ш to т е in а husky, brittle voice:
'Wouldst thou give а drink of water to а п old у о т а п П
1 unslung т у freshly filled canteen and gave it ю Ь е г She
drank avidly and Ь е п 11anded it back to т е saying:
М а у God bless thee, т а у Н е keep thee secure and lead thee
to Ь у heart's goat.'
'Thanks, mother, 1 do not want т о г е than that.'
And when J turned around а п ё looked back at Ь е с 1saw the
old \vom!1n'S lips г п о у е as if in р г а у е г and felt а strange elation.
1 reached Ь е г о с к в and passed them: and now 1 was in Syria.
А wide, Ь а г с е п plain lay Ь е ю г е т е а с away о п the horizon 1
saw the outlines of trees and something that looked like houses;
it п ш ы Ь е the town ot" Baniyas. 1 pid not like the look of this
р Ы п that offered п о tree о г bush behind which to take с о у е г ­
which, 50 п е а с the frontier, might well Ь е с о т е neces5ary. В ш
there was п о other \vay. 1 felt as о п е sometimes feel5 in а dream
in which о п е has to walk naked down а crowded 5treet ...
It was nearly noon when 1 reached а smal1 streamlet bisecting
the plain. As 1 sat down to take off т у shoes and socks, 1saw in
the distance four horsemen moving in т у direction. With their
rifles held across the saddle, they looked ominousIy like gen­
darmes. They H·eregendarmes. There \vould Ь а у е Ь е е п п о 5ense
in т у trying to г и п away; and 50 1 comforted myselfthat \vhat­
е у е г was to happen would Ь а р р е п If 1 у е г е caugh! п о у 1would
probably receive п о т о с е than а few blo\\s \\'ith а г Ш е Ь и а and
ь е escorted back to Metul1a.
1 waoed through the stream, sat down о п tlle opposite bank
118 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
and started leisurely to dry т у feet, waiting for the gendarmes to
с о т е closer. They с а ш е and stared down at т е with ш р о п
for although 1 was wearing А г а Ь headress, 1 was obviously а
Е и г о р е а п
Р г о т п where7' о п е о С them asked т е sharply in А г а Ы с
'From MetuJla.'
'And where to?'
Т о Damascus:'
'\\ hat С о г 7'
О Ь wel1, just а pleasure trip.'
у papers 7'
'Of course .. .'
And out с а ш е т у identity certificate and и р с а ш е т у в е а п
10 т у mouth. Т unfolded Ь е р а р е г and looked at it
- and т у heart slipped back to its р г о р е г place and started to
beat again: о г 1 saw that Ь е held the document upside-down,
obviously и п а Ы е to read ... Т two о г three-big government
seals apparently satisfied Ы т С о г Ь е ponderously folded and
handed it back to т е
'Yes, it is in order. 00.'
Р о г а second 1 had the impulse to shake his hand, but tben
thought it better to let о и г relations remain strictly official. The
four т е п wheeJed their horses around and trotted away, while 1
continued о п т у т а г с Ь
Near Baniyas 110st т у way. Wbat had Ь е е п described о п т у
т а р as а 'road fit for whe.eled traffic' г to у е а hardly vis­
ible path which meandered о у е г в г е р р е lalld. swampy ground
al.d across little streams. and in thf end petered out entirely п е а г
some Ь о е г г е п hillocks. 1 wandered о у е г these hills for
several hours, и р and down, until, in the afternoon, 1е а т е и р о п
two Arabs witb donkeys that were earrying grapes and cbeese to
Baniyas. We walked the last stretch together; they gave т е
grapes to eat; and we separated о п reacbing the gardens before
the)own. А clear, narrow, rapidly flowing stream was bubbling
Ь у the roadside. llay down о п т у Ь е у thrust т у head р to
the ears in the iey water and drank and drank ...
Although 1 was у е г у tired, 1 had п о intention of staying at
Baniyas, which, being the first town о п the Syrian side, was
bound to_have а р о Н е е post. М у encounter \vith the gendannes
had set т е а rest as regards crdinary Syrian troopers. for rnost
VOICES 119
of them could ь е presumed to ь е iIliterate and therefore not in а
position to detect т у forgery: but а р о й с е post, with а п officer in
it, would ь е а d«fferent story. 1 therefore set out at а quick р а с е
through narrow lanes and byways, avoiding the main bazaar
street where such а post would most likely ь е located. In р С
the lanes 1heard the sound о С а lute anda man's voice singjngto
the accompaniment of clapping. DraVv'n to it, 1 rounded the с о г
ner - and stood quite stilI: for just о р р о в н е т е at а distance о С
perhaps ten р а с е в was а door inscribed Poste de Р о й с е with
several Syrian р о с е т е п а п officer among them. sitting о п
stools in the а й е г п о о п sun and enjoying the musicо Г о п е oftheiI"
comrades. It was too late to г е п е а г for they had already seen т е
and the officer - apparently also а Syrian - caIIed out to т е
Н е у с о т е here!'
Т was nothing to it but to о Ь е у 1advanced sIowly - and
then а brain-wave struck т е Taking out т у с а г п е г а 1 politely
greeted the officer in French and continued, without waiting for
his questions:
'1 а т coming from MetuIIa о п а short visit to this town, but
would not like to в о back without taking а photo о Г у о и а
your friend here, whose song has so enchanted т е
Arabs like to ь е flattered, and in addition they deIight in being
photographed; and so the officer consented with а smile and г е
quested т е to send him the photograph after it was developed
and printed (which 1 later did, with т у compliments). It п о lon­
ger occurred to him to ask т е for т у identification papers. In­
stead, Ь е treated т е to а с и р о Г sweet tea and wished т е Ь о п
when 1finaIIy rose to в о back to MetuIIa'. 1retreated the
way 1 had с о т е made а circuit around the town, and proceeded
о п т у way to Damascus.
Е Х А CTLУ TWO WEEKS А Т 1 had Ieft Haifa 1 arrived
at the big viIlage - almost а town - of Majdal ash-Shams. which
was inhabited mainIy Ь у Druzes and а few Christians. 1 chose а
house \vhich 100ked fairly г and told the у о и п в т а п
who о р е п е д the door to т у knock that 1 \vould Ь е gratefuI for
shelter for the night. With the lIsuaI а Ы а I\'a-sablan the door
was opened \vide, and within а fe\v minutes 1 found myself а с
cepted into the smaII househoJd.
120 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
As 1was now deep in Syria, with several possibIe ways leading
to Damascus, 1 decided to take т у Druze host into т у с о п й
denee and ask his advice. Knowing that п о Arab would ever Ь е
tray Ы guest, 1 placed а Н the facts squarely before Ы ш includ­
ing the fact that 1 was travelling о п а false identity eertificate. 1
W:ls told that it wou1d ь е е х п е г п е з у risky for т е to travel о п the
highway because from here onward it was patro11ed Ь у French
gendarmes, у Ь о would not let т е pass as easi1y as the Syrians
had done.
'1 Ы 1 у send т у son with thee,' said т у host, pointing to­
ward the young т а п who had о р е п е ё the door to т е 'and Ь е will
guide thee across the mountains and help thee to avoid the roads.'
After the evening т е а we sat down о п the о р е п terraee before
the house and discussed the route we should take next moming.
О п т у knees was spread the sma1l-scale German ш а р of PaJes­
tine and Syria у Ы с Ь 1had brought \vith т е from Jerusalem, а п д
1 \vas trying to follo\v on.it the course indicated- Ь у т у ш е
friend. While we were thus occupied, а т а п in the uniform of а
р о й с е officer - evidently а Syrian - с а т е strolling along the vil­
lage street. Н е had appeared so suddenly from around а с о е т
that 1 had hardly time enough to fold the ш а р let alone hide it
from his viev.'. Т Ь е officer seemed to recognize а stranger in т е
for after passing our terrace \vith а nod to т у host, Ь е turned
back Н the next с о г п е г а п ё slowly walked toward ш
'Wbo are у о ц Ь е asked in French in а not unkind voiee.
1 repeated т у ш rigmarole about being а colonist from
Metu11a о п а pleasure trip; and у Ь е п Ь е demanded to see т у
identity certificate, 1had to giveit to ш Н е looked а the paper
attentively, and his lips twisted in а grin.
'And у Ь а is it that you Ь а у е in your hand l' Ь е continued,
pointing to the folded German р 1said that it was nothing of
importance; but Ь е insisted о п seeing it, unfolded it with the deft
fingers of а т а п accustomed to handling maps, looked at it for
а fe\v seconds, folded it carefuHyand handed it back to т е with
а smile. Then Ь е said in broken German:
'During the war 1 served in the Turkish army side Ь у side with
the Germans.' And Ь е saluted in the military fashion, grinned
о п е е agail1 and \valked а у а у .
Н е has understood that thou art an A/emolli. Н е likes them,
aJld hates the г е п с Н е о л bother'thee.'
у о ю е в 121
Next morning, accompanied Ь у the young Druze, 1set out о п
what must Ь а у е Ь е е п the hardest т а г с Ь of т у life. We walked
for о у е г eleven Ь о и г з with о п у о п е break at п о о п for about
twenty minutes, о у е г rocky hills, down deep gorges, through dry
river beds, и р hills again, bctween boulders, о у е г sharp pebbles,
и р Ь ш downhill, р Ь downhill. п Н 1 felt that 1 could walk
п о т о г е Whco in the aftemoon we reached the town of AI­
К а т а в а in the plains о С Damascus, 1 was entirely worn out, т у
shocs \vere torn and т у feet swollen. 1 wanted to stop overnight
at the place, but т у young friend advised strongly against it:
there were too т а п у French р о Н с е around, and as it was а town
and not а village, 1 would not so easily find shelter without at­
tracting attention. Т Ь е о п у alternative was to secure а ride in
о п е ofthe automobiles that plied for Ы г е between Ь е г е and О а
mascus. 1 had still т у twenty piasters (during the entire journey
from Haifa 1 had had п о need to spend а single р е п п у and
twenty piasters Ь а р р е п о о to Ь е tbe fare for а с а г г ide г о Damas­
cus.
In the ramshackle office of the transport contractor, in the
main square о С the town, 1 was informed that 1 would have to
wait for about half а п Ь о и г until the next с а г left. 1 parted from
т у friendly guide, who embraced т е like а brother and set о ш
immediately о п the first stage of his way Ь о т е Sitting with т у
knapsack Ь у т у side п е а г the door ofthe booking office,1dozed
off under the rays of the late afternoon sun- only to ь е rudely
awakened Ь у someone shaking т е Ь у the shoulder: а Syrian
gendarme. Т Ь е usual questions с а т п е followed Ь у the usual а п
swer5. But the т а п was-apparently not quite satisfied and told
т е
С о т е \\ith т е to the р о Н е е station and talk there to the offi­
с е г in charge.'
1 was 50 tired that it п о 10nger ffiattered to т е whether 1 was
discovered о г not.
Т Ь е о т с е г in the station room proved to ь е а big, burly
French sergeant, his tunic unbuttoned. behind а dcsk 011 whicll
stood а п almost empty bottle of arrack and а dirty glass. Н е was
completely, angrily, drunk and glarcd \vith bIoodshot eyes at the
р о Н с е т а п who had brought т е in.
'What is it now l'
Т Ь е р о Н с е т а п explained in А г а Ы с that Ь е had secn т е а
122 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
в т г а п р е г sitting in the main square; and 1 explained in French
that I was not а stranger, but а law-abiding citizen.
'Law-abiding citizen!' the it shouted. <You people а г е
в с а т п р з vagabonds who wa:k. ,jP л down the country о п у to
а п п о у и Where а г е your p:.:pelJ'?'
As I \\'as fumbling with stiff fingers Г о г the identity certificate
in т у pocket, Ь е banged his fist о п the tabIe, and bellowed:
'Never mind, get out of Ь е г е - and as 1was closing the door
behind т е 1saw Ы т reach Г о г h.is glass and bottle.
After the 10ng,10ngт а г с Ь what а reHef, what а п ease to ride ­
п о almost п а с а г г о т AI-Katana о у е г the broad high­
way into the orchard-covered plain о Damascus! о п the hori­
п а у т у goaI: а п endless sea of treetops, with а few shining
domes and minarets faintly visibIe against the sky. Far away,
somewhat to the rigbt, stoOO а solitary naked Ы Н its crest still
lighted Ь у the sun, while shado\vs were already creeping и р
its base. А Ь о у е the bll1, а single cloud, narrow, long, glittering
dusk; steep, distant pale Ы ц е sky; over the plain, а dove grey
golden against the mountains to our right and to о и г left; а
Hght air.
е п taD fruit gardens enclosed Ь у mud waIJs; riders, carts,
carriages, soldiers (French soldiers). Т Ь е dusk Ь е с а т е green like
water. А п officerroared Ь у о п а п ю ю г с у с з е withhis huge goggIes
resembling а deep-sea fisb. Т Ь е п tbe first house. Т е п Damas­
. с ц в а surf of noise after the silence of the о р е п plain. Т Ь е first
lights were leaping и р in windows and streets. 1 felt а gladness
such as 1 could not remember.
But т у gladness с а ш е to а п abrupt end as the car stopped
beyond the poste de police о п т е outskirts of tbe city. .
<What is the matter?' 1 asked т е driver Ь у т у side.
О Ь nothing. AI1 cars coming г о ш outside must report to the
poliee о п а т у а .. .'
А Syrian р о с е ш а п emerged с о т the station and asked:
'From where а г е you coming?'
<Only from Al-Katana,' replied т е driver,
О Ь well, in that з е go о п ([or this was obviously О у local
traffic). е driver let in his clutch with а grind. We moved о п
and 1 breathed freely о п с е т о г е But at that moment someone
called out с о т the street, Т Ь е top is loose!' - and а few paces
beyond the pos;e de police the driver stopped the aged с а г to at­
VOICES 123
tend to the о р е п top that had flopped down о п о п е side. While
Ь е was thus engaged, Ь е policernan approached us idly о п е е
again, apparently interested in: п о т о г е than the driver's
rnechanical р г о Ы е т Т however, his glancealighted о п т е
and 1 saw, with а stiffening of т у whole body, Ь а bls eyes 00­
с а т е alert. Н е was looking т е и р and down, с а т е closer, and
squinted at Ь е floor of the с а г where т у knapsack а у
'Who art Ь о и Ь е asked suspiciously.
1 began, 'Frorn Metulla .. " but the policeman was shaking
his head unbelievingly. Т Ь е whispered something to Ь е
driver; 1 could make out ю е words. 'Englisb soldier, deserter:
And о г the first tirne it dawned upon т е that т у blue overalls,
т у Ь г о kufiyya with its gold-threaded iga/ and т у military­
type knapsack (whicb 1had bougbt in а junk shop in Jerusalern)
closeIy resembIed the outfit of Ь е Irisb constabulary ernployed
in those days Ь у the government of Palestine; and 1also г е т е т
bered that there was а п agreernent between Ь е French and
Britisb authorities о extradite their respective deserters...
In т у broken А з Ы с 1 tried о explain о the policeman that
1 was п о deserter; but Ь е waved aside т у explanations:
'Explain aIl this о the ш в р е с ю г
And so 1 was obIiged о go into Ь е police station, while Ь е
driver. witb а muttered apology for not being а Ы е о wait for т е
started the с а г and disappeared from view... Т inspector
was out о г ю е ш п е being but, 1 wastold, wou1d Ь е back а п у
mornent. 1 had о wait in а г о о ш wblcb contained only а Ь е п с Ь
а п ё а р а п frorn Ь е main е п п у two other doors. Over о п е of
them was inscribed Garditn de Р п з о п and over the other simply
Prison. А these very unpropitious surroundings 1 waited for
over half а п Ь о и г е а с Ь rninute т о г е and т о г е convineed that
this was т у journey's end: for 'inspector' sounded т и с Ь т о г е
orninous tban simply 'officer'. IfI were now discovered, 1 would
have о spend some tirne, perbaps weeks, in gaol as under-trial
р П о п е г then 1 would receive the customary sentence of Ь г е е
montbs; after serving it 1would Ь а у е to march о п foot - а с с о т
panied Ь у а mounted gendarme - back to Ь е frontier of Pales­
tine; and. to top it а 1 rnight expect а п eviction from Palestine
as weU for breaking passport regulations. Т Ь е gloom in the
waiting г о о т was nothing compared with Ь е gloom \vithin т е
Suddenly 1 heard the whirr of а rnotor С Б It stopped before
124 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
the station gate. А moment later а т а п io civilian dress with а
red tarbush о п his head entered the room wlth а quick step,
foJlowed Ь у the policeman who ,,,as excitedly trying to г е р о п
something to Ш Т Ь е inspector was quite obviously in а great
hurry.
1 do not п о exactly how it Ь а р р е п е ё but 1 presume that
,vhat 1 did at that crucial rnoment was the outcome of о п е of
those с а с е flashes of genius which in ditferentcircurnstances­
and perhaps in different т е п - produce events that change his­
т о г у With а :single bound, 1 с а т е close to the inspector and,
\vithout waiting for his questions, hurled at Ы м а torrent of
complaints in French against the insulting clumsiness of the
р о й с е т п а п who had ш к е п т е а п innocent citizen, for а deserter
and caused т е to lose т у п ё е ш ю the city. The inspector tried
several tirnes to interrupt т е but 1 never gave Ы ш а с Ь а п с е and
engulfed him in а flow of words of which, 1 suppose, Ь е was
hardly а Ы е to gather о п е т е п ш - probably ooly the narnes М е
tulla' а п д 'Damascus,' which 1 repeated а п endless nurnber of
times. Н е was evidently distressed at being kept away from
something Ь е had to do io а Ь п but 1did oot let hirnspeak and·
continued, without stoppiog for breath, with т у wordy barrage.
Ultimately Ь е threw и р his hands in despair and cried:
'Stop, for God's з к е Have у о и а п у papers?'
М у hand \vent automatically into п у breast pocket and, still
pouring out sentence after sentence in а п unceasing stream, 1
thrust the false identity certificate into his hands. Т poor т а п
must have felt as if Ь е were drowning, for Ь е о у quickly tumed
over а corner ofthe folded sheet, saw the govemment stamp, and
threw it back at т е
А Н right, а right, go, only go!' - and 1 did not wait for Ы т
to repeat his request.
А FEW MONTHS EARLIER, in Jerusalem, 1 had met а О а
mascene teacher у Ь о had invited т е ,to ь е his guest wheoever 1
с а т е to Damascus, а п д it was after his house that 1 now en­
quired. А little Ь о у offered himself as т у guide and took т е Ь у
Ф е hand.
Deep evening. Т Ь е OId City. а п о lanes у Ы с Ь the over­
hanging oriel windows made more nightly than the night itseJf
VOICES
125
could make them. Н е г е and there 1could в е е in the yellow light
of а kcrosene lantern, а fruiterer's shop with а mound of water­
melons and baskets of grapes outside it. People like shadows.
Sometimes behind the Jatticed \vindows а woman's shrill voice.
And thenthe liti.le Ь о у said, Н е г е 1 knocked at а door. Some­
body answered from inside and 1 lifted the latch and entered а
pavcd courtyard. In the darkness 1could discern grapefruit trees
Ь е а с у with green fruit and а stone basin with а fountain. Some­
о п е called out г о т а о о у е
'Ta/fadal, у а sid;' - and 1 ascended а narrow staircase aJong
о п е of the outer waJJs and waJked through а п о р е п Joggia and
into the arms of т у friend.
1 \vas dead-tired, entirely exhausted, and let myself faH п
г е п у о п to the bed that was Т т е Т Ь е wind rustled
in the trees of П т е courtyard in г о п and in the г г е е з of the gar­
den behind the house. From the distance с а е т а п у muffled
sounds; the voice of а great Arabian city going to sleep.
Г т WAS П Н Т Н Е е х с н е г п е п г of а new understanding, \vith
г п у eyes opencd to things 1hacl п о т suspccted before, that 1 у а п
dered in those в ц г ш п е г days throUg!l the a]]eys of the old bazaar
of Damascus and rccognizcd tlle spiritua! restfulness in the life
of its people. Their ш п е г security could Ь е obscrved п way
they Ь е п а у е о to\\'ard о п е anothcr:in Ь е у а г т dignity \vith
which they met о г р а п с ё ; п the г п а п п е г п \vhich two т е п
,....ouId \\'alk togetJler, holding е а с Ь othcr Ь у the hand like chil­
dren - simply because they felt friendly toward е а с Ь other: in
the г п а п п е г in у Ы с Ь the shopkeepers deaIt \vith о п е anotller.
Those trader5 in the little shops. those inexora Ы е callers to pas­
sersby, seemcd to have п о grasping с а г 311d п о е п у у in them: 50
т С Ь so that the о п е г of а 5hop would lcavc it in the cU5tody о Г
11is neighbour and compctitor whenever it Ь е с а т е nccessary Г о г
Ы т to Ь е а у а у Г о г а \\!hile. 1often sa\\! а potential customer s:op
Ь е Г о г с а п untended stal1, obvioLlsly debating within himself
whether to wait о г the return о Г the vendor or 10 ш о е о п to the
adjojning stalI - and invariably thc neighbouring trader, the
competitor, \vould step jn to enquire after the customer's \vants
and sell hilll the required goods - not his о у п goods, but those
of his а Ь е л neighbour - and \\;ould е а у е the purchase price о п
126 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
ш е neighbour's Ь е п с Ь Wberc in Europe could о п е Ь а у е wit­
nessed а lfke transaction?
Some of the bazaar streets were thronged with the hardy
figures of in their wide, fiowing garments: т е п who al­
ways seemed to carry their lives with themselves, and always
walkcd in tbeir own tracks. Т а Н т е п with grave, buming eyes
standing and sitting in groups befort. the shops. Т did
not talk т и с Ь to о п е another - о п е word, о п е short sentence,
attentively spoken and as attentiveJy received, sufficed for long
conversations. Т beduins, 1 felt, did not know chatter, that
ta1king Ъ nothing, with nothing at stake, the hall-mark of
.worn-out souls; and 1 was reminded of the words of the Koran
wblch described life in Paradise: ' ... and thou hearest п о chat­
ter there ...' Silence seemed to ь е а beduin virtue. Т wrap­
ped themselves in their \\"ide, brown-and-white о г black cloaks
and kept silent; they passed you Ь у ",·ith а silent child's glance,
р г о ц с modest and sensible. When у о и addressed them in their
tongue, their black eyes Н и р ш а sudden smile: for they were
not self-absorbed and liked to о с sensed Ь у the stranger. Т
were grallds seiglleurs, entirely rescrved and nevertheless о р е п to
all things of life ...
О п а Friday - the MusJim Sabbath - you could perceive а
с Ь а п в е of rhythm in the Hfe of Damascus - а little whirlwind of
Ь а р р у excitement and, at the same time, solemnity. 1 thought of
our Sundays in Europe; of the silent citystreets and closedshops;
1 remembered а those empty days and the oppression which
that emptiness brought forth. Why should it ь е so? Now 1Ь е р п
to understand it: because to most people in the West their е у е г у
day life is а Ь е а у у load г о т whicb only Sundays с а п release
them, Sunday is п о longer а day of rest but has Ь е с о т е а п es­
с а р е into the unreal, а deceptive forgetfulness behind \vhich,
doubly Ь е а у у and threatemng, the ·",·eekday' lurks.
Т о the Arabs, о п the other hand, Friday did not seem to ь е а п
opportunity to forget their workdays. Not that the fruits of life
fell easily and without effort into the laps of these but
simply because their labours, е у е п theheaviest, did not seem to
conflict with their personal dcsires. Routine, for ш е sake of rou·
tine, \vas absent; instead, there was а п inner contactbetween а
working-man and his work: and so respite Ь е с а т е necessary
only if о п е got tired. Such а consonance between т а п а п his
VOICES 127
work must Ь а у е Ь е е п envisagedby Islam as the natural state of
affairs and, therefore, п о obIigatory rest had Ь е е п prescribed for
Friday. Т Ь е artisans and smaH shopkeepers in the Damascus
bazaars worked for а few hours, abandoned their shops for а few
hours during which they went away to the mosque for their П О О
prayers and afterv.'ard met with some friends in а cafe; then they
wouJd с о т е back to their shops а п о work again for а few hours
in g1ad rclaxation, е м е г у о п е just as Ь е pleased. OnJy а few shops
were closed, and except during the time of р г а у е г when the р е о
pJeassembIed л the mosques, а Н the streets were as fuH ofbustle
as о п other days.
О п е Frlday 1 went with т у friend and host into the Umayyad
Mosque. Т Ь е т а п у т а г Ы е columns у Ы с Ь supported the domed
ceiling shone under thc sun rays that fell through the lintel win­
dows. Т Ь е г е \vas а scent of musk in the air, red and Ы и е carpets
covered the floor. In 10ng, е у е п rows stood т а п у hundreds of
т е п behind the й п а т Ь о led the р г а у е г they bowed, knelt,
touched the ground with their foreheads, and rose again: а in
disciplined unison, Iike soldiers. lt \vas very quiet; while the с о п
gregation was standing, о п е could Ь е а г Ь е voice of the old и п а т
г о т the distant depths of the huge halJ, reciting verses from t11e
К о г а п and when t!e bowed о г prosttated himself, the entire
congregation followed Ь ш as о п е т а п bowing and prostrating
themselves before God as if Н е were present before their eyes...
It was at this moment that 1 Ь е с а т е aware how near their God
and their faith were to these people. Theic р г а у е г did not seem to
ь е divorced from their working day; it was part of it - not meant
to help them forget life, but to remember it better Ь у remem­
bering God.
Н о у strange and wonderful,' 1 said to т у friend as we were
leaving tbe mosque, 'that you people feel God to Ь е so close to
у о и 1 wish 1 could feel so myself.'
'How else could it Ь е О т у brother? Is not God, as о и г Holy
Book says, е а г е г 10 /hee 11tall 111e 'l'cin in 1hy neck?'
SPURRED В У М У NEW AWARENESS, 1 spent т и с Ь о т у
time at Damascus reading а manner of books о п lslam о п
which 1 could lay т у hands. М у Arabic, although sufficient jtJ'
the purposes of conversation, V/<lS as yet too wcak С о г read, "
128 Т Н ROAD Т О М Е С С Л
thc К о г а п in the original, and 50 1 had to take recourse to two
translations - о п с Г г е п с п and the other О е п п а п - which 1 Ь о г
ro\ved г о т а library. For the rest, r had to rely о п European
о п е п а works а г к о п т у friend's е х р т а п а й о п в
Н о щ е г fragme!ltary, these studics talks were like the
lifting of а curtain. 1 began to discern а \vor)d of ideas of which
hitherto 1 had Ь е е п entirely ignorant.
lslam did not scem to Ь е so т и с Ь а religion in the popular
sense ofthe \vord as, г ш п е г а у а у oflife; л о т so т и с Ь а system
of theology as а р г о я г а п п п о of personal and social behaviour
based о п the с о п з с ю ц в п с в з о Г God. No\vhere п the К о г а п could
1 find а п у г е т е г е п с е to а п е е о г а з о п No original, in­
herited sin stood between Ь с indi\idual and his destiny - for,
110117il1g ю Ь е all1'ihuled 10 т а п Ь и he !limself п а з з т у е п
о з No asccticism was required to о р е п а hidden gate to purity:
ю г purity \vas т п а п я birthright, and sin meant п о т о г е than а
lapse from the innate, positive qualities with which God \\'as
said to have endowed е у е г у human being. There was п о п а с е of
а п у dualisn1 п the с о п э ш е г а ц о п ofman's nature: body and soul
seemed to Ь е taken as о п е integral \vhole.
At first 1 \vas somewhat startled Ь у the Koran's с о п с е г п not
only with г п а п е г в spiritual but aJso\\'ith т а п у trivial,
mundane aspects of Hfe; but i!l time 1 began to understand that
if т а п .... е г е indeed а п integraJ unity of body and souJ - as IsJam
insisted he \"as - п о aspect of his life could ь е too 'trivial' to
с о т е \\'ithi!l the purview of reJigion. With а Н this, the К о г а п
п е с е т let its foHowers forgeL that the life of this \vorld was only
о п е stage of man's way to а higher existence, and that his uJti­
mate goal was of а spiritual nature. Material prosperity, it said,
is desirable but not а п е п п in itself: and therefore man's а р р е
tites, though justified in them5elves, must Ь е restrained and с о п
troHed Ь у Л О г а consciousness. This consciousness ought to г е
late not merely to man's relation with God but also to his г е а
tions \\'ith т е п not only to the spiritual perfection of the indivi­
dt1al but also to the creation of such social conditions as might
Ь е conducive to the spirituaJ development of а so that а Н might
Н у е ir, fullness ...
А Н !his \vas intellectualJy and ethically far т о г е 'respectable'
than anything 1had previously heard or read about Islam. Its а р
proach to the problems of tlH: spirit seemed to ь е deeper than
VOICES' 129
that of the Old Testament and had, morcover, п о п е of the lat­
ter's predilection for one particular в а й о п and its approach to
the problems ofthe fiesh was, unlike the Ncw Testament, strong­
Iy affirmative. Spjrit and В е з Ь stood, е а с Ь in its о right, а з the
twin aspects of т а п з God-created Hfe.
Was not perhaps this teaching, 1asked I\\yself, responsible for
the emotional security 1 had 50 10ng senS(\i in the Arabs?
..
О Н Е EVI!NING М У HOST invited т е о accompany Ы т to
а р а п у in the house of а п с Ь Damascenc friend who was с е е
brating the birth of а son.
We wa1ked through the winding а п е з ofthe inner city, у Ы с Ь
were so narrow that the projccting Ь а у \vindows and lattice­
encased balconies almost touched о п е al\other from opposite
sides of the street. О е е р shadows а silence dozed Ь е
tween the old houses of stone; sometimes а few black-veiled wo·
men passed you Ь у with swift little steps. or а bearded т а п
dressed in а long kaftan, appeared г о ш IIround а с о е г and
slowly disappeared behind another. Always Ь е ш е comers and
irregular angles, always the з а е narrow l:tnes which cut across
о п е another in а directions, a1ways prol\using to lead to а з
toundingrevelations and a1ways opening into another, simiJar
а п е
But the revelatiot1 did с о т е in the end. М у friend and guide
stopped Ь е С о г е а nondescript wooden door set in а blank, mud­
plastered wal1 and said:
Н е г е we а г е knocking with his fist against the door.
It opened with а squeak, а у е т у old т а п L'ade us welcome with
а toothlessly mumbled, 'Ah/an, а wa-slll1lan,' and through а
short corridor with two right-angle tums we entered the с о ц п
yard of the Ь о ш е that С т о т outside had resembled nothing so
т и с Ь as а mud.-coloured Ь а т
Т Ь е courtyard was wide and airy, pav(.·d like.a huge chess­
board with white and black marble slabs. п а 10w, octagonal
basin in the centre а fountain was playing Hndsplashing. Lemon
trees and oleander bushes, set in small openings in the marble
pavement, spread their Ы о о ш and fruit-Iaden branches а
over Ь е courtyard and along the inner hOLlse \valIs, which were
covered from Ь а з е to roof witb alabaster r(.'liefs о С the most delj­
130 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
cate workmansbip, disp1aying intricate, geometrical pattems
and з у arabesques, interrupted oniy Ь у windows С з ш in
broad, 1acelikeopenwork о С ш Ы е О п о п е side о С the.yard Ь е
walls were recessed to ю п п about Ш е е Ceet а Ь о у е ground 1evel,
а deep с Ь е the Ш о С а large г о о ш accessible Ь у broad marble
steps. Along the three walled sides о С this niche - called Iiwan­
г а п 10w, brocaded divans, while о п the floor а costly с а г р е т was
spread. Т niche walls were lined with huge mirrors up to а
height of perhaps fifteen feet - and the entire courtyard with its
trees, its black-and-white pavement,its alabaster reliefs, marble
window е ш о г а а ц г е в and -carveddoors which led to the interior
ofthe house, and the many-coloured throng of guests who sat о п
the divans and strolled around the water з - а и this wasdu­
plicated in the mirrors of the li,van: and when у о и 100ked into
them, you discovered that the opposite wall ofthe courtyard was
covered with simi1armirrors in its entire width, so that the who1e
spectacle was being reOectedtwice, four times, а hundred times,
and thus transformed into а magic, end1ess ribbon of marble,
a]abaster, fountains, myriads of р е о р е forests of lemon г г е е в
о т е а п ё е г groves - а п end1ess dreamland glis1ening under а п
evening sky still rosy from the rays of the setting sun ...
Such а house - bare and unadomed о п the street side, п с Ь
and de1ightfu1 wi1hin - was altogether new 10 т е Ь и in tirne I
с а ш е to know that it was typica] of the traditional dwellings о С
Ь е well-to-do п о т о п у in Syria and Iraq but a1so in lran.
Ь е Arabs п о с the Persians cared in earlier days Cor fa­
с а ё е в а house was т е а п о ь е lived in and it5 function \vas
limited to its interior. This was something quite different from
the forced 'functionalism' SQ much sought after in modem Wes­
tern achitecture. Т Wes1erners, entangled in а kind of inverted
romanticism, unsure oftheir own feelings, nowadays build prob­
1ems; the Arabs and Persians build - or built until yesterday­
houses.
Т host seated т е to his right о п the divan, and а barefooted
servant offered coffee о п а small brass tray. Smoke from Ь и Ь
bling nargiles mingled with the rosewater-scented air of the liwan
and floated in wisps toward the glass-shaded cand1es which were
being lighted. о п е after another, a10ngthe walJsand bet\veen the
darkening green of the trees.
Т Ь е с о т р а п у - all т е п - was most varied:. т е п in ka!tans of
VOICES 131
stripcd, rustJing Damascus silk or ivory-coloured Chinese raw
silk, voluminous jubbas of pastel-shaded fine wool, gold-em­
broidered white turbans. over red tarbushes; т е п in European
clothes, but obviously completely at ease in their cross-legged
. position о п the divans. Some beduin chieftains from the
steppes, with their г е п п в е в were there: eyes black and gloriously
a1ive, and small bIack beards around е а п brown faees. Their
new clothes swished with evtry movement, and а Н of them
carried silver-sheathed swords. Т Ь е у were indolently and с о т
pletely at ease: true aristocrats - о п у that their е а в е in distinc­
tion from that of European aristocrats, was not а soft з е bred
through generations of 10ving с а г е and good living, but like а
warm fire coming out of the sureness of their pereeptions. А
good air surrounded them•. а dry and с е а с atmosphere - the
ш е air which 1had о п е е sensed in reality о п the Ь of the
desert: embracing in its chastity but not intr\!ding. Т Ь е у \vere
like distant friends, like passing visitors in this place: their free,
aimless е awaited them elsewhere.
А dancing-girl с а ш е out of о п е ofthe doors and Г Щ у и р
the steps to the liwan. She was у е с у young, certain1y п о more
than twenty, and very beautiful. Dressed in billowing trousers of
some crackling, iridescent silk materia1, а pair of golden slippers
and а pearl-embroidered bodice wblch not so т и с Ь covered as
accentuated her high,. upstanding breasts, she moved with the
sensuous grace of о п е и to ь е admired and desired:
and у о и could a1most hear the п р р е of delight that ran through
this assembIy ofmen at the sight ofher soft-limbed body and her
taut ivory skin.
She danced, to the accompaniment ofа hand drum wielded Ь у
the middle-aged т а п whohad theliwan ь е
hind her, о п е of those traditiona.l,lascivious dances 50 beloved
in the East - dances meant toevokeslumbering dcsires and to
givepromise of а breath1ess Ш .
'0 thou wonderful, О thou strange,' nturmured т у host. Т Ь е п
Ь е slapped т у knee lightly and said: 'Isshe not like Ы
ba1m о п а wound ... l' .
As quickly as she had с о т е the. daneer disappeared;and
nothing remained of her but the hazy shimmer in the eyes of
most of the т е п Her place о п the carpet in the /{wan was taken
ь у Cour musicians - в о т е of the best in all Syria, 1was told Ь у
132 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
о п е о С the guests. О п е о С them held а long-necked lute, another а
П а sing1e-headcd drum -like а timbrel without jingles - the
third а п instrume-nt that resembJed а zither, and the fourth а л
Egyptian tombour - something like а very \vide brass bottle with
а bottom of drum-skin.
Т Ь е у Ь е в а п to twang and drum delicately, playfuUy at first,
without а п у discemibIe а с с о г ё seemingJy е а с Ь т а п for himself,
as if tuning their instruments in preparation for а с о т т о п ц р
ward Ь е а г Н е with the zither drew bls fingertips lightly scveral
times over the strings from high о lo\v ч а subdued, harplike
effect; the а Ь о г player drummed softly, stopped, and drum­
med again; the т а п with Ь е lute struck, а з if absent-mindedly,
а few low. sharp chords in quick succession, chords that seemed
only Ь у accident to coincide with the dry, monotonousJy г е
peated beat о С ш е timbrel and to draw Ь е tambour into а he5i­
tant response о Ь е strumming of ш е strings, now о С the lute,
nO\V of Ь е zither - and Ь е С о г е you Ь е с а т е quite aware of it, а
с о п и п о п rhythm had bound the fo\!r instruments together and а
П е у took Б Ь а р е А melody? 1 could not say. l! rather seemed
to т е that 1 а Б not 50 т с Ь listening to а musical р е с С о т а п с е
as witnessing а п exciting happening. Out ofthe chirping tones о С
Ь е string instrurnents there grew и р а new rhythm, .-ising in а
tense spiral and then, suddenly, falling down -like Ь е rhythmic
rising and falling о а metallic object, faster and slower, scfter
and stronger: in dispassionate persistence, in endless variations,
this о п е uninterrupted happening, this acoustic р Ь е п о т е п о п
\vhic,h trembled in а restrained intoxication, grew up, spread out
powerfulJ}'. \\'ent to the head: and when it suddenly broke off in
the midst о а crescendo (how early, much о о early!) 1 knew: 1
was imprisoned. Т Ь е tension of this music had imperceptibly е п
wrapped т е 1 badbeen drawn into these tones which in their
а р р а т е п monotony recalIed th,: eternal recurrence of а Н tbings
existing and knocked at the doors of your own feelings and
called forth, step Ь у step, а Н tbat had Ь е е г П о п in у о и with­
о и your knowledge ... laid bare something that had a1ways
been there andno\v Ь е с а т е obvious toYOti with а vividness that
made у о и т heart pound ...
1 had Ь е е п accustomed to Western music. in which the entire
emotional background of the composer is drawn into е а с Ь in­
dividual composition. reflectingin every о п е of its moods а Н the
VOICES
133
other, possible ш о о ё в but tbls Arabian music seemed to flow
from а single level of consciousness, from а single tension that
was nothing but tension and could therefore а з в ш п е personal
modes of feeling in every listener . . . .
After а few seconds о С silence the с а Ь о г rUn1bled again, and
the other instruments folIowed. А soCter sway, а more feminine
rhythm than before; the individual voices adjusted themselves
п ю г е closely to е а с Ь other, warmly enfolded о п е а п о ш е г and,
as if bound together in aspell, Ь е с а т е more and more excited;
they stroked е а с Ь other, flowed around е а с Ь other in 50ft, wavy
lines wblch at firSt с о Щ scvcraJ ш п е в with the г о П of the
Е а Ь о г as if with а hard obstaclc, but г а а П у grew in aggres­
siveness, overcame the а Ь о г and erislaved it, dragging it
along in а с о т т о п spiral ascent: and the ю т о о и unwilling at
I1rst, soon е П prey to the с о п ц п о п rapture and intoxi­
cated, thc others; the wavy Н п е 10st its feminine soCtness and
raced о п with rising violence. quicker, blgher, shriller, into а CQld
fiurioso о С conscious passion th:1t had given up а Н restraint ilnd
now Ь е с а т е а dithyrambic climb to some unseen peaks о С
power and sovereignty; о ш о С the crstwblle circling flow о С
tones around е а с Ь other emerged а tremcndous rotation in uni­
son - а rushing of wheels out о С eternity intoeternity, without
measure о г limit о г goal, а breatbles5, reckless tightrope­
walker's г и п over knife-edge р г е с т р т с е в through о п е etemal р г е в
ent, toward а п awareness that was freedom, and power, and Ь е
yond а П thought. А п ё suddenly, in Ь е midst of а п upsurging
sweep: а stop and а deadly silence. Brutal. Honest. С е а п
Like а rustling о С tree leaves, breath rcturned to the listeners,
and the 10ng-drawn т и г т и г • У а AlIah, у а А а went through
Ь е т Т Ь е у were like wisechildren who play their long-under­
stood and ever-tempting garnes. Т Ь е у were smiling in happi­
ness ...
"':"'3­
WE RIDE and zayd sings: always the same rhythm, al\vays
the same monotonous melody. For е soul о С the Arab is т о п о
tonous - Ь и not in sense of poverty о С imagii1ation; Ь е has
plenty.:>C that; but bls instinct does not go, like that о С Western
т а п aCter width. three·dimensional space and the simultaneity
о С т а п у shades о С emotil.>!'1 music speaks i.l
134 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
desire to с а г г у , е а с Ь time, а single emotional е х р е п е п с е to the
utmostend of its г е а с Ь . Т о this р и г е monotony, this almost sen- .
sual desire ю see feeling intensified in а continuous, ascending
line, the А г а Ы а п character owes its strength and its faults. 115
faults: for the world wants to Ь е experienced, emotionally, in
в р а с е as well. And its strength: for the faith in the possibility of
а п endless Н п е а г ascent of emotional knowledge с а п [ п the
в р п е г е of the mind lead nowhere but to God. Only о п the basis
of this inborn drive, so р е с и l i а г to р е о р т е of the desert, cou1d
grow the monotheism of the early Hebrews and its triumphant
fulfilment, the faith of Muhammad. Behind bl)th stood the
motherly desert.
v
SPIRIT AND FLESH
-1­
Т
Н Е DAYS PASS, and the nights а г е short, and we
ride southward at а brisk р а с е О и г dromedaries а г е in
excellent в п а р е - they Ь а у е recently been watered, and
the last two days Ь а у е provided them with abundant
pasture. There а г е 5till fourteen days between Ь е г е and М е с с а
and even т о г е if, а в is р г о Ь а Ы е we spend some time in the
tOWn5 of Hail and both 0.(' which Iie о п our route.
An unusuaI ц п р а п е п с е has taken hold of т е а п urgency for
wblch 1 know п о eX
tl)1anation.
Hitherto 1 Ь а у е Ь е е п wont to е п
joy travelling at е Ш е with п о particular urge to г е а с Ь т у des­
tination quick1y; the daysand weeks в р е п т in journey had е а с Ь
of Ь е т а fulfilment о Г its own, and the g'JaI always seemed to Ь е
incidentaI. But now 1 Ь а у е begun to feel what 1 Ь а у е п е у е г fe1t
before in т у у е а г в in А т а Ы а а п impatience to г е а с Ь the end of
the road. What end? Т о see М е с с а 1Ь а у е Ь е е п to the Holy City
50 often, and know its life 50 thoroughly, that it п о Ionger holds
out а п у р г о ш в е ofnew discoveries. Or"is it perhaps а new kind
of discovery that 1 am anticipating? It must Ь е so - for 1 а т
being drawn to М е с с а Ь у а strange, personaI expectancy, as if
this spiritual centre ofthe MusIim world, with its п а о п а
congregation ofpeople from aJl corners ofthe earth, were а kind
of р г о ш в е а gateway to а wider world than the о п е in which 1
am now Iiving. Not that 1Ь а с е grown tired of А г а Ы а п о 1 Iove
its deserts, its towns, the ways of its people as 1 Ь а у е always
loved them: з first hint о Г А г а Ы а п Iife in the Sinai Desert
some ten years а в о has п е у е г Ь е е п disappointed,. and the в ц с
ceeding years Ь а у е only confirmed т у originaI expectation; but
since т у night at the у е two days ago, the conviction has
grown within т е that А г а Ы а has givcn т е а that it had to give.
1 am strong, young, healthy. 1 с а п ride for т а п у Ь о и Г at а
stretch without being unduly tired. 1 с а п traveI - and Ь а у е е п
doing 50 for years -like а beduin, without а tent and \vithout
135
136 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
а п у о С the smaH comCorts which the townspeople о С Najd often
regard as iitdispensabJe о п long desert joumeys. 1 а т at Ь о т е in
а и the littlc с с а С з о С beduin life, and have adopted, a)most im­
perceptibIy. the manners and а Ы о с а Najdi А с а Ь But is this
а Н there is to Ь е Have 1lived 50 10ngin А с а Ы а only to Ь е с о т п е
а п А с а Ь - о с was it perhaps а preparation С о г something tbat is
yet to с о т е
.,
Т Н Е IMPATIENCE WIOCH 1 now С е е is somebow akin to
Ь е turbulenf' irnpatience 1 experienced when 1 returned to Eu­
г о р е т у first joumey to the Near East: the feeling ofhaving
Ь е е п Corced о stop shoct о С а tremendous revelatiort that cou)d
have cevealed itself to т е if о п у there had Ь е е п more tirne ...
Т Ь е initial impact о С crossing С с о т the Arabian worldback in­
to Е ц г о р е had Ь е е п somewhat softened Ь у the months spent in
Turkey after 1 had left Syria in the autumnof 1923. Mustafa
Kemal's Turkey had in those days not yet entered into its 're­
formist', imitative phrase; it was sti1l genuinely Turkish in its life
and traditiol1s and thus, because о С the unifying bond о С its Is­
Jamic faith, \\'as still related to the general tenor о С Arabian life:
but Turkey's inner rl1ythm в е е ш е ё somehow heavier, less г з п
р а г е п т less airy - and more Occidental. When 1 travelled over­
land С г о т Istanbul to Sofia and Belgrade there was п о abrupt
transition from East to West; the irnages ehanged gradual1y, о п е
element receding and another imperceptibIy taking its place­
Ь е miharets growing fewer and farther the 10ng kof­
1011$ о С the т е п giving way to belted peasani bIouses, the в с а г
tered trees and groves о С Anatolia meiging into fir
forests - until suddenly, at Ь е Italian frontier, 1 found myse]f
back in Europe.
As 1sat,in the train п Wi!s taking т е from Trieste to Vienna,
т у recent impressions ofIfurkey began to lose а their vividness
and Ь е о п у reality that remained was Ь е eighteen months 1had
spent in Arab countries. It almost gave т е а shock to г е а ш е
that 1 \\'as 100king upon Ь е о п е е so familiar European scenery
ф tJ1e eyes о С а stranger. The р е о р е seemed so ugly, their
movements angular and clumsy, \vith п о direct relationship о
у Ь а Ь е у г е а Н у felt and \vanted: nnd а Н at о п е е 1 kne\v that in
spite of tl1e otlt\vard appearance of purpose in а they did. they
137
SPIRIT AND fLESH
were living, without being' aware о С it, in а world о С make­
believe ... Obviously, т у с о п ы с г with Arabs had utterly,
irretrievabIy changed т у а р р г о а с Ь to what 1 considered essen­
tial in и е and it was with something Iike astonishment that 1
remembered that other Europeans had experienced А г а Ы а п life
before т е how was it possibIe, Ь е п that they had not е х р е п
enced this samc shock of discovery? О г - had they? Had р е г
Ь а р в о п е о г another of ш е ш Ь е е п as shaken о his depths as 1
was now ... ?
(It was yeacs а г е г in А г а Ы а that 1received а п answer о this
question: it с а т е С г о т Dr. Van der Meulen, then Dutch Minis­
т е г at Jidda. А т а п ofwide and many-sided culture, Ь е clung о
his Christian faitl1 with а fervour nowadays г а г е а т о п в Wester­
ners and \vas thus, understandabIy, п о а friend of Islam as а
religion. None the less, А е confcssed to т е Ь е loved Arabia
т о г е ш а п а п у other с о ш п г у Ь е had к п о в п not excepting his
own. When bls service in the Hijaz was approaching its end, Ь е
о п е е said о т е '1 believe п о sensitive person с а п е у е г remain
immune о the е п с п а п ц п е п г of А г а Ы а п life, о г р и Н it out о С his
heart after living о п в the Acabs о г а time.·When о п е goes
away, о п е \\'ilI С о г е у е г с а п у within oneself the а ш ю в р п е г е of
this descrt land, and у always look back to it with 10ngii1g ­
е у е п if one's Ь о т е is in richer, т о г е beautiful regions . , .')
1 в т о р р е п о г а few weeks in Vienna and celebrated а г е с о п
ciliation with т у father, В у now Ь е hadgot о у е г bls anger at т у
а о а п ё о ш п е г о С т у university studies and the· и п с е г е т о о ш
т а е г in wllich 1had е е his roof. After а 1was now а corres­
pondent of the Fl'ankfurter Zeilllng - а п а т е Ь а people in С е п
п а Е и р е used to р г о п о п с е а ш о with awe in those days ­
and had thus justified т у boastful claim that 1would с о т е out
о п о р
Fcom Vienna 1proceeded straight to Fcankfurt to present т у
self in pcrson о the newspaper С о г \,,11ich 1 had Ь е е п writing о г
welI о у е г а у е а г 1did this with а great dea! о С self-assuranee, fOT
the letters С г о т Frankfurt r,ad mad.: it evident that т у work was
appreciated; and it \vas \vith а feelil1g о С having definitely
а п е that 1 entered the sombre, old-fashioned edifice о С Ь е
Fral1k/urter Zeilung and sent и р т у card о Ь е editor-in-chief,
the internationally famous Dr. Heincich Simon.
\Vhen I а т е in. he looked з т е for а moment in speechless
138 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
astonishment, atmost forgetting to get и р from his chair; but
soon Ь е regained his composure, rose and shook hands with т е
<Sit down, 8ft down. 1 have Ь е е п e.xpecting у о ц But Ь е с о в
tinued to stare at т е in sitenee until 1 began to feel uncomfort­
able.
<Is there anything wrong, Dr. Simon l'
<No, п о notblng is wrong - о г rather, everything is wrong ...'
And then Ь е laughed and went о п '1 somehow had expected to
meet а т а п of middte age with gold-rimrned spectacles - and
now 1 find а Ь о у ... о Ь 1 beg your pardon; how old а г е you,
anyway1'
1 suddenlyrecalled the jovial Dutch merchant in Cairo who
had asked т е tlJ.e same question the year before; and 1 burst out
laughing:
<1 а т over twenty-three, sir - п е а п у twenty-four.' And then 1
added: <Do you find it too young for the Frankfurter Zeitung ?'
<No.. .' replied Simon slowly, п о т for the Frankfurter Zei­
tllng, but for your articles. 1 somehow took it for granted that
only а much older т а п would ь е able to overcome bls natural
desire for self-assertion and leave his own personality, as you
have Ь е е п doing,entirely in the background ofhis writings. Т
as у о и know, is the secret of mature о ш п а й ы п to write objec­
tively about what you see and hear and think without retating
those experienees directly to у о ц г own, persona/ experiences ...
О п the other hand, now that 1 think of it, only а у е г у young т а п
could Ь а у е written with so much enthusiasm, so т и с Ь - how
shal11say - so much thriJl .. .' Т Ь е sighed: '1 do Ь о р е that
it doesn't wear off and у о и don't Ь е с о т е as smug and jaded as
the rest of them ...'
Т dlscovery of т у е х п е т п е youth seemed to Ь а у е strength­
ened Dr. Simon's conviction tl1at Ь е had found in т е а highly
promising correspondent; and Ь е fully agreed that 1 should re­
tum to the Middle East as soon as possible - the sooner the bet­
ter. Financially, there was п о 10nger а п у obstacle to sucha plan,
for the German inflation had at last Ь е е п overcome and the sta­
bilization ofcurrency had brought almost immediately а wave of
prosperity in its wake. Т Ь е Frankfurfer Zeiful1g was о п е е again
in а posi!ion to finance the joumeys ofits special correspondents.
Before 1 could go out again, however, 1 \vas expccted to producc
the book for which the newspaper had originally contracted т е
139 SPIRIT AND FLESH
and it was decided that during this й т е I should ь е attached о
the editorial о П с е in order to acquire а thorough knowledge о С
the workings of а great п е ч ..spaper.
Despite т у impatience to go abroad again, those months in
Frankfurt were tremendousJy stimulating. Т Frankfurter Zei­
tung was not just а large в е в в р а р е г ; it \\'as almost а research ш
stitute. It empJoyed about forty-fi\'e full-fledged editors, not
counting the т а п у sub-editors and assistants in the ne\vsrooms.
Т editorial work \Vas highJyspecialized. ,,"ith е у е г у а г е а ofthe
world and every major poJitical or ecomonic subject entrusted to
an outstanding expert in his fieJd: and this in р ц г в ц а в с е of а п
o]d tradition that the articles and dispatthes of the Frankfurter
Zeitullg should ь е not merely е р Ь е т е г а reflections of passing
events but, rather, а kind of documentary e\'idenee \vbleh politi­
cians and historians might draw upon. lt з с о т т о п know­
ledge that in the Foreign Officein В е г Ь е editorials and politi­
с а analyses of the Frallkfurter Zeitullg \\'ere filed with the same
reverence that was aecorded the notes "erbales of foreign govern­
ments. п fact, Bismarek is quoted to Ь а е о п е е said of the then
cblef ofthe newspaper's Berlin bureau, О г Stein is the Ambas­
sador of the Frankfurter е Ш to the Court of Berlin.') Т о ь е а
member of such а п organization \vas very gratifying indeed to а
т а п о С т у age; the ш о г е so as т у hesitant views about the
Middle East were т е Е with serious attention Ь у the editors and
often Ь е с а т е the subject of the dai1y editorial conferences; and
Е Ь е б п а triumph с а ш е о п the day Ь е п 1 з asked to write а п
editorial о п а current Middle Eastem probJem.
М У WORK А Т Т Н Е Frankfurrer Zeitung gave а strong ш
petus to т у cQnScious thinking. With greater clarity than е у е г
before, 1 began to relate т у Eastem experiences to the Westem
worJd of wblch 1 was о п е е а а part. Just as some months
earlier 1 had discovered а eonnection bet\\'een the emotional se­
curity ofthe Arabs and the faith they professed, it now Ь е з п to
. dawn upe;} т е that Europe's lack of inner integration and the
ehaotic state ()f its etblcs might ь е а п outcome of its ]oss of с о п
tact with the religious faith that had shaped Westem civilization.
Here, 1 saw, was а society in seareh of а о е spmtual orienta­
tion after it had abandoned О but apparent1y very few West­
140 Т Н В ROAD Т О М В С С А
erners realized what it was а about. The majority seemed to
think, consciously о г subconsciously, т о г е о г Iess aJong these
е з 'Since о ц г reason, о и г scientific experirnents а п ё о и г cal­
culations do not reveaJ anything definite about the origin О С Ь и
man Ш е and its destinies after bodily death, н е ought to с о п с е п
trate а Н о и с energies о п the development о С о и г material and ш
tellectual potential and not allow ourselves to ь е hampered Ь у
transcendental ethics and п ю г а р о з т ш а г е з based о п assump­
tior's which defy scientific proof.' Т while Westem society
did\ not expressly deny God, it simply п о longer hact Г О О П С о г
Hirh in its intel1ectual system.
In е а г й е г years, after 1 had Ь е с о е р р о п with the с е
ligion ofmy ancestors, 1had given some thoughtto Christianity.
10 т у е у е з the Christian concept of God was infinitely superior
to that of the 01d Testament in that it did not restrict God's с о п
с е т to а п у о п е group ofpeople but postulated His Fatherhood
of all mankind. Т was, however, а п element п the Christian
religious view that detracted from the universality of its а р
proach: the distinction it made between the soul and the body,
the world of faith and the world of practical atfairs.
Owing to its early divorce from all tendencies aiming at а п а С
firmation of life and of worldIy endeavours, Christianity, 1 felt,
had 100gceased to provide а т о г а impetus to Western civiliza­
п о п Its adherents had grown accustomed to the idea that it was
п о the business of religion to 'interfere' practicallife; they
were с о т п е ш to regard religious faith as а soothing convention,
г п е а п т to foster п о п ю г е than а vague sense of personal г а о г а ш у
- especially в е х ц а П г а у - in individual т е п and о т е п In
this they were assisted Ь у the age-old attitude о С а С Ь и с с Ь which,
in pursuance ofthe principle ofa division between 'that which is
God's and that which is Caesar's', had left the entire field of
social and economic activities almost П о с е - with the re·
sult that Christian politics and business had developed in а direc­
tion entirely different from а that Christ had envisaged. In not
providing its followers with а concrete guidance in worldly .
atfairs, the religion which the Westem world professed had
in what, to т е т to Ь а у е Ь е е п the true mission of
Christ and, indeed,·the cardinal task of е у е г у religion: to sho\v
т а п not merely how to jee/ but also how to rightly. With а
instinctive feeling of having Ь е е let do\vn Ъ у his reli·
141 SPIRIT AND FLBSH
gioo, Western man had, over tbe centuries, 105t а Ы rea1 faith
inChristianity;with the10ss of ш faith, Ь е had 105t theconvie­
tion tbat the universe was а п expression о о п е Р п в Mind
and thus formed о п е organic whole; and Ь е с а ц в е Ь е bad lost
that convictiorl, Ь е was nowliving inа spiritualandmoralvacuum.
In the West's grp.dual falling away from Christianity 1. saw а
revolt agait1st the Paulinelife-contempt that had 50early,and 50
completely, obscured Ь е teacblngs of Chri5t. How, Ь е п couJd
Western society sti1l claim to ь е а Christian society? And how
couldit Ь о р е without а concrete faith, to overcome its р г е в е ш
moral chaos?
А world in upheava1 and convulsion: that was our Western
world. Blood5hed, destruction, violence о п а п unprecedented
scale; the breakdown of 50 т а п у socia1 conventions, а clasb of
ideologies, an е Ь Щ е all-round fight for new ways of life:
these were the signs е г our time. Out of Ь е smokeand thesham­
bles of а worldwar, innumerable 5maller war5 and а host о г е
volutions and с о п е е о о п out of е с о п о п ц с disasters
that transcended anything unti1 Ь е п recorded: out of а tbese
tremendous happenings emerged the trutb that the present-day
Western concentration о п material, technical progress couJd
never Ь у itselfresolve tl1e existing chaos into something resem­
bling о г ё е г М у instinctive, youthful conviction that т а п does
not Iive Ь у bread а п е crysta11ized into the intellectual convic­
tion tbat the current adoration of"'progress' was п о morethao а
weak, shadowy sub5titute for а п earlier faith inabsolutevalues ­
а pseudo-faith devjsed Ь у р е о р е who had 10st а inner strength
о believe in absolute values and were itOW deluding themselves
with Ь е belicf Ь а somehow, Ь у mere evolutionary impulse,
т а п would outgrow his present difficulties ..• 1did not seehow
а п у of the new economic systems that stemmed from this iIIu­
sory faith could possibIy constitute more than а р а Ш а е for
Western society's misery: Ь е у couJd, at best, cure в о т е of its
symptoms, but never Ь е cause.
Н 1 WORKED ON Ь е editorial 5taft· of thc Fronk!urle,
Ze;tung, 1 paid frequent vi5its о Berlin, where lnost of т у
friends resided; and it was о п о п е of those trips Ь а 1 mct the
woman y,'ho was latcI' Ь е с о т е т у wife.
142 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
Р г о ш the moment 1was introduced ю Elsa amidst the bustle
of the Romanisches Cafe. J was strongly attracted;not.on1y Ь у .
the delicate Ь е а ш у of Ь е с а р р е а г а п с е - her п а г г о м fine-boned
а с е with its в е п о ц в е у е з and the sensitive mouth that
bespoke humour and kindness - but е е е п п ю г е Ь у the inward,
в е п в в а й у intuiti..'e quality of herapproach ю р е о р т е and things.
She was а painter. Н е г work, which 1 later с а т е to kno\v, т а у
not Ь а у е Ь е е п outstanding, but it Ь о г е the same imprint of
serene intensity that expressed itself in а Н her words а п с ges­
tures. Although she was some fifteen years 01der than 1 - that is,
in her late thirties - her smooth а с е and s!ender, flexible body
gave а much younger а р р е а г а п с е She was probabIy the
finest representative of the р ц г е 'Nordic' type 1 Ь а у е ever е п
countered, having а Н its cleamess and sharpness of out1ine \vith
п о п е of the angu1arity and stoIidity that so often goes \vith it.
She descended [rom о п е of those old Holstein fami1ies which
might ь е described as the North О е п п а п equivalent of the
English 'yeornanry'; but the unconventiona! freedorn of her
manner had caused the у е о т а п earthiness to give way to а quite
un-Nordic warmth and flair. She was а widow and had а six­
year-01d П to whom she wa5 greatly devoted.
Т attraction п ш в т Ь а у е Ь е е п mutual from the very о ш з е т
for after that fir5t meeting we saw е а с Ь other very often. Filled
а 1 was with т у recent ц п р г е з э ю п в of the Arab world, 1 п а ш г
а у communicated them to Е а and she, unlike most of т у
other friends, di5played а п extraordinary under5tanding and
sympa:thy for the strong but а з у е inchoate feelings and ideas
wblch the5e impressions had produced in т е 50 т и с Ь 50 that
when 1 wrote а kind of introduction to the book in which J wa5
de5cribing т у Near Eastern trave1s, 1 е as if 1 were addressing
myse1f to her:
Whell а Е и г о р е in а у country о Е и г о р е е has
nel'er seen Ь е о г е he continues 10 Ivithin!lis own, tllOugllper­
haps \videned, environment and с а п easily gl'asp the
difJerence bellveen the lhings tl,al habiI has made /amiliar 10
him and tlle newness that comes his For, whetller \ve а г е
Germal1s о Eng!isllmen, and througlJ France.
ltaly о HUllgary, tl,e spirit о Europe unifies us all. Living as
do H'itbll1 а orblt о associatiol1s, и е а г е а Ы е to IIl1der­
я н в л т AND FLESH 143
stand о п е anotherand ю make о и п е и е и п а е п ю о а through those
associations а з ifthrougll а с о т т о п We с а П t1lis р п е п о ..
т е п о п с о т т и п й у о с и й и п е lts е х й г е п с е is и л о Ь е у о п
advantage; but like a/l adl'antagest!1Ot я е т Г г о т hablt, tllis о п е
is о с с а о а П у а disadl'ontage а з о sometimes Ivefind tliat
we а г е Ivrappedи р in t}lat и п и е п а spitit а з ifin с о н о п Ivool; й и и
И е а г е fu/led Ь у it into а laziness о т е heart; tlmt it llGs made и з
/orget tJ,e tiglltrope-Ivalk о о и г е а т е т о г е с г е а и х е times- that
reaching о ш a/ter intangibIe realities. 1/1 those earlier н т е they
о и р е г а р hal'e Ь е е п called 'inlaJlgible possibilitie:> " п п т е
т е п WIIO went о ш in з е а г с п о е Ii'hetller discol'erers с r ad­
venturersor г а п й и - и е г е allvays seeking о п у tlle н т е к
most springs о tlleir own lives. We /ate-comers а г е а seeking
О Ш е Ь е а г е о Ь е е Ь у thedesire о secure о и г own
/ife Ь е о г е it unjolds i/se/f And И е dimly suspect tlle sin tl101 lies
/Iidden in such е п а е а у о и п М а п у Europeans begin io/eel il ю а а у
t/le lerrible danger о avoiding dangers.
Т п tlzis book 1 а т describing а ю и т е у into а region 1i,llOse 'dif­
. е г е п с е т т Е и г о р е is toogreot ю Ь е easily bridged: а п а dif- .
е п т с е is, in о way, akin о danger.We а г е /eal'ing lhe security о
о г ю о uniform е п у и о п т е т in lvhich there is litt/e tllat is и п
а а г and ilothing т а is surprising, and entering into the и е
mendous stra"genesses о а п о т е г wor/d.
И и з о deceive о и т е й е i" н и п other wor/d И е т а у р е т а р з
с о т р п е п е п а tltis о г и к и о lhe т а п у с о ю и п ш й п р г е з з ю п tJlal
с о т е о и г и а у Ь ш lve с а п п е у е п - as И е might in tlle case о а
Weslern с о и п с у - с о п з с ю и я у grasp е и л а picture. Л is т о г е
Ih(lll з р а с е that з е р а п п е з и з Г т т lhe people o[tllat 'other' Ivor/d.
Н о и У 10 communicate IVitll them? 11 is not enough tospeak tlleir
language; in order о comprehend lheir е е o/life о е would have
О cnter into lheir ellvironmenl у and begin о li.'e Ivithin lheir
associqtions. [<; this possible?
And it р е desirable? 11 mighl Ь е a[ter а а bad bargain
10 exchange о и г l?ld, а т а г lzablts о thought [or·slrange, и л
т ones. .
В а г е г е а П у excluded г о т ю Iv()r/d? 1 dOllOI tl1ink so.
О и г [eeling о exclusion rests mainly о п а е г г о г peculiar 10 о г
Weslern и а у о thitik;ng:'II'e а г е И о о zmdereslimale 111e с г е а
[ive value О е и л а т т а г and а г е allvays lempled о do
10it, 10 appropriate il, о take il over, о п о г mvn terms, inl00ur
144 Т Н Е а О А О Т О М Е С С А
own ;ntellectual ellv;ronment. It а е е т а to т е Irowever, that 01U
а в е о disqu;et п о longer permits Ь CQl1alier attempts; т о
us are beginning to realize that cuJtural distance с а п andshould.
ь е overcome Ь у т е а other·than intellectual а р е it m;ght per­
hapshe overcome Ь у surrendering·our з е е з to it.
В е с а и а е з ш world is 30 entirely di.fferent /rom all
that у о и have known at home; Ь е с а е it о е з з о much that is
з у strange in в е and sound. it brushes у о и sometimes,
ifу о и permityourse/fto Ь е attentive.,vith а momentary е е т е т
brance о things long and о в /orgotten: those intangibIe
realities о )'our own life. A-nd when this breath о remembrance
rlf!!.chts youfrom beyohdtheabyssthalseparates о world/rom
that other. that un/amilior о п е у о и tlSk yourselj,vhether it is ,,01
perhaps herein - andonlyherein - that the т е о all ,vander­
;ng Iles: 10 Ь е с о е aware о the п о tl,e world around
у о и and thereby to reawaken J'our о personal. /orgotlen
reality •••
.
. And Ь е с а ш с Elsa intuitively understood what 1 tried 50 in­
adequately, Iike о п е who gropes in darkness. to convey in these
stammering words, 1 5trongly felt that she. and ш е a1one. could
understand what 1 з after and could Ь е р т е in т у search ...
-2­
А н о т н в в DAY о wandering isover. Tbere is в й е п с е with­
mш е and the night is silent around т е Т Ь е wind glides softly
over the dunes and ripples the sand on their slopes. In the в а г
row circle of the firelight 1 с а п see zayd's figure busy his
pots and р п our sadd1ebags Iying п е а с Ь у where we tossed
them when we made с а т р for the- night.and о ш saddles with
Ь е и blgh wooden pommels. А ·little beyond. a1ready melting
into the darkness. the crouchin8 bodies о Ь е two ш о ш а П е з
Ш Ю after the О П т а с с Ь their necks stretched о п Ь е sand; and
still farther beyond. О у faintly visible under Ь е starUght. but
as п з to you as your own heartbeat. the empty desert.
т are у more beautifullandscapes in the world. but
п о п е 1 think, that с а п shaj)e man's spirit in so sovereign а way.
In its hardness and 5parseness, the. desert strips our desire to
comprehend Ш е о aIl subterfuges, of all·the manifold ц
with wblch а т о с е bountiful nature п у entrap ш а п 's m.ind and
145
Р П AND в ь в я н
cause him to project his о imageries into the world around
him. Т desert is bare and cIean and knows п о compromise. It
sweeps out of the Ь е а п of man aU Ь е 10veIy fantasies that couId
ь е used as а masquerade for wisJtful thinking. and thus makes
him г е е to surrender himseIfto а п Absolute that has п о image:
fanhest of all that is С а г and yet tl1e ncarest ofа that is и е а г
Ever since т а п began о think, thc desert has Ь е е п the cradle
of al1 his beliefs in О п е God. Т г ц е с у е п in softer environments
and т о г е favourablc climes Ь а у е т е п had, time а п again, а п
inkling of His existence and oneness, а в о г instance, in the а п
cient Greek concept of Moiro, the indefinabIe Р о ч е г behind and
а Ь о у е the 01ympian gods: but such concepts were never т о г е
than the outcome of а vague feeling, а <livining rather than с е г
tain knowledge - until the knowledge broke fonh with dazzling
с е п а ц п у to т е л о С the desert and С г о т о ш of the desert. 11 was
from а buming tilOrnbush m tbe descrt of Midian that the voice
of God rang out to Moses; it \vas in Ь е wilderness of Ь е Judean
desert that Jesus received. the message о Г the К of God;
and it \vas m Ь е с а к е of Н in Ь е descrt hills ncar М е с с а that
Ь е first ca1l с а т е о Muhammad of Л Ы а
It с а ш е to him inthat narrow, dry gorge between rocky Ш
that naked у а П е у bumt Ь у the desert sun - а п all-embracing Yes
о Ш е both of the spirit and of the fiesb: tbe с а Ь а was des­
tined to give о ш and purpose to а formless nation of tribes and,
through it, 10 spread wiLhin а few decades. like а В а т е and а
promise, westward as п as the Atlantic О с е а п and eastward to
theGreat WaII of China: destined to remain а great spiritual
power to this day, ш о г е з п thirteen centuries later, outliving
а П poIitical decay, outlasting even the great civilization wbich
it brougbt into being: tbe CaII that е to tbe Prophet of
Л Ь з ...
1 SLEEP AND J AWAKE. Ithinkofthedaystbathavepassed
and yet are п о dead; and sleep а Ш п and dream; and
agam and sit up, dream and remembrance flo\ving gent1y 10­
gctber in tbe half-lighl of т у awakening.
Т nigbt is near 10 moming. Т б е has died down entirely.
Rolled in his blanket sleeps Zayd: our dromedaries Н е motion­
kss, Iike lwo mounds of з Т stars are still visibIe, and you
146 Т В ROAD Т О М Е С С А
migbt think there is Ш time to sleep: but lQw о п the eastern sky
there appears,palely Ь о т out о С the а faint streak of
above another, darker strea.k.. ь t}es,over the horizon:
twm hera1ds о С dawn, time о С the.moI: п Й prayer.
Obliquely over т е 1see the morning star, which the Arabs с а П
Az-Zuhra, Т п е Shining О п е If у о и ask them about it, they will
. ten у о и that Т Shining О п е was о п с е woman ...
Т were oncetwo angels, Н а г ш and Marut, who forgot to
ь е Ь и т Ы е as it behoves angels to 00, and boasted о С their п
vincibIe purity: 'We а г е made oflight; we а г е а о о е е а sin and
desire, unlike the weak sons о С т а п sons о С а mother's dark
womb.' But they forgot that their purity had not с о т е from their
о strength, for they were pure Qnly because Ь е у knew п о de­
sire and had never Ь е е п с а о о и р о п to resist it. Their arrogance
displeased the Lord, and Н е said to them: '00 do\vn to earth
and stand your test there.' Т Ь е proud angels went down to earth
and wandered, clothed in Ь и т а п bodies, among the sons о С
т а п And о п the very first night they с а т е и р о п а woman whose
beauty was so great that people called her Т Shining О п е
Wben the two angels looked at her with the Ь и т а п eyes and feel­
ings they now had, they Ь е с а т е confused and, just as if Ь е у had
Ь е е п з о о С т а п the desire to possess her arose in them. Е а с Ь
ofthem said т о her: В е willing unto т е but Т Ь е Shining О п е
answered: Т i5 а т а п to whom 1 pelong; if у о и v'ant т е
у о и must free т е о С Ы т And they 51ew the т а п а п ё with the
unjustly spilt blood stiJl о п their hands, they satisfied their burn­
ing lust with the woman. But as з о о п а the desire left them, the
two erstwhile angels Ь е с а т е aware that о п their first night о п
earth they had twofold - in murder and fornication - and
that there had Ь е е п п о е in their pride ... And the Lord
said: 'Choose between punishment in this world and punishment
in the И е е а е п their bitter remorse, the fallen angels chose
р и Ь т е п in tbls world: and the Lord ordained that they Ь е
5uspended о п с Ь between heaven and earth and remain thus
suspendedunti1 the Day о С Judgment as а warning to angels and
т е п that а Н virtue destroY5 itself if it loses humility. But as п о
Ь и т а п е у е с а п see ange15, Ood changed Т Shining О п е into а
star in the heavens 50 that people might al\vaY5 з е е her and, re­
membering her story remember the fate о С Harut and Marut.
Т outline of this Jegend is т и с Ь older than Islam; it seems
SPIRIT AND Б Н ' 147
to have originated in о п е of Ш е т а п у myihs which Ш е ancient
Semites around their goddess Ishtar. the Grecian Aphro­
dite of later days. both of whom werc identified with the planet
we now с а Н Venus. But in the form in which 1heard it, Ш е story
of Harut and Marut is а typical creation of the Muslim mind. а п
illustration ofthe idea that abstract purity, о г freedom from sin,
с а п Ь а у е п о moral meaning so 10ng as it is Ь а в е ё о п а mere
absence of urges and desires: for is not the recurrent necessity
of choosing between right and wrong the premise of а и moral­
ity?
Poor Harut and Marut did not know this. Bccause as angels
Ь е у had never Ь е е п exposed о temptation, they had considered
themselves pure and moraHy far а Ь о у е т а п - not realizing that
Ь е denial of the 'legitimacy' of bodily urges \vould indirectly
imply а denial of а Н mora! value in Ь и т а п endeavours: for it is
onIy the р т е в е п с е of urges, temptations and conflicts - the р о в
sibility of cllOice - which makes т а п and Ы т а о п е into а
moral being: а being endowed \vith а soul.
It is о п the basis of this conception that Islam, а о п е а т о п в
а higher reIigions. regards the soul of т а п as о п е aspect of his
'personality' and not as а о independent р Ь е п о т е п о п its own
right. Consequently, о the Muslim, man's spiritual growth is
inextricably bound up \vith а Н the other aspects of his nature.
Physical urges а г е an integral part of this nature: not the result
of а п 'original sin' - а concept foreign to the ethics of Islam­
but positive, God-given forces. to ь е а с с е р т е с aod sensibly ш
as such: Ь е п е е the problem for т а п is not how to suppress the
demands of his body but, rather, how to co-ordinate them with
the demands of his spirit in such а \vay that life might Ь е с о т с
fuH and righteous.
Т Ь е root ofthis a1most monistic life-assertion is to ь е found in
the Islamic view that man's original nature is essentiaHy good.
Contrary. to the Christian idea that т а п is Ь о т sinful. or the
teaehing of Hinduism that Ь е is originaHy 10w and impure and
must painfully stagger through а о п в chain of incarnations to­
ward the ultimate goal ofperfection. the Koran says: Verily, We
crealeт а п in а pelfecl slale - а state of purity that т а у ь е des­
troyed о п у Ь у subsequent \vrong behaviour - ond Ihereupon We
reduce Ы 10 Ihe /oJ\'esl 0/101\', Jvit/l the exceplion о tJ,ose J\'JIO
I,OJ'e а Ш in God and do good Jvorks.
148 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
-3­
Т Н Е PALM ORCHARDS о Г Н а Н lie before us.
We halt Ь у the side о Г а п oId, ruined watchto\ver to р г е р а г е
ourselves С о г о и г entry into the town; for old А г а Ы а п с ц в ю п т
always concemed with personal а с в ш е й с а demands о С the
traveller that Ь е enter а town in his best а ш г е fresh and clean as
if Ь е had just mounted his dromedary. And 50 we utilize о и г г с
main:ng water for \vashing о и г hands and faces, с Н р о и г negIec­
tOO bcards and р и Н о и г \Vrntest tunics С г о т the 5addlcbags. We
brush the \veeks of desert dust from о и г а б а с а з and from the
с о о г tas5el5 of о ш saddIebags, and dress о и г camels in
their best finery; and now е а г е г е з у to prcsent oUT5elves in
Н а Н
Thi5 tO\\'Il i5С а г т о г е А г а Ы а п than, say, Baghdad о г Medina;
it does not contain а п у elements С г о т п о п А г а Ь countries and
peopIes; it is р ц г е and unadulterated like а bowl о С freshly
dra\\'o milk. No foreign dress is visible in the bazaar, Jnly loose
А г а Ы а п а б а у а в ku.fiyyas and igo/s. Т Ь с strccts а г е т и с Ь cleaner
than tho$e in а п у other city о С the Middle East - cleaner, cvcn,
than а п у other town in Najd, \vhich is. noted for its un-Eastcrn
cIeanIiness(probably because Ь е people о С this Iand, having al­
ways Ь е е п г е е have retained а grcater г п е а в ш е of self.respcct
than elsewhere in the East). Т Ь е houscs, built о С horizontallay­
ers of packed п ш с а г е in good repair - \"'ith the exception of Ь е
demolished city ....·aHs which Ь е а г \vitness о Ь е la5t у а г Ь с в у е е п
Ibn Saud and Ь е House о С Ibn Rashid and of Ibn Saud's с о п
quest of the to\vn in 1921,
The hammers of Ь е coppersmiths pound into shape а Н т а п
п е г of vessels, the saws of Ь е carpenters bite shriekingly..into
wood, shoernakers а р the soles о С sandals. Camels Ioaded \vith
С и е and skins С и Н of butter make their \vay through the crO'\'ds;
other cameIs. brought in Ь у beduins С о г sale, fill Ь е air \"ith
their Ь с П о п Gaudy 5addlebags from AI-Hasa а г е being fin­
gered Ь у experienced hands. Т Ь е auctioneers. а п ever-recurring
fixture in а п у А г а Ы а п tO\Vn. rnove и р arid do\vn the Ь а з г and.
with loud cries, offer their goods С о г sale. Н е г е and there у о и с а п
sec hunting falcons jumping и р and down о п their wooden
perches, tethered Ь у Ы п leather thongs. Honey-coloured sa/uqi
hounds their graceful limbs lazily in the sun. Т Ы п Ь е д
uins in \''Orn aba.\·os. well-dressed servants and bodyguards о С
Т AND FLESH 1-19
the а т й - almost а Н of them С г о т Ь е southern province:>­
mingle with traders Г г о т п Bagl1dad, Basra and Kuwayt and Ь е
natives о С Hail. These natives - that is, the щ е п С о г of Ь е у о
men у о и see hardly т о г е than the bIack а э а у а which conceals
head and Ь о д у - belong 10 о п е of Ь е most handsome races
in the world. А Н the grace о С а р р е а г а п с е and ш о е е ш е п г о
wblch the А г а Ь nation has ever а п а ш е ё seems to Ь е embodied
in this tribe о С Shanunar, of which the prc-Islamic poets sang:
'In the highlands live the т е п of steel and the proud, chaste
women.'
Wben we arrive Ь е С о г е the а т и я castle, у Ь е г е we intend о
spendthe next two days, we find о ц г host holding court in Ь е
о р е п outside the castle gates. Amir Ibn М usaad bclongs to Ь е
Jiluwi branch of the House of Ibn SaueJ and is а brother-in-law
of the К О п е of the most powerful of Ь е К governol"s,
Ь е is called А ш о С the North' because Ь е holds s\vay not only
о у е г the Jabal Shammar р т о м п с е but о у е г Ь е \vholeof northern
Najd и р to Ь е confines of Syria and Iraq - an area almost а з
large <tS France. .
Т Ь е а т й (who is а п old. friend о С mil}-e). and а few beduin
SllOykhs С г о т Ь е в т е р р е в а г е sitting о п the 10ng, narrow brick
Ь е п с п bui1t along the castle wall. In а long row at their feet
crouch Ibn ,ajojil, the men-at-arms with rifles а п ё
silver-sheathed scimitars who neverleave Ы т throughout the
day, not 50 т и с Ь for protection as for prestige; next to ш е т п
Ь е falconers \vith their birds perched о п gloved fists, lo\ver в е г
vants, beduins, а throng о С retainers, great and sma11, down
о с Ь е 5tabIe Ь О У - а feeling equa1 о one another as щ е п in
spite of the differences in their stations. And how could it Ь е
otherwi5e in this land where you never address а п у о п е as т у
lord,' except God in prayer? Facing Ь е т in а large semicircle
squat the т а п у beduins and townspeople wpo are bringing
their complaints and quarrels before Ь е о т for settlement.
We make о ш camels Н е down outside Ь е circle, hand them
over to the з е of а <:ouple of retainers who have rushed over С о
us and proceed toward om;r. Н е rises; and а who have been
sitting Ь у his side о п the beJ;1Ch and о п the ground before Ы т
rise with him. Н е stretches his hand toward us:
А Ы а \\'o-soblan - and т а у God grant у о и life!'
1kiss the о т о п Ь е tip of his nose а п д ltis and Ь е
150 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
kisses т е о п both cheeks and р и з т е to the Ь е п с Ь Ь у his side.
Zayd finds а place among the rajaji/.
Ibn Musaad introduces т е to his other guests; some of the
faces are new to т е and some а г е familiar from previous years.
Among these is Ghadhban ibn Rimal, supreme s/lOyk/r of the
Sinjara Shammar - that delightful old warrior whom 1 always
с а П и п с е Nobody \vould guess from his almost tattered а р
р е а г а п с е that Ь е is о п е of the mightiest chieftains of the North,
and has so loaded his YOUi1g wife with gold and je\vels that, а с
cording to popular bclief, two slave ш а е п Ь а у е to support her
when she wants to Icave her Ь и Б е tent у Ы с Ь rests о п sixteen
poles. Н eyes twinkle а з Ь е embraces т е and whispers into т у
ear:
'No new wife yet 7' - to which 1 с а п only reply with а srnile
and а shrug.
Amir Ibn Musaad must Ь а е overheard this quip, о т Ь е
laughs aloud and says:
'It is coffee and п о т wives that а tired traveller needs' - а п д
calls о ш 'QaJIII'a!'
а и а repeats the servant nearest the omir; and the о п е at
the farthest end of the row takes и р the с а Н •Qahlva!' - and so
о п unti1 the ceremonious command rcaches the castle gate а п д
re-echoes from within. In п о time а servant appears bearing the
traditional brass coffeepot in his left hand and several т а П
cups in his right hand, pours out the first for the amir, the second
for т е and then serves the other gucsts in the order of their rank.
Т Ь е с и р is refilled о п е е or twice, and when а guest indicates
Ь е has had enough, it is filled again and passed о п to the next
т а п
Т а т й is apparently curious to know the results of т у jour­
п е у to the frontier of Iraq, but Ь е betrays his interest only in
brief questions asto wbat befell т е о п the way, rcserving а П е г
enquiry until we are alone. Т Ь е п Ь е resumes the judicial hearing
wblch т У а п у а has interrupted.
Such а п informal court of justice would Ь е inconceivable in
the West. Т Ь е amir, as ruler and judge, is of course assured of а Н
respect - but there is п о trace of SUbSCH in п е respect
which the beduins sho\v him. Е а с Ь о С the р а п Т and defen­
dants proudly rests in the eonsciousness of 111$ с е е humanity;
their gestures are not hesitant, their Ioud and as­
SPIR.IT AND PLESR 151
sertive and everyone speaks to the amir as to а п elder brother.
calling Ы т - as is beduin custom with the К himself - Ь у
his first п а ш е and not Ь у his title. There is п о п а с е of haughti­
ness in lbn Musaad's bearing. н handsome face with i·ts short,
black beard, his rniddle-sized, somewhat stocky figure speak of
that unstudied self-restraint and з у dignity which in Л а Ы а 50
often goes hand-in-hand with great power. Н е is grave and curt.
With authoritative \vords Ь е immediately decides the 5impler
cases and refers the т о г е complicated о п е з which require
learned jurisprudence, to the qadi of the district.
. It is not easy to ь е the supreme authority in а great. beduin
region. А п intimate knowledge of the various tribes, family г е
lationsblps, leading personalities, tribal grazing areas, past his­
tory and present idiosyncrasies is needed to hit upon tOO correct
solution п the excited complexity о С а beduin plaint. Taet of
heart is as important here as sharpness о С intellect, and both
must work together with needle-point р г е с ш о п in order to avoid
а rnistake: for п the same way as beduins never forget а favour
done to ш е ш they never forget а judicial decision whieh they
consider unjust. О п the other hand, а just deci5ion i5 а ц п о в г al­
waY5 accepted with good grace even Ь у those against whom it
has gone. lbn М ц в а а ё ш е а в ц г е в up to these requirements р г о
Ь а Ы у better than а п у pther о Ь п Saud's а т т Ь е is 50 rounded,
50 quiet and з о without inner contradictions that his instinct а
most always shows him Ь е right з у whenever his г е а в о п
reaches а dead е п ё Н е (5 а swimmer in Hfe; Ь е lets himself ь е
Ь о г п е Ь у Ь е waters and masters them Ь у adapting bimself to
them.
Two ragged beduins are now presenting their quarrel before
himwith excited words and gestures. Beduins are, as а м е dif­
ficult to deal with; there is always something unpredictabIe п
Ь е а sensitive excitability which kno\vs п о comp'romise - а
ways heavenand Ь е П close to е а с Ь other. But now 1с а п see how
Ь п Musaad parts their seetblng passions and smoothes them
\'/ith his quiet words. О п е might think Ь е would order the о п е to
Ь е silent while the other pleads о г з Ь е claim5to Ь е hisright:
but п о - Ь е lets tbem talk both at tlle same time, outshout е а с Ь
other, з п only occasionally steps п \vith а little word Ь е г е and а
question tllcre - о Ь с immediately submerged in their passion­
Н е з г р П h,c ф у е з in. and retreats. only 10cut in
152 Т Н Е "OAD Т О М Е С С А
again a'little later witb а п appropria.te remark. It is а п entranc­
spectacle, thi5 adaptation о С the judge's о mind о а г е а т
ity so conflictingly intcrpreted Ь у two angry ш not 50 т и с Ь а
scarch for truth io а juridical sense as Ь е slow unveiling of а hid­
den, objective е з у Т п е amir а р р г о а с п е з this goal Ь у fits and
starts, dra\\'s out Ь е truth, as if Ь у athin string. slowly and
ratiently, almost imperceptibly о both plaintiff and defendant ­
until Ь е у suddenly stop, look at е а с п other in puz:zlement, and
realize: judgment has Ь е е о delivered - а judgment so obviously
just ш а г it rcquires п о ш е г explanation .. , Whereupon о п е
of the two stands и р hesitantly, straightens his а б а у а and tugs
his ers1while о р р о п е ш Ь у thc sleeve in а л almost friendly т а п
п е г С о т е - and botl1 retreat, still somewhat bcwildcred and
а the з а т п е time relieved, mumbling the blessing of р е а с е over
the amir.
П т е scene is wonderful, а real piece of а п а prototype, it
seems 10т е oCthat fruitCul colJaboration bctweenjurisprudence
а в с justice у Ы с Ь io Westem с о ш and р а г й а ш е п в is Н in its
infancy - Ь и stands here in aII i18 perfection in the dusty market
square before tbecastle of an А т Ь amir . . .
Ibn Musaad, reclining indolent1y а the mud wall, takes
up Ь е next е ш е His face, strong, furrowed,look:ing out ofdeep­
set е у е в Ы с Ь \varm and pierce, is the face of а real leader о С
т е п •. а masterly reprcseotative ofthe greatest quality ofhis т с с
с о п и п о п sense of Ь е Ь з
Some of Ь е others present obviously feel ,!-siriill.ar admiratiol1.
А т а п sitting о п the ground before т е - ni iS а beduin о С Ь е
tribe of Harb and о п е of the т men-at-arms - а л е his
neck в р toward т е with а smile о п his face: .
'Is Ь е п о like that sultan о С whom М о а Ы says,
1 met Ы 1i--hen Ilis gleaming к }\'QS sheotlled,
1 Ы it streamed1vit/r Ы О
Alld /ound him Ь е п о о П mankind:
В и best о a/I in Ы ""OS still his п о Ы е mind . . . !
н does not strike т е as incongruous о Ь з а п unlettered bed­
uin '1uote verses of а great Л а Ы п р о е \vbo lived in the tenth
century - certainly not asincOngruous as it would Ь а у е Ь е е п to
hear а tJavarian peasant quote Goetlle or а л English stevedore
в ы в г т AND FLESH 153
William Blake or Shelley. Р о г despite Ь е more general spread
of education in the West, the high1ights of Westem culture are
not г е а Н у shared Ь у the average European о г American - while.
о п the other hand, у е г у wide segments of uneducated and some­
times е у е п ilIitcrate Muslims do share consciously, daily. in the
cultural achievements oftheir past. Just as this beduinhere has
Ь с е п а Ы е to с а to mind а п а р р г о р п а г е verse from Mutannabi
о iIlustrate а situation ofwhich Ь е was а witness, т а п у а ragged
Persian without schoo1ing - а \vater carrier, а р о п е г in а bazaar,
а soldier in а п olltlying frol1tier post - carries in his т е т о г у in­
п и ю е г а Ы е verses of Hafiz о г Jami о г Firdawsi and Ь е т
""ith evident enjoyment into his г conversation. А
though Ь е у Ь а у е 10st that creativeness wblch made their
cultural hcritage so f;reat. these Muslim people Ь а у е е у е п now а
direct, living с о т п а с е with its summits.
J Т REMEMBER Т Н Е DAY whenImade this discovery in
the bazaar of Damascus. 1 was holding in т у hands а vessel, а
large bo\\'1 of baked clay. It had а solemn shape: big
and round, like а somewhat flattencd sphere of almost musical
р г о р о г п о п в out of tlle г о п п of its wal1, which had in it the
е п е г п е of а О П а П cheek. two handles bcnt outward in
pcrfect curves Ь а wou1d Ь а у е done Ь о п о и г о а Greek а т р Ь о г а
Т Ь е у 11ad Ь е е п kneaded Ь у hand; 1 could still discern Ь е finger­
prints of а Ь и т Ы е potter in the clay. Around Ь е vessel's inward­
turned rim Ь е had etched with swift, з ц г е strokes of his stylus а
deJicatc arabesque like the hint of а rose garden in Ы о о т Н е
had Ь е е п ю г п quickly, а и п о в neg1igently when Ь е created
this splcl1did simpHcity which bought to mind а Н the glories of
SaJjuk aJ\d Persian pottery о п е 50 admires in Ь е museums о Г
Europe: for Ь е had not intended to create а \vork о Г art. А Н that
Ь е \\'<15 making was а cooking-pot - nothing but а cooking-pot,
such as aJellah о г beduin с а п Ь и у а п у day in а п у bazaar о г а
Г е с о р р е г coins , , ,
1 knc\\' Ь е Greeks had created similar о г е у е п greater perfec­
tion, probably in cooking-pots а well: for they, too - water car­
rier and market porter, soldier а п а potter - had truly shared in а
culture Ь а did not rest merely о п the creative excitement of а
Г е у se1cct /ndividuals, о п а fe\v peaks which о п у т е п of genius .
154 Т Н Е R.OAD Т О М Е С С А
could reaqh, Ь ш was с о т т о п to а Н Their pride in things beau­
tiful, the things wmch were part of that culture, was р а п of their
day-by-day doings as well: а contif1Uous partaking in а joint,
living possession.
As 1 held that vessel in т у з knew: blessed а г е people
who cook in such pots their daily meals; bJessedа г е they whosf'
claim to а cultural heritage is п ю г е than а п empty boast ...
-4­
'WILT THOU NOT grant т е the pleasure of dining with т е
now, О Muhammad Т Amir Ibn Musaad's voice breaks through
т у reverie. 1 look up - and Damascus recedes into the past,
where it belongs, and 1а т sitting о п с е again о п the Ь е п с Ь Ь у the
side ofthe 'Amir ofthe North'. Thejudicial session is apparently
over; о п е Ь у о п е the litigants depart. Ibn Musaad rises, and his
guests and ш е п а т а п п в rise with Ы т Т Ь е throng of the rojajil
parts to make way for us. As we pass under the gateway they
close their ranks and follow us into the castle yard.
А little а т е г the omir, Ghadhban ibn Rimal and myself sit
down together а а т е а consisting of а huge platter of rice with
а whole roasted sheep о п it. Besides us there are only two of the
а т и s attendants and а pair of golden so/uqi hounds in the room.
Old Ghadhban lays his hand о п т у shoulder and says: 'Thou
hast not yet answered т у qUl;stion - п о new wife yet Т
1 laugh at his persistence: '1 Ь а у е а wife at Medina, as thou
knowest. Why should 1 take another?'
'Why? М а у God protect т е О п е wife - and thou Ш а
young т а п Why, when 1 was thy age .. .'
'1 а т told,' interjects Amir Ibn Musaad, 'that thou dost not
do so badly even now, О Shaykh Ghadhban.'
'1 а т а п old wreck, О Amir, т а у God lengthen thy but
sometimes 1 need а young body to warm т у old Ь nes ....
В и tell т е turning again to т е 'what а Ь о и that . utayri
girl thou didst marry two years ago? What did5t thou о with
her?'
'Why - п о л and that's just the р о л 1 reply.
'Nothing ... l' repeats Ь е old т а п his eyes wide о р е п 'Was
she so ugly?'
'No, о п thc contrary, а У С Г n'::H1tiful .. .'
'\\'h:H is it :l1l abOl!t?' as\.:c; Jbn \1usaad. '\Vhat з у girl
Т AND FLESH
}55
а г е у о и two talkil1g about? Enlighten ш е О М а ш т а
And so 1 р г о с е е ё о enlighten Ы т а Ь О Ь а marriage that
led to nothing.
1 \vas then living а Medina, wife}ess and 10nely. А beduin
С г о т the tribe of Mutayr, Fahad \\'as his п а т п е used о р е п
hours every day in т у а ш о entertaining ю с \vith fantastic щ е
of his exploits under а п е п с е during the Great У а г Oneday
Ь е said to т е 'It is п о good for а т а п to 1i\'c а о п е as thou 40st,
for Ь у blood will с in thy veins: thou sl1Ou1dst ш а г г у And
when 1 joking1y asked him 10 produce а р г о в р е с п м е bride, Ь е
replied: Т easy. Т daughter о С т у brother-in-la\v, Mu­
triq, is п о у of marriageable а Б е and 1, as Ь с г mother's Ь г о ш е г
с а п tell thee that she is excecdingly beautiful.' Still in а joking
mood, 1 asked Ы to find out whether Ь е father would Ь е
willing. And 10, next day М utriq himse1fс а ш е to т е visibly е ш
barrassed. А й е г а fe\v cups of cotfee and some hemming and
hawing, Ь е finally told т е Ihat Fahad had spoken to Ы т qf П у
al1eged desire to т а г г у his daughter. '1 would Ь е Ь о п о ц г е ё to
Ь а у е thee for т у son-in-law, but Ruqayya is still а cblld - she is
only eleven years old ...'
Fabad was furious when Ь е п е а г с of Mutriq's visil. Т ras­
с а Т lying rascal! Т Ь е girl is fifteen years old. Н е does not
like the idea of marrying Ь е г 10 а п о п А г а е Ь ш о п the other
hand, Ь е knows how close thou art to Ibn Saud and does not
want to otfend Ь е е Ь у а п outright refusal; and so he pretends
Ihat sbe is Ш а chi1d. But 1 с а п tel1 thee: е г breasts а г е like
this' - and Ь е described with his hands а bosom of al1uring р г о
р о г п о п а - 'just like pomegranates ready to Ь е plucked.'
01d Ghadhban's eyes shimmer at this description: 'Fifteen
years old, beautifuJ, and а virgin ... and thcl1, Ь е says, nothing!
What т о г е cou1dst thou want Ь а п that?'
'Wel1, wait until 1 tell the rest of the story ... r must admit
tnat 1was becQming т о г е and т о г е interested, and perhaps а
а little Ы spurred Ь у Mutriq's г е П с е 1pre5ented \vith
ten golden sovereigns and Ь е did his best о persuade Ь е girI's
parcnls 10 give Ь е г to т е in marriage; а simil:lr gift \\'ent о Ь е г
mother, Fahad's sister. What exact1y happened in thcir house 1
do 1101 know; а r kno\v is that Ь е two ш а е у р г е у э
и р о п М lLtriq to consent to tlle П а е ...
'Ibls f-ahad,' says Ibn 'SCt'I11:; О 11<lVC Ь е е п а sly fel­
156 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
low. Н е and his sister у е г е obviously expecting Ш greatel'
bounty from thee. And what happened then?'
1 go о п telIing thcm 110W thc marriage was duly solemnized а
few days later in the absence о Г th! bride who, according о с ц в
о т \vas represented Ь у Ь е г father as her legal guardian and
bearer о Г Iler consent - the lattcr being testified to Ь у two wit­
nesses. А sumptuous \vedding feast followed, with the usual gifts
to the bride (\vhom 1 had never yet в е е п her parents, and
several other close relatives - among у Ь о т naturally, Fahad
figured most prominently. The same evening т у bride \Vas
brought to т у house Ь у her mother а п some other yeiled Г е
males, while Г т о т the roofs о Г the neighbouring houses women
sang \\'edding song5 to the accompaniment о Г hand drums.
А the appointed hour 1 entered the room in which т у bride
and her mother were a\vaiting т е 1 was unable to distinguish
the о п е from the other, for both were Ь е а у П у с о у е г е ё in black:
but when 1 uttered the words demanded Ь у custom, Т Ь о и ш а у
est nov,' retire,' о п е of the t\yO veiled ladies rose and silently left
the г о о ш and thus 1 kne\v that the о п е who had remained wa5
т у wife.
'And then, т у П \vl1at happened then1' prompts Ibn Rimal
as 1pause at this stage о С т у п а г г а ц у е and the amirlooks at т е
quizzically.
Т Ь е п .. ". There she sat, the poor girl, obviously most т е г п
fied at having thus Ь е е п delivered to а п unk.nown т а п And
when 1asked her, as gcntly as 1knew how, to unveil her С а с е she
onJy drew ber а Ь а у а tighter about herself.'
'They always do that!' exclaims Ibn Rimal. 'They а г е al\vays
terrified at the beginni,ng о С the bridal night; and, п ю г с о у е г it is
becoming С о г а young girl to Ь е modest. But after\vard they а г е
usual1y glad - \vasn't thine?'
'Well, not quite. 1 bad to remove her face-veil mysclf, and
when 1 had done so 1 beheld а girl о С great beauty with а п oval,
wheat-coloured Г а с е у е г у large eyes and long tresse5 which hung
down to the cusblons о п \\'hich she '.\'35 sitting; but it was indeed
the С а с е of а cblld - she could not have Ь е е п more than eleven
years old. just as her fathcr had claimcd ... Fahad's and his sis­
ter's greed had made tbem represent г е т to т е as being о С т а г
riageablc age, while poor М utriq had Ь с е п innocent о С а п у lie.'
'50 what?' asks Ibn Rimal, obviously not understanding \vbat
157 Р Т А ND н в в н
1 а т driving at. 'What is wrong with eleven у е а г в А girl grows
ц р 41oesn't she? And she grows и р т о г е quickly in а husband's
bed .. .'
But Amir lbn Musaad says, 'No, Shaykh ш Ь а п Ь е is not
а Najdi like t11ec. Н е Ь а з т о г е brains in his head.' And, grinning
O1t т е Ь е continues: 'Don't listen to Ghadhban, О Muhammad,
Н е is а Najdi, and г п о в т of и з з l1ave our brains 110t Ь е г е ­
indicating his l1ead - Ь ш п е т е - and Ь е points to quite another
portion of his own а п а ю г п у
We а Н laugl1, and щ Ь а п п ш п е г в into his beard: Т Ь е п 1
certainly Ь С т о г е brains than tl10u hast, О Amir.'
At their urging, 1go о п \vith tlle story and tcll them that, wh01t­
ever old Ghadllban's views о п the т п а п е г Ь е extremc youth of
т у child-bride did not represcnt а п extra bonus to т е 1 could
feel п о т о г е Н а П pity С о г Ь е girl \vho had Ь е е п made а victim of
Ь е г uncle's т е а п stratagem. 1 trcated Ь е г as о п е \vould treat а
chiId, assuring Ь е г that slle 11ad nothing to fear from т е but she
did not speak а ivord and Ь е г trembIing betrayed п е г р а ш с Rum­
maging through а sheJr, 1 found а piece ofchocolate, which 1 о С
fercd Ь е г but she, п е у е г having в е е п chocolatc in Ь е г life, г е
fused it with а vioIent shake о С Ь е г head. 1tried о put Ь е г at case
Ь у teIling Ь е г а п amusing story С г о т Ь е А г а Ы а Nig/lfS, but she
did not е е seem to grasp it, let alone find it С и п п у Finally she
uttered С Г first \\'ords: М у head is aching ... ' 1 got hold of
з о т е aspirin tablcts and thrust them into Ь е г hand 'W'iLh а glass
о С \\'ater. But this caused only а still т о г е violent outbrcak о С
т е г г о т (only later did 1 е а г п that в о ш е of Ь е г women fricnd5 had
told her that those strangc р е о р е С г о т foreign Iands о ш е е
drug their \\'ives о п their bIidal night il1 order о rape Ь е т the
т о г е easily). After а couplc of hour5 or 50, 1 succceded in с о п
vincing Ь е г that 1 had п о aggressive designs. In the end she feii
asleep Iike the child she was, while 1 made а bed for myself о п
the carpet in а corner of the г о о т
In the mornillg 1 sellt С о г Ь е г mother З demanded that she
take the girI Ь о е Т Ь е о т а п \vas stupcficd.· She h01d never
heard Qfa т а п who refused so choice а morsel- an eleven-year­
oId virgin - and must Ь а у е thought that there was somethillg
radically wrong \vith т е
'And then l' asks а Ь а п
'Noihing - 1divorced the girl, 11aving left Ь е г in the samc state
158 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
as she had с о т е о т е It was п о а bad deal for the family, who
kept both the girl and the dower which 1had paid, together with
the т а п у р г е в е п т в As о г myself, а г и т о и г \vent а г о ц п с that
there \vas п о manhood in т е and several ":ell-wishers tried to
persuade т е that в о г п е о п е perhaps а о п п с г wife, had cast а
spell о у е г т е г о т which 1 could only free myself Ь у а counter­
spell.'
'When 1 thiJlk of thy subsequent marriage in Medina, О М и
hammad, and thy son,' says the а т н \vith а laugh. '1 а т п sure
thou щ \vrought а strong с о ш и е г в р е й , ..'
-5­
LATER А Т NIGHT, as 1 а т about to go о bed in the г о о т
put at т у disposal, 1 find Zayd т о г е silent than usual. Н е stands
near the doorway, visibly lost in some distant thoughts, his chin
resting о п his breast and his eyes fixed о п the Ы и е and п ю в з
gree:} medal!ion of the К п о г а в а п carpet that covers the floor.
И о does it feel, Zayd, to Ь е back in the to\vn of thy youth
after а these years? - for in the р л з Ь е has al\\'ays refused to
enter Н а Н \\'henever 1 had occasion . о visit it.
'1 а т not sure, О т у ц п с е he slo\vly. 'Eleven у е а г в
.. , It is eleven years since 1was Ь е г е ilojt, Т Ь о и kllO\Vest tl1at т у
heart \vould not let т е с о т е Ь е г е е ю ier and behold the People
ofthe South ruling in the palace о П Ь п Rashid. В ш oflate 1have
Ь е е п telJillg myself, in the ю г of ti}e Book, О God, Lo,.d о
SO\·el'e(r.:llty! П ю и gil'cst sOI'e,.eigllty о т П ю н pleasest а ш
ю к е з G\t'OY 50\'e,.eigllty к о т О П ю и р е а з с з П ю и ('xallcs/
П ю и pleasest а п а abasest 11·110111 П ю и р г а з е з [11 Г н у JlGlld
is а П tJ1e good, а н а П ю и 1105/ р о с е о у е 0/1 ,'/li//gs, No doubt.
God gave sovereignty to the House of Ibn R:l'llid, but they did
not know Ь О У to usc it rightly. They \'iCre Ь о и 'f и to tileir р е о
ple but hard о п their о у п kin and reckless !:) .heir pride; they
spilled blood, brothcr killing brother; and "-( God took а а у
their rule and handed it back о Ь п а ш : ,]link 1 should not
grieve а п у longer - for is it not г Т ,he Book, о е б
О е о tJlillg, olld ;/ а у Ь е /Ile п г о l' у о - (/1/(1 sUl1u:/imes
о hate а tblllg, al1d it т а Ь е tl1e best /0/' у о и .1'
е г е is а s",'eet resignation in Zayd's voice, а resignation im·
plying п о т о г е than tllc acceptance of somcthing that has al­
г е а д у happened and cannot therefore Ь е undone. It is this а с
Т AND FLESH 159
quiescence of the Muslim spirit to the immutability ofthe past­
the recognition that whatever has happened had t/) Ь а р р е п in
this particular way and could Ь а у с happened in п о other - that
is so often rnistaken Ь у Westcrners for а 'fatalism' inherent in
the Islamic outlook. But а Mus1im's acquieseence to fate relates
to the past and not to the future: it is п о а refusal to act, to Ь о р е
and to п п р г о с е but а refusal to consider past reality as anything
Ь и а п а с of God.
'And beyond that,' continues Zayd, 'Ibn Saud has not Ь е
11aved badly to\vard the Shammai. Т Ь е у know it, for did they
not support Ы т with their swords three years ago when that dog
Ad-Da\vish г о з е against п п п
Т Ь е у did indeed, with the magnanimity of the vanquished so
characteristic of true Arabs at their best. п that fateful у е а г
1929, when Ibn Saud's kingdom shook to its у е г у foundations
under the blows o·f the great beduin revolt led Ь у Faysal ad­
Dawish, а the Shammar tribes living in Najd р ш aside their
о п е ш п е animosity toward t11e King, ral1ied around Ы and
contributed largely to his subsequent victory о у е г the Iebe1s.
This reconciliation \vas tru1y remarkable, for it had Ь е е п only а
few years earlier that Ь п Saud had conquered Н а Н Ь у foree of
arms and thus re-established the hegcmony of the South с у е г
the North; and Ь е т о г е in view of the age-old п ш
tual dislikc - у Ы с Ь goes than а п у dynastic struggle for
р о в е г - Ь е в е е е п thc tribc of Shammar and the р е о р т е of south­
е г п Najd, of у Ь о т Ь п Saud is о п е Т о а large е х т е п г tl1is а п ц
pathy у Ы с Ь е у е п the г е с с п rccol1ciliation has п о entirely er..l­
dicated) is а п expression 01' th.; traditional riva1ry bct\veen Nort11
and South that goes through thc cntire history of the Arabs and
has its counterpart in т а п у othcr nations as well: for it о й е п
happens that а small dil1'erence in the inner rhythm of lifc р
duces т о г е о Ш у bet\\'een c1osc1y re1ated tribes ш п racial
strangeness cou1d cause bet\\'een entircly Т lleighbouring
nations.
А р а г from poJitica1 rivalry, another factor plays а consider­
а Ы е role in Ь е emotional divergencics bct\\'cen the А г а Ы а п
North and Scuth. lt у а з in Ь е south of Najd, in the vicinity of
Riyadh. that nearly t\\'O hundred у е а г з ago the puritan reformer,
Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, rose and stirrcd the tribes­
then Muslims in п а т е о п у - to а п е у religious enthusiasDl. It
160 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
was in the then insignificant House of Ь п Saud, chieftains of the
smaH township of Dar'iyya, that the reformer gained the iron
а which в а у е the force of action to his inspiring word, and
within а few decades, gathered а large р а п of the Peninsula
within that glowing, ц п с о т п р г о п п в ш я movement of faith known
as 'Wahhabism'. п а the Wahhabi \vars and conquests of the
а в т о п е hundred and fifty years, it \vas always the people ofthe
South у Ь о с а г п е с aloft the banners of puritanism, while the
North only halfheartedly с п along with them: for although
the Shammar share the Wahhabi tenets in theory, their п е а п в
Ь а е е remained remote from the fiery, unyielding religious р е г
suasion ofthe South. Living closc о the 'bordcrlands', Syria and
Iraq, and always connected with them Ь у trade, the Shammar
Ь а у е in the course of ages acquired а suave laxity of outlook and
а readiness for compromise quite в п к п о м п to the п т о г е isolated
Southerners. Т Ь е ш е п of the SOUtll know only е х п е ш с з and for
the last century and а hulf they Ь а у с known notl1ing Ь щ dreams
of ji/lad - proud, haughty г п е п WllO regard themselve5 а в the
only true respresentatives of lslam and а Н other Musl.im peoples
as heretics.
With all this, the Wahhabis а г е certainly not а в е р а г а г е в е с т
Л в е с т would presuppose the е х ы е п с е of certain в е р а г а т е doc­
trines which would distinguis!l its followcrs from the great mass
of all the о ш е г foHowers of the same faith. In Wahhabism, how­
е у е т there а г е п о в е р а г а т е doctrines - о п the contrary:this
movement а made а п attempt to do а у а у with а the а с с г е
tions and superimposed doctrines \vhich in the course of ш а п у
centuries have gro\vn up around the original tcachings о Г Islam,
and to return to the pristine mC5sage of the Prophet. In its и п
compromising clarity, this was certainly а great attempt, which
in time could Ь а у е led to а complete freeing of Islam с о т а Н the
superstitions that have obscured its message. Indeed, а Н the re­
naissance movements in modern Islam - the AM-i-Hadil/l move­
т е п in Inc'ia, the Sanusi movement in North Л г с а the \vork
of Jamal ad·Din а Л а and the Egyptian Muhammad Л Ь
duh - с а п ь е directly traced back to п е spiritual impetus set in
motion in the eighteenth century Ь у N uhammad ibn Abd al­
Wahhab. But the Najdi development of his teachings suffers
from t"rVo defects which Ь а у е prevented it Г г о т Ь е с о т в а foree
of spiritual destiny. One о these defects i$ thc narrowness \vith
SPIRIT AND FLESH 161
which it seeks to с о п й п е almost а Н religious endeavours to а
literal observation of injunctions, overlooking the need for"pene­
trating to their spiritual content. Т Ь е other defect is rooteo: in
the Arab с п а г а с т е г itself - in that zealotic, self-righteous orien­
tation of feeling which concedes to п о о п е the right to ditrer: а п
attitude as peculiar ю the true Semite as its а П е г с а о р ю е
- complete laxity in matters of faith. It is а tragic quality of tbe
Arabs that they mustalways swing between two poles and never
с а п find а middle way. О п с е upon а ш п е - hardly two centuries
ago - the Arabs of Najd \vere innerly п ю г е distant г о ш а т
than а п у other group in the Muslim world; while ever since the
advent of Muhammad Ь п Abd al-Wahhab they have rega:ded
themselves п о т merely as champions of the Faith but almof<t as
its sole owners.
Т spiritual meaning of Wahhabism - the striving after а п
inner renewal of Muslim society - was corrupted almost at the
same moment when its о ш е г goal- the attainment of social and
political po\ver - was realized with the establishment of the
Saudi Ю п о т at the end of the eighteenth century and its е х
pansion over the larger р а п of Arabia early in the nineteenth.
As в о о п as the Collowers о С Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahbab
achieved power, bls idea Ь е с а т е а mummy: for the spirit с а п п о т
ь е а servant of power - and power does not \vant г о ь е а servant
of the spirit.
Т blstory of Wahbab Najd is the history о С а religiotls idea
which first rose о п the wings of enthusiasm а п longing and then
sank down into the lowlands of pharisaic self-righteousness. For
all м и е destroys itself as soon as it ceases to ь е longing and
bumility: Harut! Marut!
VI
DREAMS
-1­
Т
О В Е FRIEND AND GUEST of а great Arabian amir
means to Ь е regarded and treated as friend and guest
Ь у а Н his officials, Ь у his rajajil, Ь у the shopkeepers
in his capital, and е у е п Ь у the beduins о С tlle steppc
under his authority. Т Ь е guest с а п scarcely щ е п п о п а wish
without its being fulfiHed а о п с е whenever it с а п ь е ful­
filled; from hour to hour Ь е is overwhelmed Ь у the warm, ц п
questioning graciousness which envelops hirn in the market
place о С the town п о less than in the wide halls and corridors о С
the castle.
As so often before, this happens to т е during the two days 1
stop at Н а Н When 1 wish to drink coffee, the melodious sound
о С the brass rnortar immediately rings out in т у private г е с е р
tion room. When, in the morning, 1 casuaHy mention to Zayd
within the hearing of о п е о С the amir's в е г у а г п в а beautiful
camel-saddle 1 Ь а у е just seen in the bazaar, it is brought to т е in
the aftemoon and placed at т у feet. Several times а day а gift
а г п е е в а long о Ь е of nlango-pattemed Kashmir wool, or а п
embroidered kufiyya, or а white Baghdad sheepskin for the sad­
dle, or а curved :Najdi dagger with а silver handle .. , And 1,
travelling у е г у lightly, а т unable to offer Ibn Musaad anything
in return е х с е р а large-scale English р о С Arabia which, to
his great delight, 1 Ь а у е painstakingly marked With Arabic place
names.
Ibn Musaad's generosity Ь е а г в а strong resemblance to the
ways of King Ibn Saud: which, after а Н is not so surprising
when о п е considers their close relationship. Not о у а г е ihey
cousins but thcy Ь а у е also shared - ever since Ibn Saud was а
young т а п and Ibn М usaad still а Ь о у - rnost о С the difficulties,
vicissitudes and drearns of the К early reign. And beyond
that, their personal ties were cemented years ago Ь у Ibn Saud's
162
DREAMS 163
marriage to Jawhara, the sister ofIbn Musaad - the woman who
е з п т о г е to the К than а п у Ь е marriedbefore о г after Ь е г
е •
А л т н о и с н MANY PEOPLE Ь а у е Ь е е п admitted to his
friendship, not т а п у Ь а у е Ь е е п privileged ю observe the most
intimate, aAd perhaps the most significant, aspect of Ibn Saud's
nature: his'great capacity for у е which, had it Ь е е п allowed to
unfold and endure, might Ь а у е led Ы т to far greater heights
than Ь е has achieved. So т н с Ь stress has Ь е е п laid о п the п п
mense number of women Ь е has married and divorced that т а п у
outsiders Ь а у е с о т е to regard him as something of а 1ibertiQe
engrossed in endless pursuit ofphysical pleasure; and few, ifа п у
а г е aware that almast every о п е of П ш Saud's marriages - а р а п
г о т those а Ш а п с е dictated Ь у political considerations - was
the о ш с о г п е of а dim, insatiable desire to г е с а р ш г е the ghost of
а lost love.
Jawhara, Ь е mother of his sons Muhammad and Khalid, was
Ibn Saud's great love; and е у е п now, aJter she has Ь е е п dead о г
some thirteen years, the King п е у е г speaks of her without а cateh
in his throat.
She must Ь а у е Ь е е п а п extraordinary woman - not т е г е у
beautiful (for Ibn Saud Ь а Б known and possessed т а п у beautiful
women in his extremely exuberant rnarital eareer) Ь ш also е п
dowed 'with that instinctive feminine wisdom which joins the
rapture of the spirit to the rapture of the body. Ibn Saud does not
often allow bls emotions to Ь е с о т е deeply involved in his rela­
tions with w(\men, and this а с с о ц п и perhaps о г the е а в е with
wblch Ь е marries and divorces his wives. But with Jawhara Ь е
seems ю Ь а у е found а fu1filment that Ь з п е у е г Ь е е п repeated.
Although е у е п in Ь е г lifetime Ь е had other wives, his reallove was
reserved to her as exclusively as if she had Ь е е п his only wife. Н е
used to write 10vepoems to Ь е г and а п е е in о п е ofhis т о г е е х
p4nsive moments, Ь е told т е 'Whenever the '\lorld was dark
around т е and 1 could not see т у way out of the dangers and
difficulties that beset т е 1 would sit down and с о т р о е а п ode
to Jawhara; and when it was fini8hed, the world was suddenly
lighted, and 1 knew what 1 had to do.'
But Jawhara died during the gre;.t influenza epidemic of 1919,
which also claimed Ibn Saud's first-boro and most beloved 800,
164
Т Н Е ROAD Т О м е С С А
Turki; and this double loss left а never-healed scar о п Ы э Hfe.
It was п о only to а wife and а son that Ь е could give Ы Э heart
so ful1y: Ь е loved Ы э father а э few т п е п о у е theirs. Т Ь е father ­
Abd ar-Rahman - whom 1 knew in т у early years in Riyadh,
was, though а kind and pious т а п certainly not а п outstanding
personality like Ы э в о п aod had п о played а particularly spec­
tacular role during his 10ng Hfe. Nevertheless, е у е п after Ibn
Saud had acquired а kingdom Ь у his owo effort and was undis­
puted ruler of the laod, Ь е behaved toward bls father with such
hurnility that Ь е would never е у е п consent о set foot in а room
ofthe castleif Abd ar-Rahman was in the room below - 'for,' Ь е
would say, 'how с а п 1 al10w myself to walk over т у father's
head l' Н е \"ould never sit down in ш е old ш а п в presence with­
out being expressly invited о do so. 1still remember Ь е discom­
fiture this kingly humility caused т е о п е day at Riyadh (1 tblnk
it was in December, 1927). 1 was paying о п е of т у customary
visits to the К father in Ы э apartments in the royal castle;
we were sitting о п the ground о п cushions, the old gentleman е х
patiating о п о п е of his favourite religious themes. Suddenly а п
attendant entered the room and announced, Т Ь е SJzuyukh is
corning.' In the next moment Ibn Saud stood in Ь е doorway.
Naturally, 1 \\'anted to rise, Ь и old Abd ar-Rahman gripped т е
Ь у Ь е wrist and pulled т е down, as if о say, Т Ь о и art т у
guest.' 1 was embarrassed beyond worQs at thus having to г е
main seated у Ы е the King, after greeting his father from afar,
was left standing il1 the doorway, obviously awaiting permission
to enter the room, but Ь е т п have Ь е е п accustomed to similar
Ы о п his father's part, for Ь е winked at т е with а half­
smile to put т е at ease. Meanwhile, old Abd ar-Rahman went
о п with his discourse, as if п о interruption had occurred. After а
few minutes Ь е looked и р nodded to his son and said: 'Step
closer, О т у Ь о у and sit down.' Tht" К was at that time
forty-seven or forty-eight years old.
Some months later - we were at М е с с а at the time - news \vas
brought to the King that Ь Ш father had.died а Riyadh. 1 shall
pever forget Ь е uncomprehending stare with which 11e looked
for several seconds at the messenger, and the despair у Ы с Ь slow­
у Rndvisibly engulfed Ь е features that were normal1y so serene
and .P'mposed; and how Ь е jumped и р with а terrible roar, М у
father is dead!' and, \vith great strides, ran out о Г the room, his
Е Л 165
а Ь а у а trailing о п the ground behind him;and how Ь е bounded
up the stairway, past the awe-struck faces of Ь з ш е в а т а п в в
not knowing himself where Ь е was going or why, shouting,
shouting, М у father is de.ad! М у father is dead!' For two days
afterward Ь е refused to see а п у о п е took neither food nor drink
and spent day and night in р г а у е г
How т а п у sons of middie age, how ш а п у kings who had won
themselves а kingdom through their own strength, would Ь а у е
thus mowned the р а п й of а father who had died the peaceful
death of old age?
-2­
Р о в Т W AS Е П Е У Ь у his own efforts that Abd al-Aziz
ibn Saud won his vast kingdom. When Ь е was а child, his dynasty
had already 10st Ь е last remnants of its power in Central А г а
Ь т and had Ь е е п superseded Ь у its о п е ш п е vassals, the dynasty
of Ibn Rashid of HaI1. Tbose were bitter days for Abd al-Aziz.
Т proud and reserved Ь о у bad to watch а foreign а т к gover­
mng his paternal city of Riyadb in the п а т е of Ibn Rasbid: for
now the fami1y of Ibn Saud - о п с е the rulers of almost all А г а
Ы а - were only pensioners of Ibn Rashid, tolerated and п о 100­
ger feared Ь у him. In the end, this Ь е с а ш е too и с Ь е е е п for ы
peace-loving father. Abd ar-Rahman, aod Ь е left Riyadh with
ы entire family, hoping о spehd his remaining days in tbe
house of his old friend, the ruler of Kuwayt. But Ь е did not know
what the future held in store; for Ь е did п о know what was in
his в о п s heart.
Among а the members of the family there was о п у о п е who
had а п у inkling ofwhat was happening in this passiooate heart:
а younger sister of his father. 1 do not know т и с Ь about her; 1
о у knowthat \\'henever Ь е dwelJs о п the days of ы youth. the
К alwaY$ mentions her with great reverence.
'She loved т е 1 think, even more than her own children.
When we were alone. she would take т е о п her а р and tell т е
of the great things which 1 was to do when 1 grew up: "Thou
rnust revive the gIory of the House of Ibn Saud," she would е П
т е again and again, and her \vords \verelike а caress. "But 1want
thee о know, О A.zayyiz,". she would say, "that е у е п thc glory
pf the House о Ь п Saud must 110t ь е Ь е end of thy endea\·ours.
• Mec:tioDato diminutive of А М al-AZiz.
166 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
о и must strive for the glory ofIslam. Т Ь у people sorely need а
leader who will guide them о п to the path of the Holy Prophet ­
and thou shalt ь е that leader." Т words have always т е
mained alive in т у ё
Have they, е а П у
Т his Hfe Ibn Saud has loved to speak of Islam as а
mission that had Ь е е п entrusted to Ы т and evenin later days,
wher. it had 10ng since Ь е с о т е obvious that kingly power
weighed more with hiln than his erstwhile championship of а п
ideal, his great eloquenc.e has often succeeded in convincing
т а п у people - perhaps even himself - that tOO ideal was stiJl his
goal.
Such childhood reminiscences were often brought и р in tbe
course of the intimate gatherings at Riyadh which usually took
р а с е after the isha prayer (about two hours after sunset). As
soon as the р г а у е г in the castle mosque was over, we would а в
semble around the King in о п е ofthe smaller rooms and listen to
о п е п о ц г в reading г о т the Propbet's Traditions о г from а
commentary о п the К о г а п Afterward the К would invite
two о г three of us to а с с о т р а п у Ы т to а п inner с Ь а т Ь е г in his
private quarters. О п е evening. 1 remember, while leaving the а в
sembly in the wake of the К 1 was о п с е again struck Ь у the
majestic height witb which Ь е towered far above those who sur­
rounded him. Н е must have caught т у admiring glance, for Ь е
smiJed briefly with that indescribabIe charm of his, took т е Ь у
thc: hand and asked:
Ь dost thou 100k at т е like this, О Mwhammad?'
'1 was tblnking, О Long-of-Age, that nobody could а Н to
recognize the king in thee when Ь е sees thy head 50 З г above the
heads of the crowd.'
Ibn Saud laugbed and, stillleading т е Ь у the hand о п his slow
г through the corridor, Ь е said: 'Yes, it is pleasant to
Ь е 50 tall. But there was а time when т у tallness gave т е nothing
Ь и heartach-e. Т \vas years ago, when 1 was а Ь о у and was
living in the. castle of Shaykh Mubarak at Kuwayt. 1 was thin
and extremely tall, П с а Н е г than т у years would warrant,
and е other boys in the castle - those of the s/laykh's family
and even of т у о - made т е а target of their jokes, as if 1
'",ere а freak. This caused щ е great distress, Rnd sometimes 1 т у
self thought that 1 was truly а freak. 1 wa5. so ashamed of т у
DREAMS 167
height that 1 would in т у head and shoulders to make т у
self smaller when 1 walked through the rooms of the palace о г
over the streets о С Kuwayt.'
В у then we hid reached the К а р а г п п е п г з His eldest П
С г о Prince Saud, was а г е з у waiting there for his father. Н е
was about т у own age and. though not as а as his father, quite
imposing in а р р е а г а п с е His г е г е far т о г е rugged than
the К and had п о п е of the latter's mobiIity and vivacity.
But Ь е \vas а kind т а п and well thought of Ь у the people.
The К sat ,Jown о п the cushions that у е г е spread along the
walls and п ю п о п е ё us а to follo\'I suit. Т Ь е п Ь е commanded:
'Qallll'a!' The а п п е л slave at the door immcdiately cal1ed out п
to the corridor, с И а - whereupon this traditional с а П \\'as
taken и р and г е р е а е ё in rapid succession Ь у other attendants
dcwn the е п ц г е length of the с о г п ё о г о п е after the other:
'Qalm'a!' - 'Qalllva!' - in а de!ightful с е г е т о п у of repetition, ц п
til it :reached the К coffee-kitchen а few г о о г а в away: and in
а т п с е а golden-daggered attendant а р р е а г е ё with the Ь г а ь в
coffeepot in о п е hand and tiny cups in the other. The King г е
ceived the first с и р and the other с ц р в were handed roundto the
guest5 in Ь е order in which they у е г е seated. О п 5uch informal
occasions, Ibn Saud would talk frecly о Е anything that occurred
to Ы т - about what was happening in distant parts о Е Ь е world,
about а strange new inventiol1 that had Ь е е п brought to his
notice, about people and customs and institutions; but а Ь о у е а Н
Ь е liked to talk about his own е х р е п е п с е в and would encourage
others to participate in the conversation. О п that particular
evening, Arnir Saud started the Ь а rolling \'Ihen Ь е laughingly
tumed to т е
'Someone expres5ed а doubt to т е today about Ь е е О М и
hammad. Н е said that Ь е was not at а sure whether thou art п о
а п English spy in the guise ofa Mus1im... But don't о г г у 1
was а Ы е to assure Ы т that thou art indeed а Muslim.'
UnabIe to hold back а grin, 1replied: 'That \vas very kind о Е
thee, О Amir, т а у God lengthen thy life. But Ь о у couldst thou
ь е 50 certain about this? Js it not that God а о п е k:nows \vhat is
in а man's heart '1'
'That is true,' retorted Amir Saud, 'but in this с а е 1have Ь е е п
gi\'en а special in5ight. А dream last \veck has givcn т е this Г
sight ... I з myself ш п before а fr;asqtlc Н looking U!"
168 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
at the minaret. Sudden1y а т а п а р р е а г е ё о п the р е г у of the
minaret, cupped his hands before his Щ and started the с а Н
to р г а у е г God is the Greatest, God alone is Greal, and continued
it to the eJ.j, Т г is п о God Ь ш God: - and when 1 100ked
closely, 1sawthat the т а п was thou. When 1awoke 1knew with
certainty, although I had п е у е г doubted it, that thou art truly а
Muslim: о г а dream in which God's п а т е was extoHed could
not Ь а у е Ь е е п а deception.'
I was strongly moved Ь у this unsolicited assertion of т у sin­
cerity Ь у tbe К son and Ь у the earnest nod with which the
King affirmed, as it were, А п ц г Saud's surprising п а п а ц о п
Taking up the thread, Ibn Saud remarked:
'It does often Ь а р р е п that God enlightens о и г hearts through
dreams which sometimes foretell the future and sometimes make
clear the present. Hast tbou thyse(f п е у е г experienced such а
dream, О Mubammad?'
'Indeed 1 Ь а у е О Imam; а 100g ш е ago, 10ng before 1 е у е г
thought of becoming а М uslim - before 1 е у е п had set foot in а
Muslirn country. 1 must Ь а у е Ь е е п nineteen years old о г so at
the ш п е and lived in т у father's house in Vienna. I was deeply
interested in Ь е science of man's inner life' (which was the
closest definition of psychoanalysis 1could give the К 'and
was in the р г а с ц с е of keepiog Ь у т у bedside р а р е с and pencil in
order ю jot down т у dreams at the moment of awakening. В у
doing в о I found, 1 was а Ы е to г е т е т Ь е г tbose dreams in­
dennitely, е у е п ifI did not keep them constantly in mind. In that
particulardream, 1found myself in Berlin, travelling in that ц п
derground railway ш е у Ь а у е Ь е г е - with the train going some­
times through а lunnel belo\v ground and sometimes о у е г
bridges high а Ь о у е the streets. Thc compartment was filledwith а
.great throng of people - so т а п у tbat there was п о с о о т to sit
down and а stood tight1y packed without being а Ы е to т о у е
and there was only а ш т light г о т а single electric bulb. After а
while the train с а т е out of the tunnel; it did not с о т е о п to о п е
ofthose high bridges, but е т е г Ю instead о п to а wide, deso1ate
plain ofclay, and the whecIsof the г з п got stuck in the clay and
the train stopped, unabIe to т о у е foreward о с backward.
Л И the traveUers, and 1 among them, 1eft the carriages and
started 100king about. Т р з п around us was endless and
empty and barren - there а з п о bush о п it, п о Ь о ш е n"t even
OPPOSITE: К Ahd AI-Aziz Ь Salld
DREAMS 169
а stone - and а great perp1exity е П о у е г the peop1e's hearts:
Now that we Ь а у е Ь е е п stranded Ь е г е how shall we find our way
back to where other humans Н у е А grey twilight lay о у е г the
irnmense plain, as at the time of е а г у dawn.
'But somehow1did not quiteshare the perplexity oftheothers.
1 made т у way out of the throng and beheld, at а distance of
perhaps ten paces, а dromedary crouched о п the ground. It was
fully saddled - in exactly the way 1 later saw camels 5addtoo in
thy с о ш п г у О Iinam - and in the saddle sat а т а п dre5sed in а
white-and-brown-striped а Ь а у а with short sleeves. His kufiyya
was drawn о у е г his face 50 that 1 could not discem his features.
In т у heart 1 knew at о п с е that dromedary was waiting for
т е and that the motionles5 rider was to ь е т у guide; and в о
without а ,vord, 1 swung myself о п to the camel's back bebind
the saddle in the way а radif, а pillion rider, rides in Л а Ь lands.
In the next instant, the dromedary rose and started fonvard in а
10ng-drawn, easy gait, and 1 felt а nameless happiness rise witbin
т е In that fast, smooth gait we travelled for what at first
seemed to ь е hours, and then days, and then months, until Ilost
а count oftime; and with е у е т у step ofthe dromedary т у Ь а р
piness rose higher, until 1felt as if 1 were swimming through air.
In the end, the horizon to our right began to г е ё ё е п under the
rays of the sun that was about to rise. But о п the Ь о П о п far
ahead of us 1 saw another light: it с а ш е from bebind а huge,
о р е п ga1ewayresting о п two pillars - а е light, not
red 1ikethe light of the rising sun to our right - а coo1light that
steadily grew in brightness as we approached and made the Ь а р
piness within т е grow beyond anything that words cou1d des­
cribe. д as we с а т е nearer and nearer to the gateway and its .
light, 1 heard а voice from :somewhere announce, Т is the
westernmost city!" ..:. and 1 awoke.'
'Glory ь е unto God !' exc1aimedIbn Saud, when 1 had б з Ь е д
'And did not this dream е П thee that thou wert destined for Is­
а т
1 shook т у head: 'No, О Long-of-Age, how cou1d 1 Ь а у е
known it'1 1 had never thought of Islam and had neVtl" е у е п
known а Muslim ... It У З seven у е а г з later, long after 1 had
forgotten that dream, that 1 е т Ь з с О О Islam. 1 recalled it о у
recently when 1 found it а т о п в т у papers, exaet1y а з 1 bad jot­
tOO it down that night upon awaking.'
О Р Р О П Е Crown Prince Saud
170 У Н Е ROAb У О М Е С С А
'But it was truly thy fortune which God showed thee in that
dream, О т у П Dost thou not recognize it clearly? Т Ь е с о т
ing of the crowd of peopIe, and thou with them, into а pathless
waste, and their perplexity: is п о that the condition о Г those
whom the opening sura of the К о г а п describes as "those who
have gone astray"? And the tli с ш е ё а г у which, with its rider, was
waiting for thee: was not this the "right guidance" ofwhich the
Koran speaks so often? And the rider who did not speak to thee
and whose face thou couldst not see: who else с о ш ё .Ь е have
. Ь е е п but the Holy Prophet, и р о п whom ь е God's blessing and
р е а с е Н е loved to wear а cloak with short sleeves ... and do
not т а п у of о и г books tel1 us whenever Ь е appears in dreams to
non-Muslims о г to those who а г е not yet MusIims, his face is al­
ways covered? And that white, coollight о п ttie horizon ahead:
\vhat else could it have Ь е е п but а promise of the light of faith
which1ightswithout burning? Т Ь о и didst not г е а с Ь it in thy
dream because, as thou hast told us, it was о п у years later that
thou camest to know Islam for the truth itself ... '
Т Ь о и mayest ь е right, О Long-of-Age ... But what about
that "westernmost city" to which the gateway о п the horizon was
to lead т е - for, after а т у а с с е р т а п с е of Islam did not lead
т е to the West: it led т е rather, away from the West.'
Ibn Saud was silent and thoughtful for а moment; Ь е п Ь е
raised his head and, with that sweet smile which 1 had с о т е to
love, said: 'Could it п о have meant, О Muhammad, that thy
reaching Islam would Ь е Ь е "westernmost" point in thy life- and
that after that, the Jife ofthe West wouId cease о Ь е Ы п е ... ?'
After а wbile Ь е К п в spoke again: 'Nobody knows the
future but God. But sometimes Н е chooses to give us, through а
dream, а glimpse of what is to befall us in the future. 1 myse1f
have had such dreams twice or thrice, and they have always
с о т е true. Oneof them, indeed, has made т е what 1am ... 1
was at that ш е seventeen years old. We were living as exiles in
Kuwayt, but 1 could not bear the thought of the Ibn Rashids
ruling over т у homeland. Often would 1 beg-т у father, т а у
God bestow His mercy upon Ы т "Fight, О т у father, and drive
the Ibn Rashids out! Nobody has а better с а ш to the throne о С
Riyadh than thou!" But т у father would brush aside т у stormy .
-demands as fantasies, and would remind т е that Mubammad
ibn., Rashid was the most powerful ruler in the lands of tlH:
DREAMS 171
А г а т and that Ь е held s\vay о т е т а kingdom that stretched
г о т the Syrian Desert in Ь е north to the sands of Ь е Empty
Quarter in the south, and that а beduin tribcs trembled before
'his iron fist. О п е night, however, 1 had а strange dream. 1 saw
myself о п horseback о п а lonely steppe at night, and in front of
т е а з о о п horseback, was old Muhammad ibn Rashid, Ь е
usurper of т у fami1y's kingdom. We were both ц п а п п е ё but
Ibn 'R.ashid held aloft in bls hand а great, shining lantem. When
Ь е saw т е а р р г о а с п Ь е recognized the е п е т у in т е and turned
and SPU"ed his horse to flight; but 1 raced after hirn, got hold
·of а comer of his cloak, and then of his а п п and then of the lan­
tem - and 1 blew out the lantem. When 1 awoke, 1 knew with
certainty that 1 was destined to wrest the rule from the House of
Ibn Rashid ...'
IN Т Н Е У Е А К OF Т Н А Т DREAM, 1897, Muhammad ibn
Rashid died. т seemed to Abd а Л ibn Saud а п opportune
moment о strike; but Abd ar-Rahman, his father, was not in­
clined to risk the peaceful Jjfeat Ku\vayt in so dubious а п under­
taking. But the son's passion was more stubbom than the
father's inertia; and in the end the father gave in. With the а з
sistance of his friend, Shaykh Mubarak of Kuwayt, Ь е raised а
few beduin tribes that bad remained faithful to hisfami1y, took
the field against the Ibn Rashids in the old Л а Ы а п manner, \",ith
dromedaries and horses and tribal banners, was quickly routed
Ь у superior е т у forces and - in hisinnermost р г о Ь а Ы у more
relieved than disappointed - retumed to Kuwayt, resolved п е е е г
again to disturb the evening of his Ш е Ь у warlike adventures.
But the son did not give up з о easily. Н е a1ways remembered
his dream ofvictory о у е г Muhammad ibn Rashid; and when Ы з
father renounced а с а ш to kingship over Najd, it was that
. dream which prompted young Abd al-Azizto undertake his
reckless bid for power. Н е got bold of а few friends - а т о п
them liis cousins Abdullah ibn Jilu\vi and Ь п Musaad - drum­
med together з о т е venturesome beduins, until thewhole с о т
р а п у с а т е to forty men. Т Ь е у rode out of К З like robbers,
stealthily, without Ь а п п е з о г drums о г з о п з and, 'avolding the
с г е ч е п е caravan routes and hiding in daytime, they
reached the vicinity ofRiyadh and made с а т р in а secluded а
172 У Н Е ItOAD У О М Е С С А
ley. о п t.be same day. А Ы al-Aziz se1ectednve compa:nions out
о С tbe forty а п д thus addressed the rcst:
'We six bave now placed о ш destinies in the hands о С а
We а г е going to Riyadh - to conquer о г to lose it С о г good. If
you should hear sounds о С fighting fromthe town. е to our
ass.istance; but ifyou do not Ь з в Ь у sunset tomorrow,
thcn you sball know that we а с е д з and ш а у God receive our
souJs. Sbou1d this Ь а р you others г е п secretly, as fast as
you с а п to Kuwayt.'
And the six men set out о п С О О At nightfall they reached the
town and ш е д it through о п е о С the breaches which years ago
Muhammad ibn Rashid bad made in the wal1s о С the conquered
city 10 humiliate its inhabitants. Т went, their weapons hid·
den under their cloaks, straight to the Ь о ц в е о С the Rashidi amir.
l! was Iocked, for the а т й fearing the hostile populace, was а с
customed to spend bis nights in the с ц е opposite. Abd а
Aziz and his с о ш о knocked о п the door; а slave opened
it, о у to ь е immediatt1y overpowered, bound and gagged; the
ш е Ь а р р е п е д to the other inmates of the house - at that Ь о и г
О у а fC\v sIaves and о ш е п Т six а е п ш е helped them­
selvcs to о ш е dates ю т the а т и larder and passed the night
reciting, Ь у tums, г о ш the К о с а п
п the т о в the doors о С Ь е citadel were opened and the
omir stepped out, п о п Р У armed bodyguards and sla
Crying, О God, in Т Ь а п ш is lbn Saud " Abd al-Aziz and
five с о ш р а ш о п в hurled themselves with their naked swords
и р о п the surprised с п е ш у Abdullah ibn и м threw hisjavelin
at the о т but Ь е ducked in е and the javelin stuck with
quivering sbaft in the mud wal1of the citadel- there to ь е seen
to this day. Т amir retreated in р а е into the gateway; while
Abdullah pursued him sing1e-handedly into the interior о С the
citadeJ, Abd Л and his four remainiDg companions at­
taeked the bodyguards, who, despite their п ш е п с а superiority,
were too confused 10 defend themselVes effectively. An instant
Iater there а р р е а с е д о п the &t roof the amir, hard-pressed. Ь у
Abdullah ibn Jiluwi, begging for т е с с у whicll was not grairted;
.and when Ь е С е down о п the rampari о С the roofand received
the Catal swordstroke, Abd al-Azizcried Ь 'COine.
О т е о с Riyadh! Here am А Ы ;it-Aziz, son ofAbd з з
т а п о С the Н о ш е о С Ibn Saud, у о ш rightful ruler!' AIid the т
DREAMS 173
of Riyadh, who hated their п о oppn::ssors, с а ш е running
with their а г т в to the aid of their Р п п с е and о п their dromo­
daries gaJlopedhis thirty-fi.ve companions through the city gates,
sweeping а opposition before them like а stonnwind. Within
о п е Ь о и г А Ы al-Aziz ibn Saud was uncontested ruler of the city..
Т was in thc у е а г 1901. Н е was twenty-one years old. Н в
youth с а т е to а close, and Ь е entered и р о п the second phase of
his life, that of т п а ш г е т а п and ruler.
Step Ь у step, province Ь у р г о м в с е Ibn Saud wrested Najd
from the House of Ibn Rasbld pushing them back to their Ь о т е
land, the Jabal Shammar, and its capital HaiI. This expansion
was as calculated а в if it had Ь е е п devised Ь у а general staff
working with т а р в Iogisticsand geopoliticaI notions - although
Ibn Saud had п о generaJ staff and had р г о Ь а Ы у never laid eyes
о п а т а р His conquests proceeded spiraIJy, with Riyadh as their
fixed centre, and п о fonvard step was ever taken until tbe р г е
viously conquered territory had been thorougbly subdued and
.consolidated. А first Ь е acquired the districts to the east and
nortb of Riyadh, then Ь е extended bls rea.lm о у е г the westem
deserts. His northward progress was sIow, for the Ibn Rasblds'
stiIJ possesscd considerable power and were, in addition, в ц р
ported Ь у the Turks, with wbom they had formed а close ш
Н а п с е in the past decadcs. Ibn Saud was Ш о hampered· Ь у Ы в
poverty: the в о ш п е г п regions of Najd could not provide him
with sufficient г е у е п в е for supplying large groups offi.gbtingт е п
for а п у length of time.
•А t о п е time,' Ь е о п с е told т е ·1was 50 р о о г that 1had to р а
the je\vel-encrusted sword which Shaykh Mubarak had given
т е with а Jewish moneylender at Kuwayt. 1could not е у е п af­
ford а carpet for т у saddle - but the empty sacks tbat were
placed under the sheepskin did as weB:
Т Ь е г е was yet а п о Ш е г р г о Ы е т wblch made Ibn Saud's е а г у
с а г е е г а very hard о п е the att;itude of the beduin tribes.
In spite of а Н its towns and villages, С е п з А п Ь з is pri­
marily а land of beduins. It was their support о г antagonism
that decided the issues in tbe warfare between Ibn Saud and Ibn
Rashid at almost е у е т у stage. They were fi.ck1e and changeable
and usually joined whichever party seemed to ь е in the з п
dant at the moment о г offered the hope о pcater spoiIs. А past­
master of such е а п ,vas Faysal ad-Dawisb, з и р г с т е
174 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
cbieftain of the powerful Mutayr tribe, whose allegianeecould al­
ways tip the scales in favour of one or the other of the two rival
dynasties. Н е would с о т е to Hatt to ь е loaded with gifts Ь у Ibn
Rashid; he would abandon Ibn Rashid and с о т е to Riyadh to
swear fealty to Ibn Saud - only to betray him а month later; Ь е
was faithless to all, brave and shre\vd and obsessed Ь у а tremen­
dous greed for power; and у were the sleepless nights which
Ь е caused Ibn Saud.
В Ь у such difficulties, Ibn Saud coneeived а plan - at first
probably intended to ь е п о more than а politica1 manoeuvre,
but destined to develop into а grand idea capable of altering Ь е
facc of tm: entire Peninsula: the plan of settlingthe nomad tribes.
It was obvious that, о п е е having settled down, the beduins
would Ь а у е t<;> give up their double game between the warring
parties. Living as nomads, it waseasy for them to fold their tents
at а moment's notice and to п ю т е \vith their herds hither and
thither, from о п е side to the other; but а settJed mode of Ш е
would make. this impossible, for а shifting of their allegiance to
the е п е т у would bring with it the danger of losing ф е г houses
and plantations: and nothing is as dear to а beduin as his р о в
sessions.
ibn Saud made the settlement of beduins the most ц п р о п а п т
point in his programme. In this Ь е was greatly assisted Ь у the
teachings of Islam, which always stressed the superiority of the
settled over the nomadic way of Ш е Т Ь е К sent out religious
teachers who instructed the tribesmen in the faith and'preached
Ш е new idea with unexpected success. Т organization of the
lkl,wan ('brethren') - as thesettled beduins began to с а П them­
selves - took shape. Т Ь е у е с у first !k1'lllon settlement was that of
Alwa-Mutayr, the clan о С Ad-Dawish; their settlement, Л а
wiyya, grew within а few years into а town of nearly thirty thou­
sand inhabitants. М а п у other tribes suit.
Т Ь е religious enthusiasm о С the Ikhll'an and their warlike р о
tential Ь е с а т е а powerlul instrument in the hands of Ibn Saud.
From then onward his wars assumed а new aspect: Ь о с п е Ь у the
religious fervour of\ the И а they outgrew their erstwhile
character of а dynastic struggle for power .and Ь е с а т е wars of
faith. Т о the lkhlvan, at least, this rebirth of faith hadmore than
а personal connotation. In their uncompromising adh.e.renceto
the teachings of Ь е greai eighteenth·century reformer, Muham·
· DREAMS 175
mad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (which aimed at а restoration о Г а ш
to the austere purity о Г its OOginnings and rejected alllater &in­
п о е а ц о в в lkhwan were, п о doubt, often filledwith а п exag­
gerated sense of personal righteousness; but what most о Г them
desired а Ь о у е а Н else was not merely personal but
the estabIishment of а new society that could with justice Ь е
called Is1amic. Т г ц е т а п у of their concepts were primitive and
their .ardour frequent1y bordered о п fanaticism; but given р г о
р е г guidance and е ё в с а п о п their deep religious devotion might
Ь а у е enabled them to Ь г о а ё е п their о ш ю о and in to 00­
с о т е ihe nucleus of а genuine socia1 and spiritua1 resurgenre of
all Arabia. Unfortunate1y, however, Ibn Saud failed 10gras;> the
tremendous import of such а and remained с о п
tent with imparting to the lklllvall only the barest rudiments of
religious and secular education - in fact, on1y as much as seemed
necessary to maintain their zealotic fervour. п other words, Ь п
Saud saw in the lkhlvan movement о у а п instrument о С power.
In later years, this failule о п his part was destined to recoil о п
his own policies and at о п е stage to endanger the veryexistence о С
the kingdom Ь е had created; and it gave perhaps tbe earliest in­
dication that Ь е 1ackedthat inner which his people had
с о т е to е х р е с т of him. But the disillusionment of the IkJ,WQIl
with the К and the К disillttsionment with Ь е т was а
long time in the making ...
п 1913, with the tremendous striking force'of Ь е а
his disposal, Ibn Saud at last felt strong enougb to attempt the
conquest of the province о С Al-Hasa ontbe Persian Gulf, which
had о п с е belonged to Najd but had Ь е е п occupied Ь у the Turks
fifty years earlier.
Warring against the Turks was п о new experienceto Ibn Saud;
off and П Ь е had encountered Turkish detacbments, especially
field artillery, within the armies of Ibn Rashid. But а п attack о п
Л Н а з which was direct1y administeled Ь у the Т и т Ь was
quite а different affair: it would bring him into head-on collision
with а Great Power. But Ь п Saud bad п о choice. Unless Ь е
brought AI-Hasa and its ports under his control, Ь е would al­
ways remain cut off from the outer world, unable to obtain
sorely п е О О о о supplies of arms, ammunition and т а п у neces­
sities о С Hfe. Т Ь е need justified the risk; but the risk was so great
that Ibn Saud long before undertaking а п assault о н
176 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
Al-Hasa and its capital, AI-Hufuf. Т о this day Ь е is food of г е
counting the circumstaoces in which the final decision was
made:
'We were already in viewof Al-Hufuf. From the sand dune о п
which 1 was sitting 1 cou1d c1ear1y see the walls of the powerfu1
citadel over100king the town. М у heart was heavy with indeci­
sion as 1 weighed the advantages and the dangers of this under­
taking. 1 fe1t tired; 1 10nged for р е а с е and Ь о т е and with the
thought of Ь о т е the face of т у wife, Jawhara, с а ш е before т у
eyes. 1 began to think of verses which 1 might tell her if she were
Ь у т у side - and Ь е ю г е 1 rea1ized it, 1 was busy composing а
р о е т to her, с о ш р е е у forgetting where 1 was and how grave а
decision 1 had to make. As soon as the р о е т was ready in т у
mind 1 wrote it down, sealed it, called о п е of т у couriers and
commanded him: "Take the two fastest dromedaries, ride to
Riyadh without stopping and hand this over to Muhammad's
mother." And as the courier was disappearing'in acloud ofsand
dust, 1 suddenly found that т у mind had made а decision г е
garding the war: 1 wou1d attack AI-Hufuf, and God wou1d lead
т е to victory.'
Н confidence proved justified. In а daring assau1t, his war­
riors в т о п п е ё the citadel; the Turkish troops в ш т е п ё е г е о and
were permitted to withdra\v with their arms and equipment to
the с о в ы whence they embarked for В а в г а Т Ь е Ottoman
government, however, was not prepared to yield its possession
so е а в й у А punitive expedition against Ibn Saud was decided
ц р о п at Istanbul. But before it could ь е undertaken, the Great .
War broke о ш forcing the Turks to dep10y а Н their military
forces elsewhere; and with the end ofthe war, the Ottoman Е т
pireceased to exist.
Deprived of Turkish support and hemmed in to the north Ь у
territories wblch were now administered Ь у Britain and France,
Ibn Rasbld cou1d п о 10nger put и р effective resistance. Led Ь у
Faysa1ad:Dawish - now one of the most valiant paladins of Ibn
Saud - the К forces took Hail in 1921,and the House ofIbn
RashAd lost its last strol1ghold.
ъ climax of Ibn Saud's expansion с а т е in 1924-1925, when
Ь е conquered the Hijaz, including М е с с а Medina and Jidda,
and expelled the Sharifian dynasty which had с о т е to power
there after Sharif Husayn's British-supported revolt against the
DRIlAMS 177
Turks in 1916. It "'n5 with the ronquest о this Н о у Land о 15­
т that Ibn Saud. now forty-five у е а п old, fuHy emerged into
the view of the о ш е г world.
Hi5 unprecedCl11cd П е to power at а и т е when most о С the
Middle Ea5t had !\uccumbed to Western penetration filledthe
Arab world with tl1e Ь о р е that here at last was the leader who
wouJd lift the е в ш е Arab nation out of its bondage; and т а п у
other Muslim groups besides the Arabs 100ked to Ы т to bring
about а revival о С е Islamic idea in its ful1est sense Ь у establish­
ing а state in wblcl11hespirit of the Koran would reign supreme.
But these hopes rel1\ainedunfulfilled. As his power increased and
was consolidated, it Ь е с а ш е evident that Ibn Saud was п о п ю г е
than а king - а king aiming п о Ы than so many other а ш о
cratic Eastern rulcrs before Ы т
А good andjust ш а п in bls personal affairs, у а to his friends
and supporters and generous toward his enemies, graced Ь у п
tel1ectual gifts far Ь о у е the level of most of his followers, Ibn
Saud has, neverthe!ess; not displayed that breadth of vision and
inspired leadership у Ы с Ь was expected of Ы т Т г ц е Ь е has е в
tablished а conditiol1 of public security in bls vast domains ц п
equalled in Arab lunds since the time of the early Caliphate а
thousand years ago; but, unIike those early Caliphs, Ь е а с с о т
plished tbls Ь у ш е а п а of harsh laws and punitive measures and
not Ь у inculcating il1 bls people а scnse of civic responsibility.
Н е has sent а handl'ul of young т е п abroadto study medicine
and wireless telegraphy; but has done notblng to imbue bls р е о
ple а з а whole with а desire for education and thus to lift them
out of the ignorancc in wblch they Ь а у е Ь е е п steeped for т а п у
centuries. Н е always speaks - with every outward sign of con­
viction - of the grandeur of the Islam.ic way of life; but Ь е has
done nothing to build и р а п equitable, progressive society in
wblch that way of Н С е could find its cultural expression.
Н е is simple, modest and hard-working; but at the same time,
Ь е indulges and а о у з tbose around Ы т to indulge in the most
extravagant and sCl1seless luxuries. Н е is deeply religious and
с а п out to the lctler every formal injunction of IsIamic Law;
but Ь е rarely seems to give а п у thought to the spiritual essence
and purpose of those injunctions. Н е performs the б е obliga­
tory daily prayers with utmost regularity and spends long hours
at night in deep devotion; but it never seems to Ь а у е occurred to
178 Т И Н а О А О Т О М Е С С А
him thatprayer is о п у а means and not а п end in itself. Н е lovcs
to speak of the responsibility of the ruler toward his subjects,
and often quotes the Propbet's saying: Е у е г у т а п is а sbepherd
entrusted witb I,"esponsibility toward his flock'; but, nevertbeless,
Ь е bas neglected tbe education ofе у е п own sons and tbus left
ш е п т poorly equipped for the tasks that lie before them. And
wben Ь е was о п с е asked why Ь е did not try to organize bis state
о п а less personal basis, so tbat his sons might inherit а п о г
ganized governmental structure, Ь е answered:
'1 Ь а у е conquered т у kingdom with т у own sword and Ь у т у
о efforts; let т у sons exert tlleir own efforts after т е
1 г е с а й а conversation with tbe К in which bis improvi.
dence and lack of administrative vision was fully demonstrated.
It was in М е с с а late in 1928, when the famous ·Ieader of the
Syrian independence movement, Amir Shakib Arslan, paid а
visit to the К Ibn Saud introduced т е with the words: Т
is Muhammad Asad, о и г son. Н е has just returned С г о т tbe
southern regions. Н е loves to among т у beduins:
Amir Shakib, у Ь о was not merely а politicalleader but а т а п
of many-sided interests and а scholar of great erudition, was п п
mediately curious т о kno\v т у п п р г е в в ю п в when Ь е learned that
1 was а Е и г о р е а п convert to Islam. 1 described to Ы т some as­
pects of that о ш е у to the south, and particularly т у е х р е п
ences in Wadi Bisha, which had never before Ь е е п visited Ь у а
European. Т Ь е great agricultural possibilities of that г е я ю п its
wealth of water and its fertile soil had struck т е as e,{tremely
pronUsing; and in the course of т у п а г г а п с е 1 turned to the
King and said:
'1 а т в ц г е О lmam, that Wadi Bisha could easily Ь е с о т е а
granary sufficient о supply tlle \vhole of the Hijaz with wheat.
provided it were scientifically surveyed and developed.'
Т Ь е К perked и р his ears, for the imports ofwheat for the
province of Hijaz consumed т и с Ь о С the country's revenues­
and shortage о С revenues had always Ь е е п Ibn Saud's greatest
worry.
'How long would it take: Ь е asked т е 'to develop Wadi
Bisha in this а у
Not being а п expert, 1could not supply а п у clear-cut ans\ver;
1 suggested thata commission о Г technical experts from abroad
should survey the region and recommerld concrete plans for its
DRBAMS 179
development. It would take, 1ventured to say, at most about five
to ten years to make the а г е а [ и Н у preductive.
'Ten years!' exclaimed Ibn Saud. ' Т е п years is а very long
time. We beduins know only о п е thing: whatever we have in
о ц г hands we put into our mouths and eat. Т о plan [ о г ten years
ahead is [ а г too long for ц в . '
О п hearing this astonishing statement, Amir Shakib stared at
т е , open-mouthed, as if disbelieving his own ears. And 1 could
only stare back at Ы т ...
lt was then that 1 Ь е в а п to ask myself: Is Ibn Saud а great т а п
whom comfort and kingship have lured away from the path of
greatness - о г merely а т а п of great valour and shrewdness who
never aspired to ш о г е than personal power?
Т о tbls р а у , 1 с а п п о т satisfactorily answer this question; for
although 1 have known Ы т for years, and known Ы т well, а
part of Ibn Saud's nature Ь а з remained inexplicabIe to т е . Not
.that Ь е is secretive in а п у way; Ь е speaks freely about .mmself
and often relates his experiences: but his character has too т а п у
facets.to Ь е easily grasped, and his outward а р р е а г а п с е о С sim­
plicity conceals а heart а в uneasy as the в е а , and а в rich in moods
and inner contradictions.
His personal authority is tremendous, but it does not г е е т so
т и с Ь о п actual power as о п the suggestive strength of his char­
acter. Н е is utterly unassuming in words and demeanour. His
truly democratic spirit enabIes Ы т to converse with the bed­
uins who с о т е to Ы т л п dirty, tattered garments as if Ь е were
о п е of thern;-and to а Н о \ у them to call Ы т Ь у his first п а т е , Abd
al-Aziz. О п the other hand, Ь е с а п Ь е Ь а и в Ы у and contemp­
tuous to\vard h.igh1y-placed officials whenever Ь е discerns ser­
vility in them. Н е despises а Н snobbery. 1 reI:lember а п incident
in М е с с а when, during а dinner at the т о у а l palace, the head of
о п е ofMecca's nobIest families wrinkled bls nose at the 'beduin
crudity' of some of the Najdis present who were gustily eating
their rice in large fistfuls; in order to demonstrate 1Us о \ у п refine­
ment, the М е с с а п aristocrat daintily manipulated hisfood with
his finger6ps - \Vllen suddenly the voice of the King boomed
out: ' У о и fine р е о р l е toy with your food so gingerly: is it Ь е ­
cause у о и are accustomed to dig with your fingers in dirt? We
people of Najd are not afraid of our hands; they are clean - and
therefore we eat heartily and Ь у tbe handful!'
180 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
Sometimes, when Ь е is entirely re1axed, а gentle smile plays
about Ibn Saud's mouth and gives а п almost spiritual quality to
the beauty ofhi5 face. 1 а т в ш е that were music not regarded as
reprehensible Ь у the 5trict Wahhabi code which Ibn Saud fol­
lows, Ь е would undoubtedly Ь а е е expressed himself in it; but as
it is, Ь е shows his musical bent о п у in his little poems, his colour­
ful description5 of е х р е п е п с е в and his songs of war and love
which а у е spread through the whole of Najd and are 5ung Ь у
т е п as they ride о п their dromedaries across the desert and wo­
т in the seclusion of their chambers. And it reveals it5e)fin
the way his daily life follow5 а regular, elastic rhythm suited to
the demands of his royal office. Like Juliu9 Caesar, Ь е р о в в е в в е в
to а blgh degree the capacity to pursue several trains of thought
at о п е and the same time, without in the least curtailing the п
tensity with which Ь е а п а с к в е а с Ь individual problem: and it is
this remarkable gift which permits him to direct р е г в о п а й у а
tl1e affairs of his vast kingdom without falling into confusion о г
breaking down from overwork, and still find ш в е and inclina­
tion to cultivate 50lavishly the 50cietyof women. Т Ь е acuteness
of bls perceptions is often uncanny. Н е has а п a)most unfailing,
instinctive insigbt into the motives of the р е о р е with whom Ь е
has to deal. Not infrequently - as 1 myself Ь а у е blld opportunity
to witness - Ь е is а Ы е to read men's thoughts before they are
spoken, and seems to sense а т а п 's attitude toward Ы т at the
very ш о е п of that ri1an's entering the с о о т It is this ability
which has ш а е it possible for Ibn Saud to thwart several е х
ceedingly well-prepared attempts о п his life, and to make т а п у
а lucky on-the-spot decision in politica) matters.
In short, Ibn Saud seems to possess т а п у of the qualities
wblch could make а т а п great, but Ь е has never made а real at­
tempt to achieve greatness. Not being introspective Ь у tempera­
ment, Ь е has а tremendous talent for rationalization, for per­
suading hi.mself of his o\vn righteousness in the face of the most
glaring lapses, and easilyevades all self-examination. Those who
surround Ы - his courtiers and the innumerable hangers-on
who Н у е off his bounty - certainly do notblng to counteract this
unfortunate tendency.
Belyingthe tremendous promise ofhis younger years, \vhen Ь е
appeared to ь е а dreamer of stirring dreams, Ь е has brokcn­
perhaps without reaJizing it himself - thc spiriL of а 11igh-strung
DREAMS 181
nation Щ had Ь е е п wont to look и р to him as to а God-sent
leader. They had expected too т и с Ь of him to bear the disap­
pointment of their expectations :with. equanimity; and some of
the best among the р е о р е of Najd now speak in bitter terms of
what they consider а betrayal of their trust.
1 shall never forget the look of ш з е с у and hopelessness in the
face of а Najdi friend - а т а п who had о п с е Ь е е п а most ardent
believer in Ibn Saud's leadership and had foHowed him through
thick and thin in the most difficult у е а г в of his royal с а с е е с
when, speaking of the К Ь е told т е о п е д а у
'When we rode with Ibn Saud against Ibn Rasbld in those
early days and when we rode wiih Ь ш under banners inscribed
Е а i/aha Ш A//ah- Т Ь е с е is п о God but God' - against that
traitor to Islam, Sharif Husayn, we thought that Ibn Saud was а
new Moses, destined to lead his people out of the bondage of ig­
norance and decay into the promised land of Islam. But when Ь е
settled down to Ы з newly won comforts and luxuries, forgetting"
his р е о р е and their future, we found to о с horror that Ь е was
Pharaoh .. .'
М у friend was, of course, far too harsh and even unjust in Ы з
condemnation of Ibn Saud: for Ь е is п о Pharaoh, п о oppressor;
Ь е is а kind т а п and 1 have п о doubt that Ь е loves his people.
But Ь е is п о Moses, either. Н failure lies rather in his having
fai1ed to Ь е as great as the people had thought him to ь е - and
as, perhaps, Ь е could have Ь е е п had the trumpet-cal1
of Ь з youth. Н е is а п eagle who never reaHy took wing.
Н е has simply remainecl а benevolent tribal chieftain о п а п
immensely enlarged scale ... *
-3­
ON Т Н Е MORNINO of т у departure from Hail 1 а т awaken­
ed Ь у а loud music which fl.ows in through the о р е п window о С
т у castle с Ь а т Ь е с а singing, chirping and strumming, like а
hundred violins and WiDd instruments being tuned before the
opening of а grand-opera performance: that disjointjed poly­
• А short time after completiol1 of this book (1953), К Ibn saud died а thc
а г е of scventy-three; and with his passing an е р о с Ь of Arabian history came to а
closc. When 1 saw him last in the autumn of 1951 о п the occasion of an official
visit to Saudi А г а Ы а 011 behalf of the Govemment of Pakistan), it т to т е
Ь а Ь е had а last Ь е с о т е а у а г е of the tragic waste of his life. His face, о п е е so
strong I!nd !ively, was bitter and withdrawn; when Ь е spoke of himsclf, Ь е scemed
to ь е speaking of something that was already dead and buried and beyond recall.
182 Т В Е Ш Л Т О М Е С С А
р Ь о п у of short, discordant 5trokes whicb, Ь е с а ц в е they are 50
ш а ц у and 50 5ubdued, seem to с Ь и т и р а n1ysterious, a1m05t
ghostly unity oftone ... But thismust indeed ь е а buge orches­
п а 50 mighty are the waves of в о ц п ё it sends forth ...
As 1step to the window and look о ш into the dawning grey of
the morning, over and beyond the empty market place, beyond
the mud-grey houses ofthe town, toward tbe foothills where the
tamarisks and the palm orchards grow - 1 recognize it: it is the
music ofthe draw wells in the orchards which are just beginning
their day's work, hundreds of them. In large leather bags tbe
water is being drawn и р Ь у camels, the dra\v г о р е в run over
crudely fashioned о о е п pulleys, and е а с Ь pulley rubs against
its wooden axle а п sings, pipes, creaks and soughs in а multi­
tude ofhiglJ а п low tones until the г о р е is fuHy unroHedand tbe
р и Н е у comes to а standsti1l; \vhereupon it gives out а violent
sound like а shout, and the shout gradually fades away in sigh­
ing chords, now powerfulJy accompanied Ь у the rush of water
into wooden troughs; and then the camel tums г о п and goes
slowly back to the well- and again the р и е у makes music while
the ropes roll over it and the waterskin п down into the well.
Because there а г е so т а п у wells, the singing does not stop for
а single moment; the tones п о meet in accords, now separate;
some of them Ь е п with new jubilation while others die away.
.Whole cascades ofungraspable Jhythms fiow together and away
from е а с Ь other - roaring, creaking, piping, singing - what а
magnificent orchestra! Itis not co-ordinated Ь у human design:
and therefore it almost ,reaches tbe greatness of nature, whose
wiJJ is
VH
MIDWAY
-1­
W
E Н А У Е LEFT И А and а г е riding toward· М е
dina: now three riders - for о п е of Ibn Musaad'5
т е п М а п в ш a1-Assaf, is accompanying us р а п of
.
the way о п а п errand of the а т й '.
Mansur is 50handsome that if Ь е were to а р р е а г о п the streets
of а Western city а the women would turn to 100k after him.
Н е is very tall, with а strong, virile face and amazingly even feс
tures. His skin is whitish-brown - а л л а Ы е г п а г к of good
Ы п Ь а т о г Arabs - and а pair of black eyes survey the \vorld
е е л у from beneath \ve11-shaped bro\\'s. Therc i5nothing 10 Ы т
ofZayd's delicCl.cy or of Zayd's quiet detachment: the lines of his
face speak о С violent, if с о л г о П е passions and е п to his а р
pearance а п aura of sombreness quite unlike the в е г е л е gravity
ofmy Shammar friend. But Mansur, likeZayd, has в е е п а lot о Г
the wor1d and makes а pleasant с о т р а о п
л the е у а л у е о р е Ь Ы у soil that has л о thc
sands of the Nufud we с а п descry the·Jitt1e animal life that fiJls
it: tiny grey lizards zigzag between our camels' feet а г а п п
credible speed, take refuge under а thorny shrub and watch our
passing with Ы а п п eyes; little grey fie1d mice\vith bushy tai!s, .
resernbIing squirre1s; and their cousins, the ш а п п о и '\vhosc
flesh is Ы в Ы у esteerned Ь у the beduins of Najd and is, indeed,
one of the tenderest delicacies 1 Ь а у е ever tasted. Т is al50
the о о л edible lizard ca11ed d/mb which thrives о п the г о о г з
of p1ants and tastes like а cross chicken а п fish. B1ack
four-1egged beet1es the size ofa small hen's egg с а п Ь е obser\'ed
as they roll with touching patience а 0011 of drycamel-dung;
pushing it back\vard \vith strong hind legs\vhilethe body 1eansо п
the fore1egs, they roll the precious find painfully to\vard their
homes, а П о п their backs if а р е Ь Ы с happens to. obstruct
their path, turn over with difficulty о п their legs again, roH t11eir
possession а few inches farther, fall again. get up.again and work,
J83
184 Т Н В ROAD Т О М В С С А
tire!essly... Sometimes а grey hare jumps away jn loog leaps
from beneath grey bushes. О п с е we в е е gazelies, but too distant
to shoot; they disappear io the blue-grey shadows between two
hills.
'Tell т е О Muhammad,' asks М а п в ц г 'how did it м р р е о
that thou hast с о т е to Н у е among the Arabs? And how didst
thou с о т е to embrace Islam Т
'1 will.tell thee how it happened,' interposes zayd. 'First Ь е
fe)} in love with the Arabs, and then with their faith. Isn't it true,
О т у uncle?'
'What zayd says is ц ц е О Mansur. М а п у years ago, when I
first с а т е to Arab lands, 1 was attracted Ь у т е way you people
lived. And when I began to ask myself what you thought and
what у о и believed in, I с а ш е to know about Islam.'
'And didst thou, О Muhammad, find а at о п с е that Islam
was the True Word of О
'Well, п о this did not с о ш е about so quickly. For о п е tblog,
1didnot т е п Ь е Н е у е that God had ever spoken directly to т а п
о г that the books which т е п claimed to ь е His word were а п у
thing but the works of wise т е п .. .'
Mansur stares at т е with utter incredulity: 'How could that
Ь е О М т ? Didst thou not е у е п believein the Scriptures
which Moses brought, о с the Gospel ofJesus? But 1Ь а у е always
thought that the peoples of the West Ь е е у е at least in Ь е
'Sometlo, О Mansur, and others do not. 1 was о п е of those
others ...'
And I explain т о Ы ш that т а п у people in the West Ь а у е long
ceased to regard the Scriptures - their own as well as those of
others - as true Revelations of God, but see in them rather the
blstory of man's religious aspirations as they Ь а у е evolved over
the ages. .
'But this view of е was shaken as soon as 1с а ш е to know
something of Islam,' 1 add. .'1 с а т е to know about it when 1
fouod that the Muslims lived in а way quite different from what
the Europeans thought should ь е man's way; а п д е у е г у time 1
leamed о т е ф п о г е lhe,teachings·ot-Islam,·] seemed
to discover something that 1had always known "'ithout knowing
it ....
And $0 1. go о п 'tel1ingMansur ofт у first journey to the Near
East - othow in D,esert of Sinai I had т у first impression of
• •
MIDWAY 18S
the Arabs; of what 1 saw and felt in Palestine, Egypt, Trans­
jordan and Syria; of how in Damascus 1 had т у first premoni­
tion that а new, bltherto unsuspected way to truth was slowly
unfolding before т е and how, after visiting Turkey, 1 retumed
о Europe and found it difficult to live again in the Westem
world: for, о п the о п е hand. 1 was eager to gain а deeper в п ё е г
standing о С the strange uneasiness which т у first acquaintance
with Ь е Arabs and their culture had produced in т е hoping
that it would Ь е р т е better understand what 1 myself expected
oflife; and. о п the other Ь а п ё 1 had reached the point where it
was Ь е с о ш п в clear to т е that never again would 1 ь е а Ы е to
identify myself with Ь е а и п в of Western society.
IN У Н Е SPRING of 1924 the Frankfurter Zeitung sent т е out о п
т у second joumey о Ь е Middle East. The book describing т у
previous travels had а last Ь е е п completed. (It was pubIished а
few months after т у departure under the title П п г о т а п н з с п е
Morgenland - Ь у which 1 meant to convey that it was not а book
about the romantic, exotic outward picture of Ь е Muslim East
Ъ rather а п endeavour to penetrate to its day-by-day realities.
Although its anti-Zionist attitude and unusual predilection for
the Arabs caused something of а flutter in the German press, 1
а т afraid it did п о П very wel1.)
О п с е again 1crossed the Mediterranean and saw the coast of
Egypt before т е Т railway о ш п е у from Port Said to Cairo
was like turning the leaves of а familiar book. Betweenthe Suez
Canal and Lake М а п и а the Egyptian aftemoon unfolded it­
self. Wild ducks s\vam in thc water and tamarisks shook their
finely scalloped branches. Ш а grew up out of the plain,
which was at first sandy and sparsely covered with vegetation.
Dark waterbutraloes, often coupled \vjth camels. werc dra'.ving
ploughs with lazy limbs through the spring soH. As we tumed
wcstward from the SuezCanal. Egyptian green enveloped us.
When 1 saw on<;y--again the slim. ta11 women who were swaying
in indescribabte rhythm, striding over the fields and carrying
pitchers free о п their heads with arms outstretched. 1 to
myself: Nothing in the у Ь о е world - neither the most perfect
automobile nor the proudest bridge nor the most thou.ghtful
book - с а п replace this grace which has beenlost in Ь е West
I
186 Т Н Е в О А О Т О М Е С С А
and i5 already threatened in the East - this grace which is
nothing but а п expression о the magic consonance Ь е а
Ь п being's SeJj' and the world that surrounds him •.•
This time I travelled first clas5. In the compartment there were
о п у two passengers т е а Qreek businessman from.
Alexandria who, with the ease 50 charaeteristic of а Levan­
tines, О П involved т е in а п animated conversation and sup­
р Н о о witty observations о п all we saw; and an Е т О а п Itnrda,
а Ш а headman, who - judging from his costJy 5ilk kaftan and
thethick, gold watch chain that protruded from Ы sash - was
obviously rich but seemed content to remain entirely uneduca.ted.
In fact. almost as soon а з Ь е о п щ our conversation, Ь е readily
admitted that Ь е cou1d neither read nor write; nevertheless, Ь е
a1so dispJayed а 5barp common sensc and frequentJy crossed
swords with the Greek.
We were taJking, I remember, about т е of the 50cial р п п
cip1es in Islam which at that time strongly occupied т у thoughts.
М у Greek fellow traveller did not entire1yagree with т у admira­
tion of the 50cial equity in the Law of Islam.
'It is not as equitable as you seem to think, т у dear friend' ­
and, changing from the French, into which we had lapsed, into
м а Ы е а р for the benefit of our Egyptian companion, Ь е now
turned to Ы ш У ou people say that your religion is 50 е ч Ш Ш Ы е
Couldst thou perhaps then tell us,why it is that т allows
Muslim mentomarry Christian о г Jewish girls butdoes not a110w
your daugbters and sisters to marry а Christian or Jew? Dost
thou c8ll this justice, huh?'
.'1 do, indeed: replied tbe р о ш у м without а moment's
hesitation, 'and I shall tell thee why our religious law а з N=en
tbus laid down. We М ш do not believe tbat Jesus- т а у
р е а с е and God'5 bIessing ь е upon him - was GQd's О п but we
do Ы т as we eonsider Moses and Abraham and а tbe
other Propbets oftbe Bible, а true'Prophet ofGod, а ofthem
having Ь е е п sent to mankind in tbe same way as the Last Pro­
phet, Muhammad - т а у God bIess him and give him р е а с е
was sent: and о if а Jewish or С Ь т girJ ш е з а Muslim,
she т а у rest assured that п о п е of т е persons who are holy to
her will ever ь е spoken of п е у among her new
whi1e, о п the other hand, shou1d а Muslim П а п о п
Muslirn, it is certain that Ь е wbom sbe regards as God's Messen­
MIDWAY 187
ger WiJ1 ь е abused ... and perhaps е у е п Ь у ber own children:
for д о not children usually foJlow tbeir father's faith? Dost thou
think it would ь е fair to expose her to such pain and humilia­
tion?'
Т Ь е Greek had п о answer to this except а п embarrassed shrug
of his shoulders; but to т е it ш е д that the simple, iI1iterate
umda had, with that common sense 50 peculiar to his г а с е
touched the kemel ofа у е г у important problem. А п д о п с е а з п
as with that old hajjiin lerusalem, 1felt that а new door tCi Islam
was being opened to т е
IN ACCORDANCE WITH М У changed financial circumstanccs,
1 was now а Ы е to live in Cairo in а style which wou1d Ь а у е been
unthinkable а few months earlier. 1 п о longer needed to count
pennies. Т days when, during т у first stay in this city, 1 had to
subsist о п bread, olives and milk, were forgotten. But in о п е res­
pect 1 kept faith with the 'traditions' of т у past: instead о С р ш
ting up in о п е of Н е С а з Ы о п а Ы е quarters of Cairo, 1 rented
rooms in the house of т у old friend, the fat woman from Trieste,
who received т е with о р е п а п п в and а motherly kiss о п both
с Ь е е Ь
О п the tblrd day after т у arrival, at sunset, 1 heard the muf­
fled sound о С с а о п from the Citadel. At the з т е moment а
circle oflights sprang up о п the highest galleries о С the two mina­
rets that flanked the Citadel mosque; and all the minarets of а
the mosques in the а took и р that i1lumination and repeated
it: о п е у е г у minaret а similarcircle о С 1ights. Т old Cairo
there went а strange о е щ е п quicker and at the з т е ш е
т о г е Cestive Ь е с а т е the step о С the people, louder the polyphon­
ous noise in streets: you could sense and almost hear а new
tension quiver at all с о т е в
And all this Ь а р р е п е д because the new crescent т о о п а п
nounc::cd а new month (Cor the Islamic calendar goes Ь у lunar
т о п з and у е а в and that month was Ramadan, the most
solemn month of the Islamic year. It commemorates the tiine,
more з п thirteen hundred years ago, when, according to tradi­
tion, Muhammad received the first revelation of the К о г а п
Striet (asting is expected о С е у е г у Muslim during this month.
М and women, з а у е those who are Ш are forbidden to take
188 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
food о г drink (and even to smoke) from the moment wben the
first streak of light о п the eastem horizon annourices the coming
dawn, unti1 sunset: for thirty days. During these thirty days the
people of С а л о went around with glowing е у е в as if elevated to
hoJy regions. In the thirty nights you heard с а п п о п й г е singing
and cries о С joy, while all the mosques glowed with light unti1
daybreak.
Twofold, 1 leamed, is the purpose of this month of fasting.
one has to abstam from food and drink in order to feel in one's
о body what the р о о г and hungry feel: thus, social г е ь р о в ы
bility в being hammered into ш а п consciousness as а religious
postulate. Т other purpose of fasting during Ramadan is self­
discipline - а в aspect of individual morality. strongly а с с е п
tuated in all IsIamic teachings а в for instance, in the tota1 р г о
hibltion of all intoxicants, which Islam regards as too easy an
avenue ofе е с а р е о ш consciousness and Ь In these
two elements - brotherhood о С т а п and individual self-discipline
- 1began.to discem the outlines ofIslam's ethical outlook.
In т у endeavour to gain а fuller picture of what Islam really
meant and в ю о ё for, 1 derived great benefit from the explana­
tions which о ш е о С my С а ц е в е Muslims friends were а Ы е to
provide т е Outstanding among them was Shayk.h Mustafa al­
М а с а Ш о п е of the most prominent Islamic scholars of the
ш е and certainly _the most brilliant о the ulama о С А
Azbar ш е Ь е was destined to Ь е с о т е its rector some
у з 1ater). Н е must have been in his middle forties at that ш е
but ы stocky, muscular body had the alertness and vivacity ofа
- twenty-year-old. In spite о С ш erudition and gravity, his sensc о С
humour never left Ы т А pupil"of the great Egyptian reformer
Mubammad Abduh, and Ь а associated in his youth with
tbat inspiring firebrand, Jamal ad-Din a1-Afghani, Shaykh А
Maraghi was himself а keen, critical thinker. Н е never failed to
ш р з upon me thatthe Muslims of recent times had fal1en
very-short indeed of the ideals of tbeir faith, and that nothing
couid ь е в erroneous than to ш Щ П the potentialities of
message Ь у the yardstick of present.day М ш
Ш е and thought - .
, - just а з Ь е said, 'it wou1d ь е erroneous to see in the Chris­
п unloving behaviour toward о п е another а refutation о С
ь InC$S8ge oflove •• .'
MIDWAY HS'/
With this warning, Shaykh AI-Maraghi introduced т е to Al­
Azhar.
Out о С the crowded bustle о С Mousky Street, Cairo's oldest
shopping centre, we reached а small, out-of-the-way square, о п е
of its sides occupied Ь у Ь е broad, straight front of the Azhar
Mosque. Т а double gate and а shadowy forecourt we
entered the courtyard ofthe mosque р г о р е г а large quadrangle
surrounded Ь у ancient arcades. Students dressed in 10ng, dark
jubbas and white turbans were sitting о п straw mats and reading
with low voices from their books and manuscripts. Т lectures
were given in Ь е huge, covered mosque-hall beyond. Several
teachers sat, also о п straw mats, under Ь е pi1lars which crossed
Ь е hall in о п rows, and in а semicircle before е а с Ь teacher
crouched а group о С students. Т lecturer never raised his voice,
so that it obviously required great attention and concentratlon
not о miss а п у о С his words. О п е should Ь а у е thought that such
absorption would ь е conducive to real scholarship; but Shaykh
AI-Maraghi soon shattered т у illusions:
'Dost thou seethose "scholars" over therel' Ь е asked т е Т Ь е у .
а г е like those sacred cows in India which, 1 а т told, eat up а
the printed р а р е г they с а п find in the streets ... Yes, they gob­
Ы е up all Ь е printed pages from books that Ь а у е been written
centuries ago, but they do not digest them. Т Ь е у п о longer think
for themselves; they read and repeat, read and repeat - and the
studcnts who listen to them learn only to "read and repeat, gener­
ation э е г generation.'
В ц Shaykh Mustafa,' 1 interposed, 'Al-Azhar is, after а
the central seat of Islamic learning, and the oldest university in
the world! О п е encounters its п а т е о п nearly е у е г у page о С
Muslim cultural history. What about а the great thinkers, the
theologians, historians, philosophers, mathematicians it has pro­
duced over the last ten centuriesl'
'It stopped producing them several ago,' Ь е replied
ruefully. "Well, perhaps not quite; here and there an е р е п
dent thinker has somehow managed to е ш е г е from Al-Azhar
с у е п in reccnt times. But о п the whole, Al-Azhar bas lapsed into
the sterility ftom У Ы с Ь the whole Muslim world is suffering, and
its old impetus is а but extinguished. Tbose ancient Islamic
thinkers у Ь о т thou hast mentioned would never Ь а у е dreametJ
that after 50 т а п у centuries their thoughts, instead о С being с о п
190 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
tinued and developed, would only ь е repeated over and" о у е г
again. as if thcy were ultimate and Н truths. If there is о
ь е а п у change for the Ь е п е г thinking must ь е encouraged in­
stead ot' the present thought-imitation ...'
Shaykh AI-Maraghi's trenchant characterization о С AI-Azhar
helped т е to reaJize о п е of the deepest causes of the с ш ш г а de­
с а у that stared о п е in Ь е face everywhere in Ь е Muslim world.
Was not Ь е scholast1c petrifaction о С this ancient university
mirrored, in varying degre.:s, in Ь е social sterility ofthe Muslim
present? Was not the counterpart of this il!1tellectual stagnation
to ь е found in the passive, almost indolent, а с с е р ш п с е Ь у so .
т а п у Mus1ims о С the unnecessary poverty in which ,theyJived, of
their mute toleration of the т а п у social wrongs to wl1ich they
were subjected?
And was it а п у wonder ш е п 1 asked myself, that, fortified Ь у
such tangibIe evidences of Muslirn decay, so т а п у erroneous
views about Ы а т п itself were prevalent throughout Ь е West?
These popular, Western views could ь е summarized thus: Т
downfall of Ь е Muslims is mainly due о Islam \vhich, far from
beinga religious ideologycomparable о Christianityor Judaism,
is а rather unholy г of desert fanaticism, gross sensuality,
superstition and dumb fatalism that prevents its adherents from
participating in mankind's ad,'ance tO\\Iard higher social forms;
instead of 1iberating the Ь и т а п spirit г о т the shackles of о э
scurantism, Islam rather tightens them; and, coosequently, the
sooner ш е Muslim peoples а г е freed from their г
to Islamic beliefs and social practices and induced to adopt
the Western way of life. the Ь е п е г for them and for rest of
theworld . , .
М у о о о в е г е а и о п в had Ь у now convinced т е that the mind
of Ь е average Westerner held а п utterly distorted image of Is­
lam. What 1 saw in Ь е pages of the К о г а п was not а 'crudely
materia1istic' world-view but, о п Ь е contrary, а п intense God­
consciousness that expressed itself in а rational acceptance of а Н
God-created nature: а harmonious side-by-side of intellect and
sensual urge, spiritual need and social demand. It was obvious
to т е that the decline ofthe Muslims \vas п о due to а п у short­
comings in Islam but rather to their о у п failure to live и р to it.
For, indeed, it was Islam that had carried the early Muslims to
tremendous cultural heights Ь у directing а Н their energies о
MIDWAY 191
ward conscious tbought as the only means to understanding the
п а ш г е of God's creation and, thus, of Н will. No demand bad
been made of them to believe in dogmas difficult о г even impos­
sible of intellectual comprehension; in fact, п о dogmawhatso­
е ь е г was to ь е found in the Propbet's message: and, thus,
thirst after knowledge which distinguished early Muslim history
had not Ь е е п forced. as elsewhere in the world, to assert itself in
а painful struggle against the traditionaI faith. О п the contrary,
it had stemmed exclusively from that faith. Т Ь е Л а Ы а п Prophet
had declared that Striving a/ter kl101vledge is а т о и sacredduty
о г с е г у Muslim т а п and о т а п and his foUowers were led to
understand that о п у Ь у acquiring knowledge could they С и Н у
worship the Lord. When they pondered the Prophet's saying,
God creates110 disease c,eating а с и г е о г '"! а з well, they
realized that Ь у searching С о г unknown cures they \vould contri­
bute to а fulfilment of God's will о п earth: and so medical г е
search Ь е с а т е invested with the holiness о С а religious duty,
Т Ь е у read the Koran verse, We с е е т е е у е к у /ivil1g t/ling о ш о
H'ater - and in their endeavour to penetrate to Ь е meaning of
these words, they began to study living organisms and Ь е laws
of their development: and thus they established the science of
biology. Т Ь е К о г а п pointed to the· Ь а г т о п у of the stars and
their movements as witnesses of their Creator's glory: and ш е г е
и р о п the scienccs о С astronomy and mathematics were taken и р
Ь у the Muslims '.vith а fervour which in other religions was г е
served for р г а у е г alone. Т Ь е Copernican system, ш с cstab­
lished the earth's rotation around its axis and the revolution of
the planets around the sun, was evolved in Europe at the begin­
ning of the sixteenth century (only о Ь е met Ь у the fury of Ь е
ecclesiastics, who read in it а contradiction of the Iiteral teach­
ings of' Ь е BibJe): but ф е foundations of this у е П had actu­
а Н у been laid six hundred years earlier, in Muslim countries -.
for already in the ninth al1d 1enth centuries Muslim astronomers
had reac!led the conclusion that the earth was globular and that
it.rotatcd around its axis, and had made accurate calculations of
Iatitudes and longitudes; а л ш у of tl1em maintained - \vith­
out е е г being accused of heresy - that the earth rotated around
the sun. А м in the same у а у they tQok to chen1istry and physics
and physioiogy, ш 10а Н tl1c other scienccs in w'ruch Ь е Mus\im
genius was to find its most lasting ffiOl1timerlt. In building that
192 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
monument they did п о more than follow ш е admonition of tbeir
Prophet that //О У Ь У р г о с е е ш о п Ь и way in search о know­
ledge, Godwill make easy о г him Ь е way о Paradise; that The
scientisl walks. in Ihe palh о God,· that Т superiority о the
leamedо е г II,e т е г е piousis like Ь е superiorilY о the т о о п when
it is/ull О У е г all otherstars; and that Т ink O/Ihe scholars is
т о г е р г е с о ш Ь а the bIood o/marlyrs.
Throughout the whole creative period of М ш ш history­
that is to say, during the first five centuries after ш е Prophet's
ш е - science and е а п в had п о greater cbampion than Mus­
lim civi1ization and п о Ь о е ш о г е secure than ш е lands in which
Islam was supreme.
Sociallife was similarly affected Ь у Ш е teachings ofthe Koran.
At а ш е when in Christian Europe an epidemic was regarded
as а scourge ofGod to which ш а п had but to submit meekly - at
that ш е and о п в before it, Ш е Muslims followed the injunc­
п о п of their Prophet which directed them to combat epidemics
Ь у з е в с е в а в the infected о ц and areas. And at а time when
even ш е з and nobles of Christendom regarded bathing as
а п alrnost indecent и х и с у even the poorest of Muslim houses
had at least о п е bathroom, whi1e elaborate p\lblic baths were
с о п и п о п in every Muslim city (in the ninth century, for instance,
Cordoba had three hu.ndred of them) : and а Н tms in response to
ш е Prophet's teaching tbat Clean/iness isр а п o//aith. А Muslim
did not с о т е into conflict with Ш е с а ш of spiritu8I life if Ь е
took pleasure in the beautiful в з ofmateriallife, for, accord­
в to tbe Prophet, Godlo,'es 10see о п Н и servants а evidence о
Н и boimty.
In short, Islam gave а tremendous incentive to cultural
acblevements which constitute о п е of the proudest pages in Ш е
history of mankind; and it gave tms incentive Ь у saying У е з to
the intellect and No to obscurantism, Yes to а с й о п aIid No"10
quietism, У е з to life and No to asceticism. Little wonder, then,
tbat as з о о п as it emerged beyond tbe с о п е з of Л а Ы а Islam
won new adberents Ь у leaps and bounds. В о т and nurtured in
tbe world-contempt of Р а и е and Augustinian Christianity,
tbe populations of Syria and North Africa, and а little later of
Visigothic Spain, saw themselves suddenly confronted with а
teaching wmch denied the о э of Original Sin and stressed
Ь е inbom dignity of earth1y life: and so tbey rallied in ever-in­
MIDWAY
193
creasing numbers to the new creed that в а у е them to understand.
that т а п was God's vicar о п earth. This, and not а legendary
'conversion at the point о С the sword', was the explanation о С
Islam's amazing triumph in the glorious morning о С its llistory.
lt was not the Muslims that had made Islam great: it \vas Islam
that had made the Muslims great. But as soon as their faith Ь е
с а т е habit and ceased to ь е а programme of life, to ь е с о п
sciously pursued, the creative impulse that underlay their civili­
zation waned and gradually в а у е way to indolence, steri1ity and
cu1tural decay.
Т Н Е NEW INSIGHT 1 had gained, and the progress 1 was
making in the Arabic а п в и а в е (1 had arranged for а student of
Al-Azhar to give т е daily lessons), made т е feel that now at last
1 possessed something like а key to the Muslim mind. No 10nger
was 1 so с е п а ш that а European 'could never consciously grasp
the total р ю ш г е as 1 had written in т у book о п у а few months
earlier; for now this Muslim world п о longer seemed so entirely
а е п to Westt:rn associations. It occurred to т е that jf о п е was
able to а с ш е е а certain degree of detachment from his own past
habits о С thought and allow forthe possibility that they might
not ь е the о п у valid ones, the о п с е so strange Muslim world
might indeed Ь е с о т е graspable ...
But although 1found т и с Ь in Islam that appealed to т у intel­
lect as е П as to т у instincts, 1 did not consider it desirable С о г
а п intelligent т а п to с о п С о а his thinking and his entire view
of Ш е to а system not devised Ь у himself.
Т е П т е Shaykh Mustafa; 1 asked т у erudite friend Al­
Maraghi о п о п е occasion, 'why should it ь е necessary to confine
oneself toone particular teaching and one particular set о С in­
junctions? Mightn't it ь е better to leave а ethical inspiration to
one's inner voice7'
'What thou art г е а Н у asking, т у young brother, is why shou1d
there Ь е а п у institutional religion. Т Ь е answer is simple. Only
у е г у few р е о р е - only prophets - are г е а П у able to understand
the inner voice that speaks in them. Most of us are trammelled Ь у
our personal interests and desires - and if е у е г у о п е were to о
low о у what his own heart dictates, we would Ь а у е complete
moral chaos з п could never agree о п а п у mode of behaviour.
194 Т Н Е а О А О Т О М Е С С А
Ъ oou1dst ask, о С course, whether there а г е п о е х с е р ц о п в to
the general rule - en1ightenedpeople who feel Ь е у have п о need
о ь е "guided" in what they consider to Ь е right or wrong; but
Ь е п 1ask ш е е would not т а п у very т а п у р е о р т е claim that
exceptional right for themselves? And what would ь е Ь е г е
sultT
1 HAD BEEN IN CAIRO for nearly six weeks when 1 suffered
а recurrence of mataria, which had attacked т е in Palestine
Ь е previous year. It began with а headache and dizziness and
pains in а Н т у 1imbs; and Ь у Ь е end of Ь е day 1 was flat о п т у
back, unable о lift т у hand. Signora Vitelli, т у landlady, bus­
tlOO around т е aImost as if she \vere enjoying т у helplessness;
but her concern was genuine. She gave т е hot m.ilk о drink and
placed cold compresses over т у head - but when 1 suggestOO
that perhaps а doctor should ь е caIIed in, she bristled indig­
nantly:
•А doctor - pooh! What do those butchers know а п о ш mala­
ria! 1 know п ю г е about it thao а п у of them. М у saihted second
husband died of it in Albania. We had Ь е е п 1iving
1in
Durazzo
for some years and р о о г soul, was often racked with pains
. worse than yours; but Ь е always had confidence in т е ...'
1 was too weak to argue, and let her Ш т е и р with а potent
brew of hot Greek wine а п ё quinine - not а п у of your sugar­
coated pilIs but Ь е real, powderOO stuff у Ы с Ь shook т е with its
bitterness almost more thao Ь е fever did. Р ш в о г п е п о с е strange
to say, 1had П confidence in М а т а Vitelli io spite of her о п ц п
ous reference о her 'sainted second husbai1d'.
Т night, white т у body was buming with fever, 1 sudden1y
heard а tender, intensive music from the street: the sound of а
barrel organ. It was oot о п е ·of those ordinary barrel organs with
\\lheezy Ь е П о and cracked pipes, but rather something that re­
minded у о и of the brittle, old clavichords which, because Ь е у
were too de1ic2.te and too limited in nuances, had long ago Ь е е п
discarded in Е и р е 1 had seen such barrel organs earIier in
Cairo: а т а п carried Ь е Ь о х о п his back, а Ь о у folIowed him,
turning the·handle; and the tones feH 5ingly, short and neat,like
arrows hitting thei, mark, like the tinkling of glass, with spaces
in-between. And as they \\'ere 50 unmixed and so isolated from
MIDWAY 195
о п е another, these tones did not allow the listener to grasp the
whole melody, but dragged Ы т instead, in jerks, through tender,
tense ш о ш е в в Т were like а secret which you were trying to
unravel, but could not; and they tormented у о и with their eter­
nal repetition in your head, over and о у е г through the night, Iike
а whirling circle from wblch there was п о escape, like the dance
of the whirling dervishes у о и had seen at Scutari - was it months,
was it years ago? - after you had passed through the world's
densest cypress forest ...
It had Ь е е п а most unusua1 forest, that Turkish cemetery at
Scutari, just across the Bosporus from IStanbul: alleys-aild paths
between innumerable cypresses and, under them, innumerable
upright and.fallen tombstones with weather-wom Arabicinscrip­
tions. Т Ь е cemetery had 10ngago ceased to ь е used; its dead had
been dead for а very 10ng time. Out of their bodies had sprung
nUghty tree trunks, sixty, 'eighty feet blgh, growing into the
changing seasons and into the stillness which in that grove was
so great that п о г о о ш was left formelancholy. Nowhere did о п е
feel so strongly as here that the dead might ь е asleep. Т Ь е у у е г е
Ь е dead of а world which had allowed its living о live р е а с е
fuHy; the д е а д о С а hurnamty without Ь ш т у
After а short wandering through Ь е cemetery, then
the, narrow, Ш у lanes of Scutari, 1 с а т е upon а little mosque
which revealed itself as such on1y in the beautiful ornamental
arabesques over the door. As the was ha1f о р е п 1entered ­
and stood in а dusky г о о ш in the с е ш г е of wblch several figures
sat о п а carpet in а circle around а п old, old т а п Т wore
о п cloaks and blgh, brown, brim1ess felt hats. Т о д imam
\\'as reciting а passage from the Koran in а monotonous voice.
Along о о е wall sat а few musicians: drum-beaters, flutists and
kamallja players with their 10ng-necked, violinlike instruments.
It stiuck т е that this strangeassembly must ь е the \vhirling
dervishes' of whom 1 had heard so т и с Ь а mystic order that
aimed at bringing about, Ь у means of certain rhythmically re­
peated а п д intensified an ecstatic trance in Ь е adept
which was said to е п а Ы е Ы о а с Ы е у е а direct aJld personal
e'tperience о С God.
Т silence wmch fol1o\ved the imam's recitation was suddenly
broken Ь у Ь е thio,·high-pitched sound ofa flute; and the ш и з с
. set in monotoncusly, almost wailingly. As ifwith о п е movcmeot
196 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
the dervishes rose, threw off their cloaks and stood in tbeir
wblte, flowing tunics which reached to the ankles and were
belted at the waistwith knotted scarves. Then е а с Ь of them
made а ha1f-tum, so that, standing in а circle, they faced о п е а п
other in pairs; whereupon they crossed their а п п в over Ь е chest·
and bowed deeply before о п е another (and 1 had to think of the·
old minuet, and ofcavaliers in embroidered с о а в bowing before
their ladies). Т Ь е п е х г moment а Н the dervishes stretched their
arms sidewise, the right palm turned upward ar1d the left down­
ward. Like а wblspered chant, the word Huwa - Н е (that is,
God) - с а т е from their lips. Withthis softly breathedв о ц п ё о п
bi& Iips, е а с Ь т а п began to turn slowly о п his axis, swaying in
rhythm with the music that в е е ш е ё to с о т е from а great dis­
tance. Т Ь е у threw back their Ь е а ш closed their eyes, and а
smootb rigidity spread over their faces. Faster and faster Ь е с а т е
the circling movement; the voluminous tunics rose and formed
wide circles around the spinning figures, making them resembIe
wblte, swirling eddies in а sea; deep was the absorption in their
faces ... Т circling grew into а whirling rotation, а п intoxica·
tion and ecstasy rose visibIy in а Н the ш е п In countless repeti­
tions their half-open Iips murmured the word, Н и в а . . . HUJva
•.. Н и и м а ... ; their bodies wblrled and whirled, round and
round, and the music seemed to draw them into its т о о о
swirling, monotonous chords, monotonouslyascending-and у о и
fe}t as ifу о о yourselfwere being п Ы у drawn into an ascend­
ing wbirlpool, а steep, spiral, dizzying stairway, higher,bigher,
a1ways bigher, a1ways the в а ш е steps, but a1ways higher, in ever­
rising spirals, toward some unfathomabIe, ungraspabIe .end ...
. . . untiI the Jarge, friendJy hand which М а т а Vitelli placed .
о п your о с е Ь з brought the whirling to а standstill, and
the dizzy П д brought у о о back from Scutari to the cool­
ness of а room in Cairo ...
Sign"ra ViteJli а д Ь е е п right, afterall. Her ministrations
heJped т е to о у е т е т у maJaria OOut, if oot sooner, at least
as sooo as у professiooal doctor could Ь а у е done. Within two
days J was almost free offever, д о п the third д а у 1 could е х
с а е fIJ.y bed for а comfortabIe с Ь з Ш 1was too exhausted
to Ы of going aOOut, and ш е bung heavily. О о с е or twice
т у teacher-student from AI-Azhar visited т е and brought т е
some books.
MIDWAY 197
М у г е с е t е у е г Ь о е г е т е т Ь г а п с е о С the whirling dervishes
of Scutari omehow bothered т е It had unexpectedly acquired
а puzzling ignificancethat had not Ь е е п apparent in the original
е х р е п е п с е П е esoteric rites of this religious order - о п е of the
т а п у 1 Ь а encountered in у а П о ш Muslirn countries - did not
з е е т to fit .nto the picture of Islam that was slowly forrning in
т у mind. 1 requested т у Л п friend to bring т е some о п е п
talist work о п the subject; and, through them, т у instinctive
suspicion that esoterism of this kind had intruded into the Mus­
т orbit from non-Islamic sources was с о ш О О Т Ь е specula­
tions of the ш as the Muslim mystics were called, betrayed
Gnostic, Indian and occasionally е у е п Christian influences
which had brought in asceticconcepts and practices entirelyalien
to the message of the Arabian Prophet. In his message, к е а з о п
was stressed as the only г е а way to faith. While the validity of
mystical experience was not necessarily precluded in this а р
р г о а с Ь Islam was primarily а п intellectual and not а п е ш о п о п а
proposition. A1though, naturally enough, it produced а strong
emotional attachment in i15 followers, Muhammad's teaching
did not accord о emotion а з з и с Ь а п у independent role in г е
ligious perceptions: for emotions, however profound, а г е far
т о г е и а Ы е to Ь е swayed Ь у subjectiyedesires and fears than г е а
500, with all i15 fallibility, е у е г could Ь е
'fT WAS IN SUCH bits and pieces, Mansur, that Islam г е
vealed itself to т е а glirnpseЬ е г е and а glimpse there, through а
с о п е о л а book, о г а п о Ь а о л - slowly, а п п о з т with­
out т у Ь е л aware of it ...'
-2-­
И Е WE М А К Е С А М Р о г the л Zayd starts to bake
о ш bread. Н е makes а dough of coarse wheat й о ц г water and
salt and shapes it into а flat, round loaf about а п inch thick.
е л Ь е cJears а hollow л the sand, fills it \yith dry twigs and
sets fire to them; and when the П а т е after а sudden burst, has
dieJ do\vn, Ь е places the loaf о п Ь е glo\ving embers, с о у е Г it
\y;th Ь о ashcs and lights а п е у mound t\vigs о п о р of it.
After а 1••- Jncoyers Ь е bread, tums it о у е г coyers it а з
before and Iights another fire о у е г it. А Н е г another half hour the
198 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
ready loaf isdug out С г о т the е т Ь е в and slapped with а stick to
г е ш о т е tl1e remaining sand and ashes. We eat it with clarified
Ь ц п е г and dates. Т is п о bread п ю г е delicious than this.
Mansur's hUIJSE:r, like Zayd's and п е п а в Ь е е п satisfied, but
bis curiosity has not. As we lie around the б г Ь е с о п ц п ц е в to
р у т е with questions about how 1 finaHy Ь е с а т е а Muslim­
and while 1 try to е х р it to him, it strikes т е with something
like astonishment, how difficult it is to put into words т у о п в
way to Ы а ш
'- for, О М а п з ш Islam с а т е о у е г т е like а robber who е п
ters а house Ь у night, steathily. without noise о г т и с Ь а ё о о у
that. unlike а robber, it entered to remain for gQod. But it took
т е years 10 discover that 1 was to ь е а М и в Н т .. :
Т back о ш о в е days of т у second Middle East jour­
ney - wheil Islambegan to о с с и р у т у mind in а eamest - it
seems to т е t11at е у е п then 1was conscious of р г п а journey
of discovery. Every daynew impressions broke over т е е у е г у
day new questions arose from within and new answers с а ш е
from without. Т Ь е у awakened а п е с Ь о of something that bad
Ь е е п bldden somewhere in the background of т у mind; and as 1
progressed in т у knowledge of Islam 1 felt, time and time again,
that а truth 1 had always kno\\'n, without Ь е в aware of it, was
gradtlal1y being uncovered and, as it were, confirmed.
п с Ь е е а г у summer of 19241started out from Cairo о п а long
wandering which was to take Ь е Ь е п е г part of two у е а г в Г о г
almost two years 1 trekked through countries д in the wisdom
oftheir traditions but eternally fresh in their effect о п т у mind. 1
travelled leisurely, with 10ng halts. 1 revisited Transjordan and
spent в о т е days with ш г Abdullah, revelling in the warm у т
lity of Ь а beduin land wblch had not yet Ь е е п forced to adapt
its character о Ь е stream of Western influences. А в this time а
French visa Ь а д been aqanged for т е Ь у the Frankfurter Zei­
tung, 1 was able to see Syria а в Damascus с а т е and went.
Т Levantine liveliness of,Beirut embraced т е for а short while
П to ь е Corgotten in the out-of-the-way sleepiness of Syrian
Tripoli with its air о С silent happiness. Small, old-fasbloned sail­
ing ships were г о с в о п Ь е п moorings in the open port, their
Latin masts creak.ing soft1y. О п low stools Ь е С о г е а coffeehouse
о п the quay sat Ш е burghers о С Tripoli, relisb.ii1g their с и р о С cof­
С е е and Ь е п nargi/es in the afternoonsun. Everywhere р е а с е and
QPPQSITE: М а г
М Л 199
contentment and apparentlyenough to е а г and с у the beggars
seemed to enjoy themselves in the wartn в ц п as if saying, О Ь
how good it is to ь е а beggar in Tripoli!'
1 с а т е to AJeppo. Hs streets aild buildings reminded ш е of
JerusaJem: old stone houses that appeared to Ь а у с grown out о С
the soil, dark, arched passageways, silent squares and court­
yards, с а г у е а windows. Т Ь е inner life of Aleppo, however, was
entireJy ditferent from that о С Jerusalem. Т Ь е dominant mood of
Jerusalem had Ь е е п the strange of confl.icting п а
tional currents, like а painful, complicated с г а т р п е х т to а
\\'orld of contemplation and deep religious .emotion there had
brooded, like а cloud о Г poison, а п almost ш у в ц с а hatred о у е г
people and things. But Aleppo - although а mixture of Л а Ы а п
and Levantine, with а hint о С п е а г Ь у Turkey - was Ь а г ш о ш о ц я
and з е г е п е Т Ь е bouses with their stony and wooden 001­
conies were alive е у е п in their stilIness. Т Ь е quiet industriousness
ofthe artisans in the ancient bazaar; thewurtyard$ ofthe т а п у
old с а г а м а п в е г е з в with their arcades and loggias full о С Ь а е з of
goods; frugality togeth:=r with gay covetousness, both free
from а е п у у the а о з е п с е о С al1 hurry, а restfulness which е г п
Ь г а с е ё the 5tranger and made Ы м з Ь that his owh life у е г е
rooted in restfulness: а this flowed together in а strong, win­
ning melody.
From Aleppo 1 went Ь у с а г to О а у г az-Zor, а little town in
northernmost Syria, whence 1 п п е п ё е с ю proceed 10 Baghdad
о п the old caravan route parallel to the Euphrates; and it was о п
that journey that 1 first met з у
п distinction from the Damascus-Baghdad route, which had
Ь е е п frequented Ь у cars for some у е а г в the route a10ng the Е и
phrates was then little known; in fact, only о п е car had travel1ed
it before т е some months back. М у Armenian driver had Ы т
self ncver gone beyond Dayr az-Zor, but Ь е was confident that
Ь е could somehow find his way. Nevertheless, Ь е felt the nced of
more tangible information; and 50 we went together to the
bazaar in search of it.
Т Ь е bazaar street ran the whole length of Dayr az-Zor, whicr
was something о С а cross between а Syrian provincial town and
beduin metropolis, with а п accent о п the latter. Two world
ш е there in а strange familiarity. In о п е о Г the shops modem
badly printed picture postcards were being sold, while п е х to :.
О Р Р О П Author and North А г а Ы а Amir
200 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
а few beduins were talking about the rainfal1s in the desert and
about the recent feuds between the Syrian tribe of Bishr-Anaza
and the Shammar ofIraq; о п е ofthem mentioned the audacious
raid which the Najdi beduin chieftain, Faysal ad-Dawish, had
made а short time ago into southern Iraq; and frequentIy the
п а т е of the Grand М а п of Arabia, Ibn Saud, cropped и р А п
cient о а е г with long barrels and silver-inlaid butts­
guns which nobody was buying а п у more because t11e modern
repeating rifles were far rnore effective - Ied а drf'.amy, dusty
existence between secondhand uniform tunics from three conti­
nents, Najdi camel-saddles, Goodyear tyres, storm lanterns
from Leipzig and brown beduin cloaks from AI-Jawf. Т Ь е
Western goods, however, did not а р р е а г like intruders among
the old; their utility had given them а natural place of their own.
With their wide-a\vake sense of reaIity, the beduins seemed to
take easily to а Н these new things wblch but yesterday had Ь е е п
beyond their ken, and to make them their own without betra}ling
their old selves. Т inner stability, 1rnused, ought to give Ф е т
the strength to bear the onrush of the new е г а and, perhaps, not
to succurnb to it - for now it was coming close to these peopIe
who until recently had been so withdrawn and so hidden: but it
was п о hostile knocking о п their door; they received а that
newness \vith innocent curiosity and fingered it, so to speak,
frorn а Н sides, contempIating its possible usefulness. How little 1
realized then what Western 'newness' could do to the sirnple, ц п
е п е г е ё beduinf ...
As т у Annenian driver was rnak.ingenquiries frorn а group of
beduins, 1 felt а tug at т у sIeeve. 1 turned around. Before т е
stood а п austereIy handsome Arab in his early thirties.
'With thy permission, О effendi,' Ь е said in а sIow, ш у
voice, '1 hear thou art going Ь у car to Baghdad and art not sure
of thy way. Let ш е go with thee; 1 might ь е of help.'
1 liked the т а п at о п с е and asked him who Ь е was.
'1 а т zayd ibn Ghanim,' Ь е replied, '1 serve with the agaylin
Iraq.'
It was о у then that 1 observed the kIlaki colour ofhis ka!toll
and the seven-pointed star, е т Ы е т of the Iraqi Desert Consta­
bulary, о п his bIack iga/. Т kind of troops, с з е oga}l among
Arabs, had already existed in Turkisll times: а corps of \'olun­
tary Ievies, recruited almost exclusively from Centra: Arabia­
M·IDWAY 201
т е п to whom the deser.t steppe was Ь о т е and the dromedary а
friend. Their adventurous bJood drove them from their austere
homeland out into а wor1d in which there was п ю г е ш о п е у
more movement, п ю г е change between today and tomorrow.
з у to1dт е that Ь е had с о т е to Dayr az:-Zorwith о п е ofbis .
offirers о п some business connected with the а г а о п of
the Syro-Iraqi frontier. While the officer had since returned to
Iraq, З у had remained behind to attend to а private matter;
and now Ь е would prefer to go Ь а с к with т е than to take the
more customary but circuitous route via Damascus. Н е fraokly
admitted that Ь е had never yet travel1ed а Н the way along the
Euphrates, and he knew as well as 1did that because of its т а п у
loops and turns we would not Ь а у е the river to guide us ­
Ь ш Ь е added, 'desert is desert, the sun and the stars are the
в а ш е and, insha-Allall, we shall find our way.' His grave se1f­
confideoce pleased т е and 1 g1ad1y agreed to Ь а у е him a10ng.
Next morning we left Dayr az-Zor. Т great Н а
Desert opened itse1fup to the wheels of our Model Т Ford: а п
unending plain of grave1,sometimes smooth aod level1ike as­
pha1t and sometimes stretchiog io waves from Ь о П о п to hori­
zon. At times the Euphrates appeared to our left, muddy, quiet.
with 10w banks: а siIent lake, you might think, until а fast­
.drifting piece of wood о г а boat caught your е у е and betrayed
the powerful current. It was а Ь г о а ё а roya1 river; it made п о
sound; it was not playfu1; it did not rush; it did not splash. и
went. glided, а widespread band, unfettered, choosing its sov­
ereign з у in count1ess tums doWn. the imperoeptible incline of
the desert. а о equa1within а п equa1. а proud within а proud: for
the desert was as widespread and mighty and quiet as the nver.
Our new с о т р а о п з у sat next to the driver with his
knees drawn up and о п е leg dangling over the car door; о п his
С о о glowed а new boot of red т о т о с с о leather which Ь е had
bought the day before in the bazaar of Dayr az-Zor.
Sometimes we met camel-riders who appeared. from nowhere
in the midst of the desert. stood still for а moment and gazed
after the car, and again set their animals in motion and dis­
appeared. They were obviously herdsmen; the sun had bumed
their faces а deep Ь е о е Short halts ih 10nely, dilapidated с а с а
vanserais altemated with endless stretclles of desert. Т Eu­
phrates had disappeared beyond the hor1zon. Sand hard-b!own
202 Т Н В ROAD Т О М Е С С А
Ь у the wind, wide patches of gravel, here and ш е г е а few tufts of
grass о г а thombush. Т о о ш right а range of 10w hil1s, naked
and fissured, crumbIing under thcs bot sun, grew и р suddenIy and
concealed the endlessness ofthe 'What could there Ь е Ь е
yond that narrow range of Ь Ш о п е asked oneself in wonder­
ш е ш And although о п е knew that the same level о г hilly desert
а у beyond, the same salld and the same hard pebbIes offered
their virgin rigidity to the sun, а breath of unexplained mystery
was in the air: 'What couldthere Ь е Т Ь е atmosphere was with­
out artswer or е с Ь о the vibrating quiet of the afternoon knew п о
sound but the drone of our engine and tbe swish of т у г е в over
gravel. Did the rim of the world drop there into а primeva1
abyss? Because 1did not know, the unknown was there; and Ь е
с а ш е 1 would perhaps never с о т е to know, it was the unknow­
а Ы е unknown.
In the afternoon our dri"'et discovered that а г the last caravan­
в е г а Ь е Ь а с forgotten ю take in water for his engine. Т Ь е river
was far away; there з г А О well i'or ш а п у miles around; а
about ц в и р tO.thewavy horizon, brooded а п empty, white-hot,
chalky plain; а soft, hot wind played over it, С О П п from п о
where and going п п о no\vhere, without beginning and without
end, а muffled Ь и т out of eternity itself.
Т driver, casua1like &11 Levantines а quality which 1 used
to appreciate in them - but п о т just then), said: О Ь well, е у е в
so we shall reach the next caravanserai.'
But it looked as if we might not reach it е у е п so'. Т sun
was bIazing, the water bubbled in the radiator as in а tea kettle.
Again we met herdsmen. Water? No, п о п е for fifteen с а ш е
hours.
'And what do у о drink?' asked the Armenian in exaspera­
tion.
Т laughed. 'We drink camels' milk.' Т Ь а у е won­
dered in their hearts at these rid.iculous people in the fast-moving
devi1's cart, asking about water - while every beduin child
could Ь а у е told them that there was п о water in these р а з
Unpleasant prospect: to rernain stuck here in the desert with
engine fai1ure, without water а п д food, and to wait until another
car с а т е our way - perhaps tomorrow or the day after to­
о п о - or perhaps next month ...
In time the driver 10st his smiling insouciance. Н е stopped the
MlDWAY 203
с а г and lifted the radiatot с а р а white, thick jet of steam hissed
into the air. 1had some water in т у thermos and sacrificed it to
. the god of the engine. Т Armenian added а little о Н to it, and
Ь е brave Ford carried us for а while.
'1 think we might find water there to our right,' said Ь е о р
timist. Т Ь о з е hills Iook so green - there в е е п в to befresh grass
there: and where grass grows at this time of у е а г when there are
п о rains, there must ь е water. And if there is water there, why
shouldn't we drive и р and fetch it l'
Logic has always something i.rresistible а о о ш it; and so it was
е у е п Ь е г е although the Armenian's logic seemed т о walk о п
с г ш с а е в We left the path and rattled а few miles toward the
hills: п о water ... Т Ь е slopes were covered not with grass but
with greenish stones.
Т Ь е т е а hissing sound in the motor, the pistons beat
hoarsely, smoke was escaping in grey wisps from the slits of the
hood. А few minutes п ю г е а л something would craek:. а break
in the eraI1kshaft or а similar nicety. But this time we had strayed
far from the caravan route; if anything happencd now, we \vould
sit hopelessly in this desolation. Almost our cntire в ц р р т у of oil
had flowed into the radiator. Т Armenian had Ь е с о т е hysteri­
cal; Ь е was 'looking for water', driving to the left, theri to the
right, making turns and twists like а performer in а circus а е л а
but the water refused to materialize, and the hottle of cognac
which 1 yielded with а sigh did not do т и е Ь good to the hot
radiator, apart from enveloping us in а cloud о С alcoholie vapotir
which made Zayd (who, о С eourse, never drank) almost vomit.
Т last experiment drove him from the о п у le.thargy in
wblch Ь е had Ь е е п 10st for so long. With а п angry movementhe
р и ю his ф у у а lower down over his eyes, Ieaned out over the
hot rim of the ear and started looking about Ь е de5crt plain ­
looking with the precise, careful concentration 50 peculiar to
people who live mueh in the о р е п and are accustomed to re!y 01'
their senses. We waited anxiously, without mUCll hopeL.. С о г
Ь е had told us е а г Н е г Ь е had never before Ь е е л i11° this part of Ь е
country. But Ь е pointed with Ы hand to\vard north а п saiJ:
Т
Т Ь е word Iik.e а eommand; the driver, glad to ha\'c ю е
body to г е Н е у е him о С г е р о п Ь Ш у obeyed at о л е е With а
painful panting ofthe е п л е у е drove northward. But suddenly
204 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
zayd raiSedbimse1fа little, put Ы hand о п the driver's а г ш and
bade Ы т stop. For а while Ь е sat with his head bent foreward,like
а scenting retriever; around his compressed 1ips there quivered а
small, hardly perceptible tension.
'No - drive there!' Ь е exc1aimed, and pointed to northeast.
'Fast!' And а the driver obeyed wjthout а word. After а
couple of minutes, 'Stop!' and Zayd jumped light1y out of the
с а с gathered his long cloak in hands and с а п straight
ahead, stopped, tumed around several times as if searcblng о г
intently listening - п for 10ngт о т е п з 1forgot the е п е and
о и с p1ight,so captivated was 1Ь у the sight of а т а п strainiIig all
hisnerVes to orientate blmself in nature ... And а П of а sudden
Ь е started off with long leaps and disappeared il1 а hollow 00­
tween two mounds. А moment later his Ь з reappeared and his
hands waved:
'Water!'
We ranto hirn - and there it was: jn а hollow protected о ш
the sun Ь у overhanging rocks glittered а 1itt1e pool ofwater, с е т
п of the 1ast winter rains, yel1ow-brown, muddy, but п е е е г
the1ess water, water! Some incomprehensible desert instinct had
betrayed its presence to the т а п from Najd ...
And while the А е а п and 1scooped it into empty gaso1ine
й and с а г п е с it to the much-abused engine, zayd stro11OO smil­
ingly, а sHent Ь е с о и р and down Ь у the side of the с а г
А т NOON OF Т Н Е Н day we reacMd the first Iraqi
village- а о п the Euphrates - and с о д е for hours between its
palm orchards and mud walls. М а п у agay/ were there, most of
them, as Zayd told ц в of his own tribe. п the shade of р а т
trees they strode among sleek horses о п which sun and green­
fi1tered 1ight were reflected: kings fuH of grace and condescen­
sion. TQ some of them zayd nodded in passing, and his 10ng,
black tresses shook о п both sides of bls face. In spite of his hard
life in desert and burning heat, Ь е was so sensitive that during
our fast progress over vi1lage roads Ь е wound his headc10th
around his mouth in order to avoid s\vallowing dust - the dust
which did not bother even ltS pampered to\vnspeop1e. When we
again rode over pebbles aHd there was п о longer а п у dust, Ь е
swept his kufiyya back with а movement of a1most girlish grace
MIDWAY 205
and began to sing: Ь е suddenly о р е п е ё his mouth and sang, with
the suddenness of а п ю ц п т а ш wall precipitously jutting out of а
plain. It was а Najdi qasida, а kind of ode - а swaying of long­
drawn-out tunes in а н unchanging rhythm, flowing, like the
descrt wind, from nowhere into nowhere.
In the next village Ь е requested the driver to stop, jumped out
of the с а г thanked т е for the lift, slung his rifle о п his Ь а е к and
disappeared between the palms: and in the с а г there remained а
scent that had п о п а т е - the scent of а humanity entirely round­
ed in itself, the vibrating remembrance of а long-forgotten,
never-forgotten innocence of the spirit.
О п that day at а 1 did not think 1 would ever see l.ayd
again: Ь и it happened г ...
Т Н Е FOLLOWING DA У 1 arrived at Н а little town о п
the Euphrates, а the point where the old с а г а с а п road from О а
ш а в с ц в to Baghdad emerges from the desert. Crowning the top
of а Ь Ш with its walls and bastions, the town resembled а п а п
cient, half-forgotten fortress. No Ш е was visible in о г around it.
Т Ь е outer houses seemed to Ь а у е grown into the а П there
were п о windows in them, only а few slits, like loopholes. А
minaret rose from the interior of the town.
1 stopped for the night in а с а г а с а п в е г а т п е а г the river bank.
While supper was being prepared for the driver .and myself, 1
went to wash т у hands and face at the well in the courtyard. As
1 was crouehing о п the ground, someone took the long-spouted
water с а п that 1had put down. and gently poured water о е е г т у
hands. 1 looked и р - and saw before т е а heavy-boned, dark­
visaged т а п with а fur с а р о п his head; unasked, Ь е was assist­
ing т е in т у washing. Н е was obviously not а п А г а Ь Y/hen 1
asked Ы т у Ь о Ь е was, Ь е answered in broken Arabic: '1 а т а
Tatar, from Azarbaijan.' Н е had warm, doglike eyes and his
one-time military tunic \Vas aImost in shreds.
1 started conversing \vith Ы т partly in А г а Ы е and partly in
the odds and bits of Persian у Ы с Ь 1had managed to pick и р from
а п Iranian student in Cairo. It transpired that the Tatar's п а П е
\vas Ibrahim. Most of his life:- Ь е was now nearly forty - had
Ь е е п spent о п Iranian roads; for years Ь е had dri\'en freight
\vagons from Tabriz to Т е Ь г а п from Meshhed to Birjand, from
206 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
Т е п г а п to Isfahan and Sblraz, and at о п е time bad calIed а team
of horses bls own; Ь е had served а э а т г о о р е г in the mounted
Iranian gendarmerie, а э а personal 1JOdyguard to а Turkoman
chieftain, and as а stable Ь о у in the caravanserais of э С а Ь а п
and now, с о т е to Iraq а э а mule driver in а caravan of
Iranian' pilgrirns bound for Karbala, Ь е had 105t т job after а
quarrel witbthe leader of the caravan and was 5tranded in а
foreign country.
Later that mght 1 lay down to sleep о п а wooden Ь е п с Ь in the
palm-studde.d courtyard of the caravanserai. Sultry hcat and
clouds of т п о в с ц и о е з Ь е а е у and thick from sucking human
blood. А few а ш е г п з threw their sad, dim light into the dark­
п е э э Some horses, belonging perhaps to the landlord, were
tethered ю о п е of the walls. Jbrahim, the Tatar, was brushing
о п е of them; г the way Ь е handled it о п е could see that Ь е
not only knew horses but lovcd them; bis fingers stroked the
shaggy т а п е as а lover migfit г Ы э mistress.
А п idea с а т е suddenly to т у mind. 1was о п т у way to Jran,
and 10ng months of travel о п horseback а у ahead of т е У Ь у
not take this т а п al0ng? Н е seemed to Ь е а good and quiet т а п
and 1 would surely nced с о т п е о о ё у Hke т \vho kne\v almost
е у е г у road in Iran and was at Ь о т е п е у е г у caravanscrai.
When 1suggested next morning that I might him as т у
servant, Ь е almost wept with gratitude and said to т е in Р е г
sian:
Н you will never regret it .. .'
Г т WAS .NOON OF Т Н Е fifth day ot" the с а г journey from
Aleppo wheh 1 caught т у first view of the widcspread о а з в of
Baghdad. From between the crowns ofmyriads of р а ms shone а
gi1ded mosque cupola and а tal! ininaret. О п both sides of the
road lay а vasf, graveyard with crumbIing tombstones,
grey and Ь а п е п and forsaken. Fine, grey dust hovered motion­
less Qver it; and in the hard light of the noon this dusty greyness
was like а si1ver-embroidered gauze у е Н - а misty partition Ь е
tween т е dead world of the past and the living present. $0 it
should always Ь е 1 thought to myself, when о п е а
city Ь О е pa5t has Ь е е п 50 entirely different г о т its prescnt
that the'inind cannot encompass the difference ...
MIDWAY 207
And then we dived into the midst of the palms - miJe after
mile of enorrnous tree trunks and curving fronds - until suddenly
the palm grovcs stopped short at the steep bank of the Tigris.
This п у е г was unlike thc Euphrates: muddy-green, Ь е а у у and
gurgling -like а п exotic stran.ger after thc si1ent, royal flow of
that other river. Л п when we crossed it over а s\vaying Ь о а т
bridge, the fiery heat of the Persian Gulf closed over us.
Of its Г о п п е т magnificence and splendour nothing remained in
Baghdad. Т Ь е М о п я о invasions ofthe Middle Ages had destroy­
ed the city so thoroughly that notl1ing was left to remind о п е of
the old capital of Н а г и п ar-Rashid. Whatremained was а dreary
city of haphazardly Ь и brick dweIlings - а temporary а г
г а п р е т п е п г it would almost seem, in anticipation of а possiblp.
change. Indced. such а change was already under way in the
Г о п п of а ne\v political reality. Т Ь е city had begun to stir, new
buildings \vere coming ц р о ш of а sleepy Turkish provincial
headquarters а п Л а Ы а п metropolis \vas slowly emerging.
Т Ь е immense heat impressed its sign о п every а р р е а г а п с е and
made :111 movement sluggish. Т Ь е people walked slowly through
the streets. Т Ь е у seemed to Ь с of Ь е а у у bIood, without gaiety
and withotlt grace. Their faces looked sombre and unfriendly
Г г о т under а п е с е с е headctoths; and у Ь е п е у е г
у о и saw а handsome Л г а Ь face with а п expression of р г о ц ё
self-sufficient dignity, there was almost invariabIy а red о г red­
and-white ku.fiyyo over it - which mearit that the т а п was not
from Ь е г е but from the north, or from the Syrian Desert, о г
Г г о г п Central Л а Ы а
But а great strength was а р р а г е п т in these т е п the stre:tgth
of hatred ,- hatred of Ь е foreign power that denkd them their
freedom. Т Ь е people of Baghdad had always Ь е е п obsessed Ь у
longing for as Ь у а demon. Perhaps it was this der.1On
Ы С Ь so sombrely overshadowed tl1eirfaces. Perhaps tl1ese faces
wore quite а different look when they т е with their own kin in
the narrow side lanes and \valled courtyards of the·town. For, if
у о и 100ked т о г е cJoseJyat them. they were not entirely without
charrn. Т Ь е у could occasionaJly laugh as other Arabs did. Т Ь е у
would sobletimes, like other Arabs, trail the trains of their
cJoaks \vith aristocratic nonchalance in the dust behind them, as
if they were wa!king о у е г the tesselJated floors of т а г Ы е pa]aces..
Ъ е у let their у о т е п stroll о у е г the streets iil co]ourfu] brocade
Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
wraps: precious, у е е д women in а п г blue-silver and
bordeaux-red - groups of brocaded figures gilding slowly Ь у о п
noiseless feet ...
л FEW WEEKS AFTER т у arrival in Baghdad, as 1 was
г о Ш п through the Great Bazaar, а shout reverberated from
one of the dusky, barrel-roofed passageways. From around а
comer а т а п г а с е д Ь у then another, and а third; and the people
in the bazaar started to run as if gripped Ь у а terror of wblch
they, but not 1, knew the reason. В ofhorses' hooves: а rider
with а terrified face galloped into the crowd, which broke before
him. М о г е running people, а Н coming from one direction and
carrying the shoppers in the bazaar along with them. Injolts and
jerks, the whole throng began to press forward. Shopkeepers
placed with frantic hurry wooden planks before their shops.
Nobody spoke. No one called out to another. Qnly off and
011 you could hear the cries of а Ш п people; а child wailed
piercingly . . .
What has happened? No answer. Pale faces everywhere. А
heavy wagon, sti1l half loaded with bales, rushed driverless with
galloping"horses through the narrow lane. Somewhere in the dis­
tance а rnound о С earthenware vesselscrashed down, andI could
di'stinctly Ь е а г the sherds rolling о п tbeground. Apart from
these isolated sounds and the tramping and panting of the р е о
ple, there was а deep,' tense silence, such as sometimes occurs at
the Ь е ш п of а п earthquake. Qnly the clattering steps of run­
ning feet; sometimes the в с г е а ш ofа wornan о г child Ь г о к е out of
the pressing, flowing rnass. Again в о ш е riders. Р а с fl.ight, and
silence. А mad confusion at the crossings of the covered streets.
Caught in the throng at one of these crossings, 1 could not
т о у е forivard or backward, and indeed did not knowwhere to
go. At that moment 1felt sorneone grasp т у а and there was
Zayd, pulling т е toward Ы т and behind а barrier ofbarrels Ь е
t\veen two shops.
'Don't budge,' Ь е whispered.
Sornetblng whizzed Ь у - а rifle bullet?Impossible ...
From far away, somewhere deep in the bazaar, с а т е the muf­
fled roar of manyvoices. А г something whizzed and whined.
and this time there was п о possibility of mistaking it: it wa.r а
MIDWAY 209
bullet ... In the distance а faint, rattling sound, as if somebody
were scattering dry peas over а hard floor. It slowly approached
and grew in volume, that regular, repeated rattJing: and then 1
recognized it: machine guns ...
О п с е again, as so т а п у times before, Baghdad had risen in г е
volt. О п the preceding day, the twenty-ninth of М а у 1924, the
Iraqi parliament had ratified, т и с Ь against the popular wiIl, а
Treaty о С Friendship \vith О г е а т Britain; and now а nation in
despair was trying to defend itself against the friendship of а
great Е ц г о р е а п power ...
As 1 subsequently learned, а Н entrances to the bazaar had
been sealed off Ь у British troops to suppress а demonstration,
and т а п у people were ki1led that day Ь у indiscriminate cross­
firing into the bazaar. Had it not been for Zayd, 1 would prob­
а Ы у have run straight into the machine-gun fire.
That was the real beginning о С our friendsblp. zayd's world­
wise, retieent manliness appealed strongly to т е and he,on his
р а п had quite obviously taken а liking to the young European
who had so little prejudice il1 ш т against the А г а Ъ and their
manner о С living. Н е told т е the simple story of his life: how Ь е
as hisfather before Ы т had gro\vn и р in the serviee ofthe rulers
о С Hai1, the ShammAr dynasty о С Ibn Rashid; and how, when
Н а й was conquered Ь у Ibn Saud in 1921 and the last amir о С the
House о С Ibn Rashid Ь е с а т е Ibn Saud's prisoner, т а п у щ е п о С
the Shammar tribe, and Zayd among them, left their homelands,
а п uncertain future to submission to а new ruler. And
there Ь е was, wearing the seven-pointed star о С Iraq о п his igaJ
and pining С о с the land о С his youth.
During the weeks о С т у sojourn in Iraq we saw а lot о С е а с Ь
other, and remained in touch through the years that foIlowed. 1
wrote to Ы т occasionaIly, and onee о с twiee а у е а г sent ш т а
small present purcbased in о п е о С the Iranian or Afghan
bazaars; and every time Ь е would answer in bls clumsy, almost
i1legible scrawl, recalIing tbe days we had spent tQgether riding
along the banks о С the Euphrates or visiting the winged lions in
the ruins о С Babylon. Finally, when 1 с а т е to Arabia in 1927,1
asked ы to join т е which Ь е did in the fol1owing year. А п с
ever sinee Ь е has Ь е е п т у companion, more а comrade than а
servant.
210 Т В а О А О Т О М Е С С А
IN Т Н Е EARLУ TWENTJES automobiles were StiI1 COmpar­
atively г а г е in Iran, and only а few с а г а plied for hire between
the main centres. Н one wanted to leave the three or four trunk:
roads, one had to depend о п horse-driven vehicles; and even
these could not go everywhere, for there were т а п у parts of Iran
where п о roads existed at al1. For someone 1ikeт е avid to meet
the people of the land о п their о terms, travel о п horseback
was clearly indicated. And в о during т у 1a5t week in Baghdad,
assisted Ь у Ibrahim, 1attended every moming thehorse market
outside the city. After days о С negotiations, 1purchased а horse
for myself and а mule for Ibrahim. М у mount was а beautiful
chestr\.utstaIlion 01" South-Iranian breed, while the mule - а live­
ly, obstinate animal with muscles like steel cables under а grey
velvet skin - had obviously с о т е from Turkey; it would easily
с а п у apart from its rider, the large saddlebags in which 1was to
keep all ш у persona1 necessities.
Riding ш у horse and leading the mule Ь у the halter, Ibrahim
set out о в е morning toward К the last Iraqi о п the
Iranian frontier and terminus of а branch line of the Baghdad
Railway; and 1 fol1owed two days later Ь у train, to meet Ы т
there.
We left Khaniqin and the Arabian world behind us. Before us
stood yellow hills, like sentinels against the blgher mountains:
the mountains ofthe Iranian plateau,'a new, waiting world. Т Ь е
frontier post was а lonely little building topped Ь у а faded, 18t­
tered Bagin green, wblte and red with the symbol of the lion with
sword and rising sun. А few customs officers in sloppy uniforms
and wblte slippers 011 their feet, black of Ь а П and white of skin,
е е д т у scanty luggage with something like friendly irony.
Т one of them addressed т е
'Everything is in order,janab-i-ali. Your graciousness is above
our Would you grant usШ е favour of drinlcing а glass of
tea with us l'
And whi1e 1 was still wondering at the Ь п е old-fasbloned
с о ш of thcsc phrases, it oocurred to ш е how different, in
spite of its у Л Ы с words, the Persian language was from
the Л Ы с А melodious, cultivated sweetness lay in it, and the
80ft, о intonation о С its vowels sounded strangely 'Westem'
after Ш е hot consonant language of the Arabs.
We were not the only travellers; severa. Ь е а у У canvas wagons,
MIDWAY
е а с Ь drawn Ь у four horses, were standing before the customs
house, and а т и е с а г а с а п was е п с а т р е д п е а г Ь у Т т were
cooking their food over о р е п campfires. Т seemed to have
given и р а thought ofgoing ahead, despite the early Ь о и г of Ь е
aftemoon, and we, 1 do not remember why, decided to d9 the
same. We spent the night in the о р е п sleeping о п the ground о п
о и г blankets.
In the early dawn а й the wagons and caravans Ь е в а п о move
toward the naked mountains; and we rode with them. As the
road mounted steadily, we soon outpaced Ь е slow-moving wag­
ons and rode о п alone, deeper and deeper into the mountain
land of Ь е Kurds, Ь е land of the т bIond herdsmen.
1 sa\" the first of them when, at а turn of Ь е road, Ь е stepped
out of arustling hut made of branches and offered ц в wordlessly
а wooden bowl brimming with buttermi1k. Н е was а Ь о у о С р е г
haps seventeen years, barefoot, ragged, unwashed, with the г е ш
nants of а felt с а р о п 1lis tousled head. As 1drank the thin, light­
у salted and wonderfully с о о milk, 1 saw о у е г Ь е rim of the
bowl the blue е у е that were fixedly gazing а т е There was
sometblng in Ь е of Ь е brittle, damp-sweet fogginess which
е э о у е г п е е е Ь о г п animals - а primeval sleepiness, not yet quite
broken ...
In the afternoon we reached а Kurdish tent vi11age that а у
softly tucked between Ы у sJopes. Т Ь е tents resembled those of
beduin half-nomads in Syria о г lraq: coarse black cloth о С goat
hair stretched over severa1 poles, with wal1s of straw matting. А
stream was flowing п е а г Ь у its banks shaded Ь у groups ofwhite
poplars; о п а rock over the water а family of storks excitedly
clattered their beaks and beat their wings. А т а п in а п indigo­
blue jacket was striding with lQng, light steps toward the tents;
out о С ы earth-bound Ь и nevertheless very loose movements
spoke old nomad щ А woman wearing а п amaranth-red,
Ш dress, with а tal1 earthenware jar о п her shoulder, slowly
approacbed Ш е stream; her thigbs were clearly optlined against
the 50ft cloth of her ш э ш е у v.rere п в and е е д 1ikeviolin
strings. She е down Ь у the water's edge and bent over о
scoop water into ber jar; Ь е г turban1ike headdress с а ш е loose
and touched, like а red streamof blood, the g1itteringsurface of
tbe water - but on1y for an instant, to ь е taken и р and again
wound around Ш е bead with а single, gliding gesture that still
212 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
belonged, as it were, to her kneeling-down and was part of"the
same movement.
Somewhat later 1 sat о п the bank, in the с о т р а п у of an old
т а п and four young women. All four had the perfect с п а п п and
naturalness born of life ц freedorn: beauty that was aware of it­
se1fand yet was chaste; pride which knew п о hiding and yet was
hardly distinguishable С г о т shyness and humility. Т Ь е prettiest
among them bore the chirping bird-name Т и Т и (with the vowel
pronounced as in French). Н е г eritire forehead was covered,
down to the delicate brow, Ь у а carmine-red scarf; Ь е eyelids
were tinted with а п й т о п у from under the scarf protruded au­
Ь и locks with little silver chains braided into them; at every
movement of the head they tinkled against the tender, concave
cheekline.
We а П enjo)ledthe conversation, although т у Persian was still
clumsy. (fhe Kurds have а language of their own, but most о С
them also understand Р е г ы а п which is related to it.) Т Ь е у were
shrewd, these Iittle у о т е п who had never gone beyond the е п
vironment of their tribe and, of course, could neither read п о г
write; they easi1y understood т у ш Ы expressions and often
found the word for which 1 was groping and put it, with а
matter-of-fact sureness, into т у mouth. 1 asked them about
their doings, and they answered т е enumerating the т а п у little
and yet so great things which fill the day of а nomad woman:
grinding grain between two flat stones; baking bread in glowing
ashes; milking sheep; shaking curds in leather bags until thcy
tum to butter; spinning with hand spindlcs у а out of sheep's
wool; knotting carpets and weaving kilims in pattems almost as
old as their race; bearing children; and giving their т е п restfut­
ness and о у е ...
Unchanging Ш е today, yesteI'day and tomorrow. For these
shepherds п о time exists, except the sequence of days, nights and
seasons. The night has Ь е е п made dark for sleep; the day is light
for the necessitiesof life; winter reveals itself in the growing cold
and the scarcity of pastures in the mountains: and so they wan- .
der with their flocks and tents down into the warm plains, into .
Mesopotamia and о the Tigris; later, \vhen the summer grows
и р with its sultriness and hot winds, back into the mountains,
either here о г to another ptace within the traditionat grounds of
the tribe.
MIDWAY 213
'Don't you е у е г desiг е to Н у е in houses of stone 7' I asked Ь е
old т а п who had hardly spoken а word and had smilingly Hs­
tened to о и г talk. О о п у о и е у е г desire to Ь а у е fields of у о и г
own7'
Т oId т а п shook his head sIowly: 'No ... if water stands
motionless in pooIs, it becomes stale, muddy and fou\; only
when it moves and flows does it remain clear ...'
IN т т м в Т receded into the past. For nearly
eigbteen months 1wandered through the length and breadth of
that strangest о Г а Н lands, Iran. I с а т е to know а nation Ь а
combined in itself the wisdom of thirty centuries of culture and
the volatile unpredictability о Г children; а nation that could Iook
with а Iazy irony at itself and а that happened around it - and а
moment Iater could tremble in wild, volcanic passions. 1enjoyeJ
ш е cultured ease of the cities and Ь е sharp, exhilarating steppe
winds; 1slept in the castles of provinciaI governors with а score
of servants at т у disposaI, and in half-ruined с а г а у а п в е г а в
where at nigbt у о и hadto take с а г е to kill ш е scorpions before
у о ц were stung Ь у them. 1 partook of whole. roasted sheep as
guest ofBakhtiari and Kashgai tribesmen. and ofturkeys stuffed
witll apricots in the dining rooms о С rich merchants; I watched
the abandonment and blood-intoxication of the festivaI of М и
п а п а ш а п ё listened to the tender verses о Н а б sung to the
accompaniment of а lute Ь у the heirs of Iran's ancient glories. 1
strolled under the poplars of Isfahan and admired the stalactite
р о Э precious faIence and gilded domes of its great
mosques. Persian Ь е с а т е almost as familiar to т е as Arabic. 1
beld converse with educated men in cities. soldiers and nomads,
traders inthe Ь а и а з cabinet ministers and religious·leaders.
wandering dervishes and wise opium smokers in wayside taverns.
1 stayed in towns and у Ш а в С and trekked through deserts and
perilous salt swamps, and 105t myself entirely in tlie timeless air
of that broken-down wonderland. 1 с а т е to know the lranian
р е о р е and their Ш е and their thoughts alm05t as if 1 had been
Ь о т among them: but this land and this Ш е complex and fas­
cinating like а old jewel that sparkles dimly tbrough multiple
facets, never с а т е а clo5eto т у а з the g1ass-e::lear world of
the Arabs.
214 Т Н Е а О А О Т О М Е С С А
Foc over six months 1rode о п through the wi1d mountains and
steppes of Afghanistan: six months in а world where the а
which every т а п carried were not meant for omament, and
wbere every word and е г е г у step had to Ь е watched lcst а bul1et
should с о т е singing through the air. Sometimes Ibrahim and 1
and о ц г ocCasional с о п т р а ш о п в had to defend о ц г 1ivcs against
bandits, of whom Afghanistan was full in those days; but if it
happened to ь е Friday, bandits held о ш п о threat, С о г they с о п
sidered it shameful to г о Ь and kil1 о п the day set aside for Ь е
worship о С the Lord. О п с е п е а г Kandahar, 1 narrowly missed
being shot Ь е с а ц в е 1 had inadvertently looked ц р о п the ц п
covered face of а pretty village wornan working in the field;
while а т о п в the Mongol vilJagers in the high gorges of the
Hindu-Kush - descendants ofthewarrior hosts of Jinghiz К Ь а п
- it was not regarded as unseem1y to let т е sleep о п the П о о г of
tbe о п е г о о ш hut side Ь у side with the host's у о и п в \vife and
sisters. For weeks 1 was guest of А т а п и а Ь К а п К п в of Af­
ghanistan, in his capital, Kabul; forlong nights 1 disci.lssed with
his leamed т е п the teachings ofthe К о г а п and о п other nights
1 discussed with Pathan о п з in their black tents how best to
circumvent areas engaged in intertribal warfare.
And with е ъ е г у day of those two years in Iran and Afghanis­
tan the certainty grew in т е that 1 was approaching some final
answer.
Р о в IT SO HAPPENED, Mansur, that the understanding
ofhow Muslims ]ived brought т е daily closer to а better under­
standing oflsJam. Islamwas always uppermost in т у mind .. :
·It is time for the isl10 р г а у е г says Zayd, g1ancing at the night
sky.
We е и р for thelast р г а у е г of the day, а Н three of us а а п в
toward М е с с а layd and Mansur stand side Ь у sideand 1 in
front ofthem,leading the congregationaJ prayer (for Ь е Prophet
has described every assembly of t\VO or т о г е as а congregation).
1raise т у hands and begin, А о akbar - ·God alone is Great'
- and then recite, as М uslims always do, Ь е apening щ г а of the
Koran:
ln Ь е и о God, the Most Grac;ous, the Dispenser о а г а с е
А 1/praise ;3due о God п ш а е о the
MIDWAY 215
The Most Gracious, the Dispenser о Grace.
Lord о the Day о т
Thee а о е do we worship,
And Thee а о е do we beseech о т help.
Lead и з the rigllt way,
The о those и р о п т ;s Thy а г о ц
Not о т о з е }vho е а т Thy wratll, о т о those Jvho go а и т у
And 1 follow with the hundred and twelfth sura:
ln tl,e п а т е о God, rlle Most Gracious, the Dispenser о О т с е
Say: God is О п е
Т п е Se/f-Su/.ficielll о п WI,om depends.
Н е begers not, о г is Н е begotten,
And rl,cre is naught that could Ь е /ikened и п ю Him.
There а г е few things, if а п у which bring щ е п so closeto о п е
another as praying together. This, 1 believe, is true of every г е
ligion, bat particularly so ofJslam, which rests о п Ь е beliefthat
п о intermediary necessary, о т indeed possible, between т а п
and God. Т Ь е absence of а priesthood, clergy, а п д е у е п of an
organized 'church' makes every Muslim that Ь е is truly
sharingin, and not merely attending, а с о ш о п act of worship
when he prays in congregation. Since there а г е п о sacraments in
Islam, every adult and sane Muslim т а у perform anyreligious
function whatsoever, whether it ь е Ieading а congregation in
р г а у е г performing а marriage с е г е о п у о г conducting а burial
service. None need Ь е 'ocdained' Г о г Ь е service of God: th'e т е
ligious teachers а п д leaders ofthe М ц в и ш cornmunity а г е simple
щ е п who cnjoy а г е р ш а п о п (sometimes deserved and з о ш е
times not) Г о г erudition in theology and religious law.
-3-­
1 А W А К Е А Т DA \VN: but т у eyelids а г е heavy \vith' sleep.
О .. е г т у Г а с е the wind glides \vith а в о п humming sound о ш of
,the fnding night into tl1e rising day.
I 1gct и р to wash the from т у face. Т Ь е coid \vater is like
/ а touch from Г а г а а у landscapes - mountains covered with dark
е е з streams tl13t т о у е and flow and always cemaincleat
_.. I sit о п т у l1aunchcs an,1 з п т у head back 50 ti1at myface
2J6 Т Н Е __О А О Т О М Е С С А
might 10ng remain wet; the wind strokes its wetness. strokes it
witb Ь е memory of all с о о Ш у а о С 10ng-past wintry
days ... of mountains and rushing waters .•. of riding through
snow and gJistening whiteness •.. the whiteness of that day
ш а п у years ago when 1 rode over snow-covered Iranian ш о в п
tains without р а ш pushing slowly forward. every step of the
horse а sinking-down into snow and the next а о т е cJam­
bering out of snow ...
At п о о п of that day, 1 г е ш е ш о е г we rested in а village in­
habited Ь у strange folk who resembled gypsies. Т е п or twelve
holes in the ground, с о о С о о о э е г with tow domes о С brushwood
and earth; gave the tonely settlement - it was in southeastem
Iran, in the province о С К а п - the а р р е а г а п с е of а city of
moles. Like underworld beings from а fairy taJe, people crawled
out of the dark openings to wonder at the г а г е strangers. О п top
of о п е о С the earthen domes sat а young woman combing her
10ng, bIack, tousled hair; her olive-browri face was tumed with
closed eyes toward the р щ е ф у sun, and she sang with а 10w
voice а song in some outlandish tongue. М е arm-rings jangled
around her wrists; wblch were narrow and strong like the fet­
locks of wild animals in а primeval forest.
Т о warm т у numbed limbs, 1 drank tea and а п а с к -lots of
it - with the gendarme who accompanied }brahirn and т е As1
remounted т у horse, е п П е у drunk, and set out at а gallop, the
whole wor\d lay suddenly wide and и а п в р а г е ш bcfore П у eyes
as never before; 1 saw its inner р а ц е г п and felt Ь е beat of its
. pulse in the wblte loneliness and beheld а tbat had Ь е е п hidden
from т е but а moment ago; and 1 knew that all the answers are
but waiting for us whi1e we, poor fools, ask questions and wait
foc the secrets of God to о р е п tbemselves up to us: when they,
а Н the while, are waiting for us to о р е п ourselves up to them •..
А tableland opened Ь ш and 1 spurred т у horse and
flew like а ghost through crystalIine light, and the snow whirled
up Ь у the hooves of Jl1yhorse flew around т е like а mantle о Г
sparks,. and the hooves of т у horse thundered о у е с the ice of
frozen streams ...
I Ы it must Ь а у е been then tl1at1 experienced, not yet fully
в it myself, the opening о С - that grace of
wbic'ft: Father felix had spoken to т е long, long ago, when 1 was
starting out о п the joumeythat was destined to change т у whole
MIDWAY 217
Ш е the revelation of grace which tells you that у о и are the е х
pected о п е •.. More than а year was to elapse between that
mad ride over ice and snow and У conversion to Islam; but
even then 1 г щ е without knowing it, straight as а п arrow ю
ward М е с с а
AND NOW М У FACE is dry, and that Iranian winter day
of more than seven years ago falls back into the past. It falls
back - but not to disappear: for that pastis р а п ofthis present.
А с о о breeze, breath of the morning that is to с о т е makes
the thornbushes shiver. Т Ь е stars а г е beginning to pale. Zayd!
Mansur! Get up, get up! Let us rek.indJe the fire and п е а г о и г
coffee- and then we shall saddle dromedaries and ride о п
through another day. through Ь е desert that waits for us with
о р е п arms.
Viff
JINNS
-1­
Л Е SUN IS ABOUT Т О в е т When а tig, black snake
Т
suddenly s1ithersacross о и г path: it isalmost as tblck
as а child's а п п and р е г а р в а у а г д IODg. It stops and
г е а г в its head in о ц г directiOR. With a1most Р reflex
movement, 1 slide down from the saddJe, п т у carbine,
kneel and take aim - and at the sa.me moment 1 Ь е а г Mansur's
voice behind т е
'Don't shoot - ... !' - but 1 Ь а у е already pressed the
trigger; Ь е snake jerks, writhes and is dead.
Mansur's disapproving а с е а р р е а г в о ч е г т е Т ш и shouldst
not Ь а у е killed it ... anyhow, not а the ш е of в ц п в е т for this
is Ь е time \vhen Ь е jinns с о т е out from и п д е г ground а п д often
assume Ь е shape of а znake .. .'
1 laugh а п д reply: О Mansur, thou dost not г е а у be1ieve
those old wives' tales about jinns in the shape of snakes l'
'Of course 1 Ь е е у е in jinns. Does not the Book of а о д т п е п
tion them? As to the' shapes in which they sometimes а р р е а г to
us - 1 don't know ... 1 have Ь е а г д Ь е у с а п assume the strang­
est and most unexp,eeted of forms ...'
У о и т а у Ь е right, Mansur, 1think to myself, for, indeed, is it
50 farf<;:tched to а з а ш в е that, apart from the beings which о и г
senses с а п р е г с е г е е there т а у Ь е some that elude о и г р е г с е р
tion? 18 it not а kind of intellectual arrogance which т п а к е а
modem т а п reject the possibility of life-forms other than those
\vhich с а п ь е observed а п д measured Ь у Ы т Т Ь е existence of
jinns. \vhatever they т а Ь е с а п п о ь е proved Ь у 5cientific
п е а п в В ш neither с а п в с г з п с е disprove the possible existence of
living being$ whose biological laws а у ь е so entirely different
from о ц г own thtlt о ц г outer senses с а п establish contact \vith
them only IJndcr г exceptional circumstances. Is it п о pos­
sible that such а п occasional crossing ofpath5 between these и п
knowJ'l \\'orJds and ours gives rise to strange manifestations
218
29
Ы с Ь man's;primitive fantasy hasintcJ1?ren:d as о е ю п
and apparitions;?"
As Г г е п к ш п т у dromedary•.. with these questions
with tlie lm1fl.smiling disbelief о Г Г а Н wbose: Ь п п has
made П more thick-sk.inned thanare:peopJe ю Ь а у е alw,a.ys
lived c}oset'1' о п а ш г е Zayd turns with а serious countenance
towardme:'
М а п в ц г isright, О т у uncle. Thol1.shouldst not Ь а у е kilIed
the snake. О п е е manyyears back - \vhem.I; Ieft Н а й after Ibn
Saud had taken the town - 1 shot а sna:ke Iike that one 011 т у
way о Iraq,lt:was aIsoat the time when thesun wassetting. А
short while afterward, Ь ш е stopped о у ю п е р г а у е г
1 suddenly fClta leaden weight in т у legs'anda burning П т у
head, and my;head began to г о а г like the г о а г о П а Ш п waters,
and т у limbs Ь е с а ш е 1ike fire, and 1couJd not stand upright and
Г е Н to the ground Ш с е а п empty sack, and everything Ь е с а т е
dark around т е 1donot know how Jong 1remained in that dark­
ness, Ь ш 1 г е т е т Ь с г that п the end 1 stood и р again. А п п п
known т а п stood to т у right and another ю myfeft,and they
le.d т е into а great, dusky Ь а that was С и Н о С т е п who walked
и р and down in excitement and taJked ю е а с Ь other. After а
while 1 Ь е с а т п е aware that ш е в е у е с е two distinct р а г п е в as
before а с о ц п о С jU5tice. А п oJd т а п о С у е г у smaH size was 5it­
ting о п а raised dai5 in the backgrotlnd; Ь е seemed to Ь е а judge
о г chieftain, or something like that. And а а о п с е 1 knew tl:at 1
was the а с с ц в е ё
'Someone said: Н е Ь а в killed himjust before Ъ а shot
from bls rifle. ofthe opposing р а п у г е ю п е ё
В ш Ь е did п о khow whom he was killing; andhe р г о п о в п с е ё
the п а т е о С God when Ь е р и е д the triggcr." But those of the
accusing р а п у shouted : Н е did not pronounce it!" - whereupon
the other party repeated, а together, in chorus: Н е did, Ь е did
praise the п а т е о С God!" - а щ 50 it continued С о г а \vhile, back
з п forth, accusation з п defence, until п Ь с end Ь е defending
party seemed to gain their point and thejudge in Ь е background
decided: Н е did not know whom he was ki1ling. and he did
praise the п а т е о С God. Lead Ы т back!"
'And the two (nen who had brought т е о the Ь а of judg­
ment took т е и п а е г the а г ш again, lcd т е back the з е а у
into Ь а great darkness о и J had с о т е and laid т е о п
220 т н в в о х п т е М Е С С А
Ь е gr.ound. I opened т у eyes - and saw Г between а
few sacks ofgrain which had Ь е е п pi1ed о п both sides of т е and
over Ь е т was stretched а piece of tent clothto protect т е from
Ь е rays of Ь е sun. It seemed to ь е early forenoon,and т у с о т
panions had evidently made с а т р П the distance 1 could see
our camels grazing о п the slopeof а Ш 1 wanted to raise т у
hand, but т у limbs were extremely weary. When о п е о С my
companions bent his face over т е 1said, "Coffee ..." - for from
nearby Iheard the sound of the coffee п ю п а г М у friend jurnped
up: Н е speaks, hespeaks! Н е has с о т е to!" - and they brought
т е fresh, hot coffee. 1asked them, "Was 1unconscious the whole
night?" And thc;y answered, Т Ь е whole night? Full Cour days
thou didst п о т budge! We always loaded thee like а sack onto
о п е of the camels, and unloaded thee again at night; and we
thought that we would have to Ь и г у thee here. But praise Ь е to
Him who gives and takes life, the Living who never dies ..."
'50 thou seest, О т у uncle, one should not kil1 а snake а sun­
set.'
And although half о С т у mind continues to smile at Zayd's
п а п а е the other half seems о sense the weaving of unseen
forces in the gathering dusk, an eerie commotion of sounds so
fine that the е а г с а п hardly grasp Ь е т and а breath of о Ш у
in the air: and 1have а faint feeling of regret at having shot Ь е
snake а sunset . . .
-2­
IN Т Н Е Т of our third day out of HaIl we. stop
о water our camels at the weIls of Arja. in а п almost circular
valley enclosed between low Щ Т t\VO wells, large and full о С
sweet water, lie in the centre of the а П е у е а с Ь of them is Ь е
С О П Ш и п а property of the tribe - the western о п е belongs to the
Harb, the eastem to the Mutayr. Т ground around them is as
bald as the palm of one's hand, for day around noon hun­
dreds of camels and sheep are driven in from distant pastures to
ь е watered here, and every little blade ofgrass wblch grows out of
the soil is nibbled away before it с а п even take breath.
Aswe а п е the valley is П of animals, and ever-ncw в о с ь
and herds appear from between the sun-drenched ш Around
the wells there js а great crowding and commotioD, for it is not
an easy thing to satjsfy the thiFS1 of so т а п у animals. Т herds­
JJNNS 221
т е п draw о р the water in leather buckets о п 10ng г о р е в а с с о ш
panying their work with а chant to keep the multiple movements
е у е п for thebuckets а г е у е г у big and, when filled with water, SO
heavy that т а п у hands а г е needed to draw them out о С the depth.
From the weJl nearest us - the о п е that belongs to the Mutayr
tribe - 1 с а п Ь е а г the г п е п chant to tl1e camels:
Drink, а п а spare 110 Ivoter,
Т п е Ivell is и о grace ond Ь а з п о Ь О т
Half о С the т е п sing the first verse and the others the second,
repeating both several times in quick т е т п р о until the bucket а р
pears о м е г the rim о С the well; then the women take о у е г and
р о и г the water into leathem troughs. Scores о С camels press for­
\vard, bellowing and snorting, quivering with excitement, crowd­
ing around the not visibIy pacified Ь у the men's sooth­
ing calls, Hu-oih ... и и о П О п е and another pushes it5 long,
П е ю Ы е neck forward, bet\veen о г о у е г its companions, 50 as to
still its thirstas quickly as possible; there is а rocking and р ш Ь
ing, а swaying and thronging of light-brown and dark-brown,
е and black-brown and honey-coloured bodies, and
the sharp, acrid smeJl о С animal sweat and urine fills the air. In
the meantime, the bucket has Ь е е п filled again, and the herds­
щ е п draw it и р to the quick а с с о ш р а п п п е п т о С another couplet:
Nouglzt с а п stil/ the с а т е й t!lirst
В ш God's grace ond tlze 'zerdsmol1's toil!
- and the spectacle of rushing water, о С drinking and slurping
and chanting starts а о у е г again.
А п old т а п standing о п the rim о С the wel1 raises his а in
о о г direction and calls out:
М а у God give у о и life, О \\'ayfarers! Partake о С о и г bounty!'
- whereupon several other т е п disentangle tl1el11selves С г о т the
cro\vd around the wel1 and run to\vard us. О п е of thcm· takes
hold о С т у dromedary's halter and Г it kneel do\vn, so that
1 т а у dismount in comfort. Quickly а way is made С о г о и г а
mals to the trough, and the women pour out \'/ater for them: for
у е а г е and therefore have а prior claim.
'Is-it not wonderful to behold,' muses zayd, 'how well these
222 Т Н Е я о х о Т О М Е С С А
Harb and Mutayr а г е keeping their р е а с е now, 50 soon after
they Ь а у е Ь е е п warring against е а с Ь other?' Р о г it is о п у three
у е а г з з с е tl1e Mutayr were in г е Ь е о п against the К п в
the Н а г Ь е г е а о п в his г п о в т э supporters.) 'Dost thou
г е е Ь е г О т у uncle, the last lime we were Ь е г е How we Ь у
passed Arja in а wide circle at night, not daring г о а р р г о а с Ь the
wells - not knowing \"'hcthcr friend о г С о е was here ... Т
Zayd is г to thc grcat bcduin г е Ь е Ш о п of 1928-1929 ­
thc culmination of а р о с а г а ш а wmch shook Ibn Saud's
kingdom to it5 foundations and, Г о г а ш п е involved myselfin it.
WHEN Т Н Е CURTAIN ROSE in 1927, р е а с е was reigning
in tbe vast realm of Saudi А г а Ы а К п в Ibn Saud'5 struggle Г о г
power \vas over. His rulc in Najd was п о 10nger с о ш е я е о Ь у а п у
rival dynsaty. His у а з Н а й and the Shammar country, and l1is,
too, wa5 tbe Hijaz after he had ousted the Sharifian dynasty in
1925. OutstaQding among the К ",'arriors was that same г е
doutabIe beduin chicftain, Faysal ad-Dawish; who had caused
Ы so much worry in е а г е г years. Ad-Dawish had distin­
guished hintself in the King'5 service andproved Ы з loyalty time
and time again: in 1921 he conquered Н а й о г the К in 1924
he led а daring raid into Iraq, С г о т wbere the Sharifian С а п у
р г о г е с в е ё Ь у the British, intrigued against Ibn Saud; in 1925 Ь е
took Medina and played а decisive г о т е in the conquest о Г Jidda.
And now, in ц т е summer of 1927, he \vas resting о п his laurels in
Ы settlement of Artawiyya, not С а г from the frontier of
Iraq.
For т а п у у е а г в tl1at г о п п е т had Ь е е п the в с е п е о С almost
continuous beduin raids arising from tribal migrations jn
search of pastures and water; but in а series of agreements ь е
tween Ibn З aHd the British - who were responsible for Iraq
as the Mandatory Power .- it had Ь е е п (lccided that п о obstacles
should ь е placed in the way of sl1ch necessary migrations, and
that п о fortifications о С а п у kind should Ь е erected о п ..-:ither side
of tbe Najd-Iraq г о п е г п the summer о Г 1927, ho\vever, the
Iraqi government built and garrisoned а fort in Ь е vicinity of
the frontier \ve!ls of В and offi.cially щ п п с е its inten­
tion to build other fortsalong the г А ripple ofuneasil1ess
г а through the tribes о С northern Najd. Т Ь е у saw themselves
JINNS 223
tbreatened in thei!.very exist.eacc, a1t offfrOm the wells о п which
they wcre п е у dependent. Ъ Saud protested against this
о р е п Ь г е а с Ь о С aggreements, о п у to receive - months later - а п
е у а Я У е answer from Ь е British High Commissioner in Iraq.
Faysa1 ad-Dawish, always а т а п of а с п о п toId himself: о н
т а у п о Ь е convenient for the King to start а quarrel with the
British - but 1will dare it.' And in the·last days ofOctober, 1927,
Ь е set out at the head of his IkJ1I110l1, attacked and destroyed the
fort of В giving п о quarter to its Iraqi garrison. British
aeroplanes appeared о у е г the в с е п е reconnoitred the situation
and withdrew - against their habit - without dropping а single
Ь о т Ь It would Ь а у е been easy for them to г е р е the raid а п
aetion to which they were entitled Ь у virtue of their treaties with
Ibn Saud) and then to settle the р г о Ы е т of the forts Ь у diplo­
matic negotiations. But was the British-Iraqi government reaHy
interested in а speedy, peaceful settlement of the dispute?
Deputations from the nothern Najdi tribes appeared before
Ibn Saud and pleaded for а campaign against Iraq. Ibn Saud
energetically refused а Н such ё е ш а п ё я declared Ad-Dawish а
transgressor, and ordered the amir of HaI1 to keep close watch
over the г о п й е г regions. Т Ь е financial aHowances which the
К was giving to rnost of the IkJl\van were ternporarily cut off
from the tribes under Ad-Dawish's control; and Ь е himseIf was
bidden to remain at Artawiyya and there await the К judg­
ment. Т lraqi government was officiallyinfohned of а Н these
measures and notified that Ad-Dawish would Ь е punished
severely. At the sarne ш п е however, Ibn Saud demanded that in
the future the frontier treaties Ь е т о г е strictly observed Ь у Iraq.
llis new conflict could thus Ь а у е Ь е е п easily ironed out. В и
when matters had reached this point, the Bcitish High Commis­
sioner let Ibn Saud п that Ь е was sending out а п air squad­
г о п to chastise Ad-Dawish's Ik/lIvan (who had 10ng since г е
turned to their Ь о т е territory) and to а г е е them to obedience
toward /heir Ю п Since а Ь е timc thcre was Dotelegraph at
Riyadh, Ibn Saud sent posthaste а courier to Bahrain, г о т
у Ь е г е а telegram was dispatched 10 Baghdad, pro1esting
the proposed measure and invoking the treaties which forbade
either party to pursue lawbreakers across the frontier. Н е strcs­
sed that Ь е had п о need of British 'assistallce' in enforcing 11:S
authority over Ad-Dawish; and, final1y, Ь е warned that а British
224 Т Н Е М о О А О Т О М Е С С А
air action о э е г Najdi territory would Ь а у е dangerous repcrcus­
sions among the Ikhwan, who werea1ready.sufficiently п ц р
1he warnmg remained unheeded. Toward the end ofJanuary,
1928 - three т о п з after the Bisayyaincident - aBritish squad..
с о п flew across the frontier and bombed Najdj territory, wreak­
ing Ь а у с с among Mutayri beduin encampments and indis­
criminately killing т е п women, children and cattle. А Н the
northem /k/IK'On Ь е р п to р с е р а с е for а campaign of vengeance
against Iraq; and it was on1ythanks to Ibn Saud's great prestige
among the tribes that the movement was stopped in time and
с о о о to а few minor frontier skirmishes.
In tbe ш е а п ш п е the destroyed fort of Bisayya was quietly г е
built bythe British and two new forts were erected о п the Iraqi
side of the Ь о г ё е г
Л У А AD-DAWISH, summoned to Riyadh, refused to
с о т е and justify а п action which, in his о р о п had been
undertaken in the К own interest. Personal resentment
added to his bitterness. Н е Faysal ad-Dawish, who had served
the К 50 faithfully and 50 well. was on1yа т й of Л а м у у а ­
у Ы с Ь in spite of the large number of its inhabitants. was п о
more than а п overgrown village. His leadership had Ь е е п deci­
sivein Ь е conquest ofHaU - Ь и the К cousin, Ibn Mussaad,
and not Ь е had Ь е е п appointed а т of Н а й During the Hijaz
з р з it was Ь е Ad-Dawish, who besieged Medina for
months and finally forced its surrender - but not Ь е had Ь е е п
made its а т и Н passionate, frustrated urge for power gave
Ь ш п о rest. Н е said·to himself: 'Ibn Saud belongs to the tribe of
з and 1 to the tribe of Mutayr. We are equal to another in
the nobility of our descent. Why should / admit to Ibn Saud's
superiority l'
Such reasoning has always Ь е the curse of Arabian history:
п о п е will admit that another is better than Ь е
О п е Ь у one, other dissatisfied щ й chieftains began to for­
get how т и с Ь they owed to Ibn Saud. Among them was З
ibn Bujad, shaykh of the powerful Atayba tribe and oinfr of
Ghatghat. о п е of the largest Ik/IJVOn settlements in Najd: victor
of the Ь а Н е of Т а с а Ь а in 1918 against the forces of Sharif
Н ш а ebnqueror of T&If and М е с с а in 1924. Why had Ь е to
JJNNS 225
ь е contentwith being п о т о т е than а т й of Ghatghat ?Why bad
nothe, but о п е of the К в о п з Ь е е п made а т й of М е с с а
Why Ь а д Ь е not at least Ь е е п appointed а т й of Taif? Н е 1ike
Faysal ad-Dawish, saw himself cheated ofwhat heconsidered
bls due; and since Ь е was Ad-Dawish's brother-in-Jaw, it а р
р е а г е ё о п у 10gica! for thc two to make с о т т о п cause against
Ь п Saud.
п the а ш ш п п о г 1928, Ь п Saud calledacongress ofcbleftains
а п д ш а т а to Ю у а д Ь \vith а view to soIving а these disputes.
Almost а triballeaders с а ш е except Ibn Bujad а п д Ad-Dawish.
Adamant in their opposition, they declared Ibn Saud aheretic ­
о т had Ь е not made treaties with the infideJsа п д introduced into
the lands о С the Arabs such instruments of the deviJ as п ю ю г
с а г в telephones, wireless sets and aeroplanes? Т Ь е ш а т а as­
sembIed а т Riyadh unanimously declared that such technical in­
novations were not only permissible but most desirabIe т о т the .
religious point of view since they increased the knowledgeand
strength с the М uslims; and that,on the authority of the Р г о
phet of Islam, treaties with п о п М uslim powers were equalJy д е
sirable if they brought р е а с е а п д freedom to Muslims.
But the two rebe1liouscbleftains continued their denunciations
and found а ready е с Ь о а т о п в т а п у of the simple lkhwo/l, who
did not possess sufficient knowledge to з е е anything but the in­
fluence of Satan in Ibn Saud's actions. His е а г й е г failure to п п
р а п education to the lkhlvon and turn their religious fervour to
positiveends Ь е в а п to bear its tragic fruit ...
Т steppes of Najd were now humming like а Ь е е Ы е
Mysterious emissaries rode о п fast dromedaries г о т tribe to
tribe. CJandestine meetings of cbleftains took р а с е at remote
we11s. А п finally, the agitation against the К п в burst out in
о р е п revolt, drawing in т а п у other tribes besides the Mutayr
and Atayba. Т К was patient. Н е tried to Ь е understanding.
Н е sent :nessengers to the recaIcitrant tribaJ leaders and tried to
reason with them: but in vain. Central and northern А г а Ы а Ь е
с а ш е the scene of widespread guerilla warfare; the almost р т о
verbial public security of the country vanished and complete
chaos reigned in Najd; bands of rebellkhlvan swept across it in
а directions, attac!dng villages and caravans and tribes that had
remained Ioyal to the King.
After innumerabIe с а skirmishes between rebel and у а
б Т И Е а О А О т е м е С С А
tribes, а decisive batt1ewas о О П е plain ofSibila, in е е п
tral Najd, in the spring о 1929. Orrone side was the К п з with а
large force; о п the other, tlie N1utayrand'the А ш у Ь а supported
Ь у Cactions from other tribes. Т е Ю was vietorious. Ibn Bu­
jad surrendered unconditionally а п ё was: brought in chains to
Ш у з Ь Ad-Dawish was severelywoundedandsaid to ь е dying.
Ibn Saud, mHdest о С а Н Arabian·kings, sent bls personal physi­
cian to attend him - and thatdoctor,.a young Syrian, diagnosed
а serious injury to the liver, giving а а week to у е
whereupon the К decided: 'We shallletblm die in р е а с е Ь е
Ь а з received his punishment from God.' Н е ordered that the
wounded е п е т у ь е brought back to.hisfamily 4t Artawiyya.
But Ad-Dawish was far fiom Н injury was not nearly
as serious as the young doctor had assumed; and within а few
weeks Ь е was sufficientlyrecovered toslip away from Artawiyya,
ш о г е than ever bent о п revenge.
А И ESCAPE г о ш А м а м у у а gave а new ш
petus to the rebeUion. It was rumoured that Ь е Ы was
somewhere in the vicinity о the Kuwayt frontier recruiting new
tribal aI1ies to bls о still considerabIe. force о Mutayr.
А т о п з the first to join him \vere the Ajman, а small but valiant
tribe living in ·the province о AI-Hasa near the Persian Gulf;
their shaykh. Ibn Had.hlayn, was Faysal ad-Dawish's maternal
uncle. Apart from this, there was п о 10ve о в т between lbn Saud
and the Ajman. Years а з о they had slain the К younger
brother Saad and, fearing bls revenge, had migrated to Kuwayt.
Subsequently Ibn Saud had forgiven them and а И о е them to
return to their aneestral territory, but the old resentment с о п
tinued to rankle. It fiared up into о р е п enmity when, during п е
gotiations for а settlement, the Ajman с Ы е С and several о his
followers were treacherously murdered in the с а т р о Ibn
Saud's relative, theeldest son of the am;r of Al-Hasa.
Т а Ш а п с е о the Ajman with the Mutayr kindled а new
spark among the Atayba tribes in central NaJd. After the capture
of their am;r, Ibn Bujad, they had reassembled under а new
chieftain; and now they rose о п е е а against the К forc­
з him to divert most of his strength г о ш northem to central
Najd. Т fight was hard. but slowly Ibn Saud got the upper
JINNS
221
.hand. Group after group. heoverwhelmed the А ш у Ь а until. in
1he.cnd,they offered to п в Ln avillage half way between
Riyadhand М е с с а their sltaykhsp1ed:ged fealty to the Ю п
and ithe "King again forgave tbem. hoping that at last Ь е would
Ь а у е а г е е hand against Ad-Dawi:sh andtherestof Ь е rebels in
the т But hardly had Ь е returned to iRiyadhwhenthe А ш у
ь а brdke:their pledge for the secondtime and renewed their war­
fare.Now itwas а fight о the fi.nish. For а third timethe А ш у Ь а
were defeated and almost decimated - and with the complete
е с Ю ,af the /kllltJQ/Z settlement о С а town larger
than Riyadh,.the К authority was re-establisbedin centraJ
Najd.
Ы the struggle in tbe north continued. Faysa:Iad­
Dawish and his allies werenow solidJy entrenched in the vicinity
of tlle border. Ibn М ц в а а ё the а г af Н а й attaeked them ш п е
and time а з п П bebalf of the К T,vice it was reported that
Ad-Dawisb had Ь е е п kiHed; and botb times the tidinp provcd
false. Н е lived о п stubbornly and uncompromisingly. н eldest
son and seven bundred of his warriors feH in battle; but he
fought о п The question cropped ц р Feom where does Ad­
Dawish receive the т о п е у е у е п in А г а Ь з is necessary Г о г
waging war? From where his arms and а т т и й о п
Vague reports Ь е с а т е current that the rebel, onee 50 bitterly
critical о Ь п Saud's treaty relations witb the 'infidels', was now
himself treating with the Britis.h. Rumour bad it that Ь е was а
frequent visitor in Kuwayt: cou1d Ь е ь е doing this, asked
themselves, without the. knowledge of the British authorities?
Was it not г а ш е г that turmoil in the lands о П Ь п Saud
suited their own purpose о у too е П
ONE EVENING IN RIYADH, in the summcr of 1929, 1 had
gone to bed early al1d, before а Ш п asleep, was diverting myself
with а п old book о п thedYl1asties ofOman
j
when Zayd abruptly
с а т е into т у room: .
Т is а т а п Ь с г е from the SIIUyukh. Н е wantsto see tbee
at о п с с
1burriedly dressed and went to the Ibn Saud was await·
ing т е in his private apartments, sitting cross-legged о п а divan
with heaps о Arabic newspapers aroundhim and о п е from
228 Т И Н Ш А Т О М В С С А
cairo in his hands. Н е а е с о о т у greeting briefly and, with­
out п п р п bis reading, motione.d т е о bis side о п М di­
van. А С ш а ;while Ь е looked в р g1an<:ed а the slave who was
з з п ш Ь у the door and indicated with а т О У е т е п о С т з hand
tbat Ь е wished о ь е left alone with т е As soon а з Ь е slave had
closed the door bebindhim. Ь е К Iaid do\vn Ь е newspaper
and 100ked а т е for а while (rom behind bis glittering glasses.
as if Ь е had п о seen т е for а long time (altbough 1 had spent
some о ш with Ы т Ь а very morning).
В ш у with writing?'
·No. О Long-of-Age. 1 Ь а у е п о written anything о г weeks.'
П ю в е were interesting articles thou Ь з \vritten about our
frontier problems with Iraq:
Н е was evidently г е е п п о а series of dispatches 1·had
written for т у Continental newspapers about two months е а г
lier; в о ш е of them had also а р р е а г е д in а newspaper in з о
where. 1 flatter myself, they helped to clarify а very involved
situation. Knowing Ь е К 1was certain that Ь е was п о speak­
ing at random but had something definite in mind; and 50 1 г е
mained silent, waiting for him to contin.ue. Н е did continue:
'Perhaps thou wouldst like to write something т о г е about
what is happening in Najd - а о о ш this rebellion and what it
о о п е п ё в There was а trace о Г passion in his voice as Ь е \Vent
о п Т Ь е Sbarifian farnily hates т е Т sons ofHusayn who
now rule in Iraq and Transjordan will always bate т е for they
с а п п о т forget that I have taken the Hijaz Г г о т Ь е т Т Ь е у would
likemy realm to break up, Г о г then they could return to the
Hijaz ... and their friends, у Ь о pretend о ь е т у friends as well,
rnight п о dislike it either ... Т Ь е у did п о Ь и д those forts Cor
nothing: they Ш е to cause т е troubte and to push т е away
from their frontiers .. .'
From behind Ibn Saud's \vords 1 couJd hear jumbJed, ghostly
sounds - the.ro\lingа п д ru!:ltingof railroad trains \vhich, though
Щ imaginary, might easily Ь е с о т е г е а tomorrow: the spectre
of а British railroad running from Haifa to Basra. Rumours of
such aplan had Ь е е п rampant for years. It was well known that
Ь е British were concerned about securing Ь е 'Jand route to In­
dia': and this. indeed, \vas themeaning of their mandates ovet
Palestine, Transjordan а п д Iraq. А railroad from the Mediter­
с а п а п о the Persian Gulfwould п о only form а new, valuable
JlNNS 229
И in imperial communications but would also affO'rd
greater protection to the oil pipeline that was to ь е laid from
lraq across the Syrian Desert to Haifa. О п the other hand, а
direct rail с о п п е с ц о п between Haifa and Basra would Ь а у е to
cut across Ibn Saud's northeastern provinces - and the King
would nevcr even entertain such а suggestion. Was it not р о в
sible that the building of forts along the Iraq-Najd frontier. in
fiagrant contravention о С а Н the existing agreements, represented
the first stage of а careful1o'J devised scheme to bring about
enough disturbance within this critical area to 'justify' the estab­
lishment of а small, semi-independent buffer state ш о г е а ш е п
а Ы е to the British? Faysal ad-Dawish could serve this purpose
as weH' as, о г perhaps е у е п better than, а member of Shari­
б а п family,Tor Ь е was а Najdi himself and had а strong foHow­
ing among the Ikh,vaJl. That his alleged religious fanaticism у з
о у а 'mask was obvious to anyone acquainted with his past;
what Ь е reaHy wanted was power а ю п е There was п о doubt
that, left to himself, Ь е could not haveheld out for so long
against Ibn Saud. But - had he been left to himself?
After а 10ngpause, the К continued: '1 Ь а у е been thinking,
as е е е г у о п е has, about the supplies о С arms and а л о п
that Ad-Dawish seems to Ь а у е at his disposal. Н е has plenty ot'
them - and plenty of moncy, too, ithas been reported to т е 1
wonder whether thou wouldst not like to write about thesc
things - 1 е а п those mysterious sources о С Ad-Dawish's sup­
plieS.I have т у own suspicions about them; perhaps even т о г е
than slispicions - but 1 would like thee to find out for thyself а Н
thou canst, for 1 т а у Ь е wrong.'
So that was it. Although the К spoke almost casually, in а
conversational tone, it was obvious that he had weighed е у е г у
word before Ь е uttered it. 1 100ked hard at т т His face,.so
grave а momentbefore, brClke into а broad smile. Н е placed his
hand о п т у knee and shook it:
'1 want thee, О т у son, to find out С о г thyself 1 rcpcat: о г
thyself - from where Ad-Dawish is getting his rifles, his ammuni­
tion and t.he т о п е у Ь е is throwing about so lavishty. Т Ь е г е is,
hardJy any doubt in т у own mind, but 1wish that someone П е
thee, у Ь о is п о directJy involved, would tell the world о С the
crooked truth Ь е Ы п Ad-Da\vish's rcbcllion ... 1 think thou
wilt Ь е в Ы е to find out the Lrut}-,." '
230 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
Ь п Saud knew what Ь е was doing. Н е has always Icnown that
Ilove Ы т Although 1oftcn disagree with his policies, and never
make а secret ofmydisagreement, Ь е has never withheld his с а п
fidence from т е and often asks т у advice. Н е trusts т е all the
п ю г е 1 believe, because Ь е is weU aware that 1do not expect а п у
р е г в о п а в з п from Ы т and would not even accept а post in his
government, for 1 want to remain free. And 50, о п that ш е ш о г
able evening in the summer о С 1929, Ь е calmly suggested to т е
that 1should В О out and explore the web о Е political intrigue Ь е
hind the щ а rebellion - а mission which probably entailed
personal risk and certainly could ь е accomplished only at the
с о в г of strenuous
But the SI1Uyukh was not disappointed in т у reactions. Apart
from т у alfection for Ы т and bls country, the task wblch Ь е
now entrusted to т е seemed о promise а п exciting adventure,
not to speak о С а possibIe jOllrnaJistic в с о о р
'Over т у eyes and т у head Ь е thy command, О Long-of­
А в е 1 immediately replied."[ shall certainly do what 1 с а п
'Ofthat 1Ь а у с п о doubt, О Muhammad; and 1е х р е с г thee о
keep tby mission а secret. There т а у ь е danger in it - what
about thy wife?'
Т Ь е wife was а girl from Riyadh whom 1 had married the р г е
vious year; but 1 was able to assure the Ю п о п this point:
'Sbe will п о cry, О Imam; it was only today that 1 was think­
ing о С divorcing her. We do not seem to 5uit о п е а п о ш е г
Ibn Saud smiled knowingly, С о г -divorcing а wife was а thing
not unfamiliar to Ы т В ш what about other people - Ь у ю
folk?'
Т п е г е is п о о п е 1believe, ,vho would mourn shollld anything
Ь а р р е п to ш е - е х с е р т о С course, Zayd; but Ь е Ш а с с о т р а п у
т е in any с з and the things that befall т е wi1l Ь е С а him as
well.' .
'That is а Н о the в о о о replied the К п в 'And. oh, before 1
forget: tholl wilt require some funds for Ь е undertaking' - and
slipping Ы hand under the cushion behil1d Ы т Ь е drew out а
purse and thrust if into т у hand; from its ,veight 1 immediateJy
guessed that it wa.c; filJed \vith golden sovereigns. 1 remember
thinking myself: Н о у certain Ь е must have been, even before
е asked т е that 1 would accept his suggestion ... !
JINNS 231
В А С К IN м т о ш в т в в е I called zayd. who had been
awaiting т у retum.
'If 1should aSk thee, zayd, to а с с о т р а п у т е о п а п enterprise
that might prove dangerous - wouldst thou go with т е Т
Zayd replied: 'Dost thou think, О т у uncle, that 1 would
thee go alone, whatever the danger1 В ш where а г е we going?'
'We are going о find·out from \vhere Ad-Da\vish is getting
his а п п з and his т о п е у But the К insists that п о о п е should
know what we а г е doing until it has Ь е е п done; so thou mtlst ь е
о п guard.'
Zayd did not е у е п bother to reassure т е but turned instead
to the more practical question:
'We can't у е г у weB ask Ad-Da.... ish о г his т е п how then do
we set about it Т _
О п т у way back from the castle 1 had Ь е е п ruminating over
this problem. It appeared to т е that the best starting point
would Ь е о п е of the cities of central Najd, where there were
т а п у merchants who had intimate connections with Iraq and
Kuwayt. Finally 1 settled и р о п Sllaqra, the capital of tbe р г о
у с е of Washm, about three days' journey from Riyadh, where
т у friend Abd ar-Rahrnan as-Siba'i might Ь е а Ы е to Ь е р т е
Т Ь е fol1owing day was occupied with preparations for our е х
pedition. As 1 did not want to attract too ш с attention to т у
movements, 1 cautioned Zayd not to draw provisions, as was
customary with us, from the К в ю г е л о ц я е э Ь и о purchase
everything we needed from the bazaar. В у evening Zayd had с о г
lected the necessary assortment of foodstuffs: aboutt\venty
pounds of rice, the в а ш е amount of flour for bread, а small skin
containing c]arified butter, date5, coffee Ь е а п в а г к з а п Н е had
also bought two new waterskin5, а leather bucket and а З Г
rope long enough for very deep wells. We were a]ready well pro­
vided with arm5 and ammunition. 1nto our saddJebags we stuf­
fed two changes of clothing per Ц а П п each of us wore а
heavy а Ь а у а which, together with the blankets over our saddles,
would serve as covering о п с о о nigbts. О ш dromedaries, which
had spent several weeks а pasture, were in excel1ent condition;
the о п е 1 had recentIy given to Zayd was an extremcly fleet
Omani racer, whi1e 1 rode the beautifu] old п о г ю п thoro'Jgh­
bred which had о п с е belonged to the а Rashidi c7!11ir of Hai'1
and had Ь е е п presented to т е Ь у Ibn Saud.
232 Т В Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
Mter nigbtfall we rode oUt о С Riyadh. В у dawn we reached
Wadi Hanifa, а deep, barren river bed between steep hills - the
site of the decisive battle fought oYet thirtten hundred years ago
between the Muslim forces о Abu Bakr, the Prophet's successor
а п д Р Ш С а р Ь of IsIam, а п ё those of the <faIse prophet', Mu­
saylima; who for т а п у years had opposed the Muslims. Т
battle signalIed the б п а victory ofIsIam in CentraI Л а Ы а М а п у
of the о п Cornpanions of the Prophet е П in it, and their
graves are visible to this day о п the rocky sIopes of the wadi.
During the forenoon we passed the ruined с Н у of А у а а
о п с е а Iarge, populous settlement, stretching along both ballks
ofWadi Hanifa. В rows oftarnarisks Iay the remnants of
the past: broken-down house waI1s, with the crumbIing pilIars of
а mosque or the ruin of а palatiaI building rising here and there,
aII of them speaking of а higher, more gracious style of architec­
ture than that of the simple mud buildings о п е sees in present­
day Najd. lt is said that until about о п е hundred and fifty or
two hundred years ago, the entire course of Wadi И а а from
Dar'iyya (the о п а capitaI of the Ь п Saud dynasty) to А у а у
п а - а distance of over fifteen miles - was о п е singIe city; and
that when а son was Ь о г п to the amir of Dar'iyya, the news of
his Ь ш Ь passed along from rooftop to rooftop Ь у the women,
traveIled within minutes to the utmost end of А у а у п а Т story
ofAyayna's decay is so clouded Ь у Iegends that it is difficult to dis­
с е the historicaI facts. Most probably the. town was destroyed
, Ъ у the first Saudi ruler when it refused to а с с е р the teachings of
Muhammad ibn Abd а Ь but Wahhabi Iegend has it
that, as а sign ofGod's wrath, aII the weI1s ofА у а а dried up in
а singIe night, forcingthe inhabitants to abandon the city.
, At о о о п of the third day we sighted the mud waIls and bas­
tions of Shaqra and the blgh palms wblch towered а Ь о у е its
houses. We rode between empty orchards and through empty
streets; and о у then we remembered that it was Friday and
that е у е с у о п е must ь е at the mosque. Offand о п we encountered
а woman cloaked from head to too in а bIack а Ь а у а she would
start &t the sight of the strangers· and draw her veil across her
face with &quick, shymovement. И е е and there chi1dren played
in the shadow of the houses; а soHd warmth was brooding over
the cro\VI1S of the pa1ms.
We went straight to the house of т у О frieod Abd а г
JlNNS З З
Rahman as-Siba'i, who at that time was in charge о Г the bayt al­
mal, о г treasury, of the province. We dismounted before the
о р е gate and Zayd called into the courtyard, • У а waladf -'0
Ь о у - and as а servant Ь о у с а т е running out о Г the house,
Zayd announced: 'Guests а г е Ь е г е
While Zayd and the Ь о у busied themselves with п а с Ш
the dromedaries in the courtyard, 1made myself at Ь о т е in А М
ar-Rahman's qaJlwa, where another servant immediately lit а
fire under the brass pots о п the coffee hearth. Hardly had 1
drunk the first sip when voices Ь е с а е audible from the с о ц п
yard - questions and answers rang out: the master of the house
had retumed. Already from the staircase,. still invisible,' Ъ е
shouted his greetiRg of welcome to т е and Ь е appeared in the
doorway with о р е п arms: а delicate little т а п with а short,light­
brown beard and а pair of deep-set, humorous eyes in а smiling
С а с е п spite ofthe heat Ь е wore а 10ng Г и г с о а г under hls а Ь а у а
Т Г ш coat was о е ofhis most treasured possessions. Н е never
tired of telling everyone who was not already aware ofits history
that it had о п с е belonged to the former IGng of the Н
SharifHusayn, and had fallen into м Abd ar-Rahrnan's, hands
at the conquest of М е с с а in 1924. 1 cannot г е т е т Ь е г ever
а л seen т without that coat.
Н е embraced т е warmly and, standing о п his toes, kissed т е
о п both cheeks: А Ы а wa·sablan wa-marhaba! Welcome to this
lowly house, О т у brother. Lucky is the Ь о и г that brings Ь е е
Ь е г е
And then с а ш е the usual questions: Whence, and whereto,
and how is the IGng, and was there rain о п the way - о г didst
tbou at least Ь е а г of rains? - the whole traditional exchange о Г
Л а Ь news. 1 told him that А а у т in с е п п а Najd, was т у
destination - wblch was not quite true Ь и cou1dwel1 Ь а у е Ь е е п
п ear1ier years А Ы ar·Rahman had Ь е е п engaged in exten­
sive trade between Najd and Iraq а щ was thoroughly familiar
with both Basra and Kuwayt. It was not difficult to get him to
ta1k of those places and о sound Ы т out about. р е о р е who
might recently Ь а у е arrived from there (for it seemed to т е that
with Faysal ad-Dawish being reported so near the border of К и
wayt, either that place о г Basra might furnish some indication
as to hissource of supp1ies). 1leamed that а т е т Ь е г о Г the well­
known AI-Bassam family of А а у и - а old acquaintance of
234 Т И Н R.OAD Т О М Е С С А
mine - had recently visited Kuwayt о п the way back from в
а and, not wanting о expose himself to the hazards о С а jour­
п е у through rebel-infested territory. had returned via В з п to
Najd. Н е was in Shaqra at р г е з е п г and if 1 wanted, Abd а г
Rahman would send for Ь п for, in accordance with ancient
Arabian custom, it is for the new arrival о ь е visitedrather than
to р а у visits. Soon afterward, Abdullah al-Bassam joined us in
Abd ar-Rahman's а ш а
Abdullah, although belonging to perhaps the most important
family of businessmen in а Najd, was not himself а п с Ь т а п
His Ш е had Ь е е п full ofups and downs - mostly downs - е х р е п
е п с е д not only in Najd Ь ш also in Cairo, Baghdad, Basra, Ku­
wayt, В а л г а ш and В о т Ь а у Н е knew everybody who was а п у
body in those places, and carried in his shrewd head а store ofш
formation about everything tbat was going о п in .'\rab countries.
1 told Ы that 1 had Ь е е п asked Ь у а О е п п а п business firm to
explore the possibilities of importing agricultural т а с е т у into
К и у а у and Basra; and since 1had been offered а fat commis­
sion Ь у Ь е firm, 1 was anxious to find out which of the local.
merchants in those two towns were likely о entertain such а р г о
position. AI-Bassam mentioned several п а т е з and then added:
'1 а т sure that з о т е of the Kuwayti people will ь е interested
in thy project. Т are always importing Ы from abroad,
and nowadays trade seems to ь е quite lively - 50 lively that large
consignments of silver riyals а г е arriving almost е у е т у day
directly from Ь е mint at Trieste.'
The mention of the silver riyals з у е П е а jolt. Т з particular
. kind of riyal, Ь е Maria Theresa thaler, constituted. side Ь у side
with the official Arabian currencies, the chief commercial coin­
а в е of the entire Р е п ц It was minted at Trieste and sold а
its silver з и е plus а small minting charge to the у а п о ш
governments and also to а few outstanding merchants with large
trade interests among the beduitis; for the beduins were averse
to accepting paper т о п е у and took on1ygoid or silver -prefer­
ably Maria Т thalers. Large imports ofthese с о Ь у Ku­
wayti traders з е е т е а to indicate that а brjsk business was going
о п Ь е М е е п Ь е т and ш е beduins.
'Why.' 1 asked' 'should Kuwayti merchants im­
р о riyals just no\v?'
'1 do not kno\v,' he rep ied. \vith а trace of perplexity in his
JlNNS 235
у о ю е Т talk о С buying meat-camels from beduins п е а г Ku­
wayt С о с sale in lraq. where the Р П с е а г е blgh nowadays; though
1 do not quite see how they е х р е с ё to find т а п у camels in the
steppes а г о ц п ё Kuwayt in these disturbed tirnes ... 1 should
rather Ы Ь е added with а Iaugh, 'that it would ь е п ю г е
profitabIe to buy riding-camels in Iraq and to sell them to Ad­
Dawish and his т е п - Ь ш о С course, Ad-Dawish wouId not
have the т о п е у to р а у for them .. .'
Would Ь е п о т indeed?
Т night, before going to bed in the room assigned to us Ь у
our host, 1 drew zayd into а с о т е с and told Ы т
'We are going to Kuwayt.'
'It will not ь е easy, О т у uncle,' replied zayd; but the gleam
in hiseyes spoke п ю г е eloquently than hiswords о С hisreadiness
to embark о п something that was not only noteasy but extremeIy
dangerous. It would, о С course, ь е child's play to travel across
territory controlled Ь у forces and tribes loyal to the К but
for at least о п е hundred miles о г so before reacblng the borders
о С Kuwayt we wouId ь е entirely о п our own in the midst о С hos­
tile territory through wblch the rebellious Mutayr and Ajman
tribesmen were roaming. We could, о Г course, travel to Kuwayt
Ь у sea via Bahrain, but that would require а permit from the
British authorities and thus е х р о в е а Н our movements to the
closest scrutiny. Т same objection would apply to travelling
via AI-Jawf and thc Syrian Desert into Iraq, and thence to К ц
wayt; for it would ь е too optimistic to suppose that we could
slip through the т а п у control points in Iraq. There remained,
therefore, nothing but the direct overland route to Kuwayt. How
о penetrate undetected into the town itseJf was а question that
could not Ь е easily answered at present; and so we left it to the
future, trusting in our luck and hoping for unforeseen oppor­
tunities.
Abd ar-Rahman as-Siba'i wanted т е to stay with Ь ш for
some days, but when 1 pJeaded urgent business, Ь е let us go Ь е
next morning, after augmenting our food supply Ь у а quantity of
dried camel-meat - а de1icious addition to Ь е monoton­
ous fare ahead of us. Н е aJso insisted that 1 should visit him о п
т у returnjourney, to which, in truth, 1could only ans\ver, 1115110­
Allall - 'God \villing.' .
236 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
Р в о в SHAQRA WE TRAVELLED Cor Cour days toward north­
east without encountering а п в unusual. О п о п е occasion
wewere stopped Ь у а detachment о С loyal Awazim beduins who
Conned part Qf Amir Ibn Musaad's Corces; but т у о р е п letter
Crom the King ш с а е у put them а rest and, after the
customary е х с Ь а п в е о С desert tidings, we continued о п our way.
BeCore dawn о С fiftb day we approached а region over
wblch Ibn Saud's а п о longer extended. From now о п day
travel was out of the question; our on1y saCety а у in darkness
and stealth.
We made с а ш р in а с о п е ш е п п П е у not far from the т а
course о С the great Wadi ar-Rumma, ш е ancient, dry river bed
tbat runs across northem Arabia toward the head ofthe Persian
Gulf. Т guUeywas thickly overhung with arfaj bushes, wblch
woulc1 afford us some cover as long as we kept close to the al­
most vertical bank. We hobbled our camels securely, fed·them а
mixture о С coarse barley flour and date kemels - thus obviating
the necessity ofletting them out to pasture - and settled" down to
await the nightfaU. We did not dare light а fire, for е у е п in day­
ш е its smokemight Ь е ц в у us; and 50 we had to content о ц г
selves with а meal о С dates and water.
How sound our precautions were Ь е с а е evident in the late а С
temoon, when the strains о С а beduin riding-chant suddenly
struck our е а г в We took hold о С our с а ш е в muzzles to prevent
them from snorting or bellowing, and pressed ourselves, Ш е in
hand, flat against the protecting waU о С the gul1ey.
Т chanting grew louder asthe unknown riders approached;
we could already discem the words, La ilaha i/J'А а Ь а ilaha
а - Т is п о God but God, Т is п о God but God'
- the и а substitute Cor the more worldy travel chants
о С 'unreCormed' beduins. Т was п о doubt tbat these were
Ikhwan, and in this а с е а they could on1yь е hostile lkhwan. After
а while they appeared over the crest о С а hillock, just above the
Ь а о С the gulley - а group о С eight or ten camel..riders slowly
advancing in single file, sharply outlined against the aftemoon
sky, е а с Ь oCthem wearing the white lkhl'lan turban over his red­
and-wblte-checked kufiyya, two bandoliers across the chest and
а rifle slung о п the saddle-peg behind him: а sombre and for­
bidding cavalcade, swaying forward and backward, forward and
backward, in rhythm with the gait с С the dromedaries and the
JlNNS 237
great but now so misused words, Е а i/aha i//'A//ah ..• Т
sight was impressive and а Ь е в а ш е time pathetic. Т were
т е п о whom thpir faith obviously ш е а п г т о т е Ь а п anything
else in Ы е Ь е у thought Ь е у were fighting for its purity and for
Ь е greater glory of God, п о knowing Ь а their fervour and
their longing had Ь е е п hamessed о the ambitions о an unscru­
pulous leader in quest of personal power ...
Т Ь е у were о п Ь е у 'right' side of Ь е gulley as far as we were
concerned: for had ш е у Ь е е п riding о п the opposite side, they
would Ь а у е seen us as plainly as we could now see them from
beneath the protective overhang of Ь е bushes. When, with the
lilt of Ь е С г е е ё о п their lips, they disappeared from view down
the т wesighed with relief.
Т а г е like jinns,' Ы Z;iyd. 'Yes, like the jinns who
know neitherjoy oflife norfear ofdeath ... Т are braveand
strong in faith, п о о п е с а п deny that - but а Н they dream about
is Ы о о ё and death and Paradise ...'
А п д as if in defiance of Ь е lkllwan's gloomy puritanism, Ь е
began to sing, з о и о г о с е а у е т у worldly Syrian love song: '0
Ь о и maiden of golden-brown flesh .. .'
As soon as it was quite dark, we resumed our surreptitious
march in the direction of distant Kuwayt.
'LOOK т н в в в О М У UNCLE!' Zayd suddenly exclaimed.
А fire!'
It was too small а ш е for а beduin encamprnent; а lonely
herdsman, perhaps? But wbat herdsman would dare light а fire
here unless Ь е were о п е о С the rebels? Still, it would ь е better to
б о ш If it was only о п е т а п we could easily take care of hirn
д also, possibIy, gather some precious infonnation about
enemy movements in the area.
Т soil was sandy and the feet о С our camels made almost п о
nojse as we cautiously approached the fire. In its light we could
now make o\1t the crouching figure of а solitary. beduin. Н е
seemed to ь е peering into the darkness in our direction, and then
as if satisfied with what Ь е had seen, Ь е rose without hurry,
crossed llis а т П о у е т his chest - perhaps to indicate that Ь е was
unarmed - and calmly, without the least appearance о С fright,
awaited our coming.
238 Т Н Е А О А О Т О М Е С С А
"Who art thou Т Zayd called out sharply. his rifle pointed at
the ragged stranger.
Т Ь е beduin smiled slowly and answeted in а ё е е р sonorous
voice: "1 а т а Sulubbi ....
Т Ь е reason for his calm now Ь е с а т е obvious. Т Ь е strange.
gypsy-Jike tribe (or rather group о щ to which Ь е belonged
had never taken part mArabia's almost unceasing Ь О О и war­
fare; enemies to п о п е they were attacked Ь у п о п е
Т Ь е Sulubba (sing., Sulubbi) have г е т п а ш е ё to this day а п
enigrna to а Н explorers. Nobody reaHy knows their origin. Tbat
they а г е not А г а м is certain: their Ы и е eyes and light-brown
hair belie their sunbumed skins and с а п у а memory of northem
regions. Т Ь е ancient Arab historian.; teH us that tbey а г е descen­
dants of crusaders who had Ь е е п taken prisoner Ь у Saladin and
brought to Arabia, where they later Ь е с а т е Muslims; and, in­
deed, the п а т е Sulubba has the same root as the word sa/ib, that
is, 'cross', and salibi, whicb means с г ц з а ё е г Whether this е х
planation is correct is difficult to в а у In а п у case, the beduins
regard the Sulubba as non-Arabs and treat them with something
like tolerant contempt. Т Ь е у explain this contempt, wblch с о п
trasts sharply with the Arab's otherwise so pronounced sense of
Ь и т а п equality, Ь у asserting that these people are п о г е а Н у
М ц в й ш в Ь у conviction and do not Iive Iike Mus1ims. Т Ь е у point
out that the Sulubba do not т а г г у but а г е 'promiscuous Iikc
without consideration even of close blood relationship,
ь they eat carrion, which Muslims consider unclean. But
this т а у ь е а р о и а с ш т rationalization. 1а т rather inclined to
think that it was the awareness of the Sulubba's racial strange­
ness that caused the е х п е т п е у race-conscious beduin to draw а
magic circle of contempt around them - а п instinctive defence
against blood mixture, which П have Ь е е п very tempting in
the case of the Sulubba: о г they а г е almost without exception,
beautiful people. taHer than O1ost of the Arabs and of а great
regu]arity of features; the wo01en, especially, are very lovely, fulJ
of а п elusive grace of body and movement.
But \vhatever the cause, the beduin's contempt for the Sulub­
Ь а has made their life secure: for а п у о п е who attacks or harms
them is deemed Ь у bls kinsfolk to have forfeited his bonour.
Apart from this, the Su1ubba а г е highly esteemed Ь у а desert
dweHers as vete .inarians, saddle-makers. tinkers and smiths.
IINNS 239
Т Ь е beduin, though despising handicraft ю о much to р г а с Ш е
it blmse]f, is п е у е п п е т е э в in need ofit, and Ь е SulJubba are there
о help Ы т in bls п е е ё They а г е a]so efficient Ь е г ш т е п and,
а Ь о у е al1, unquestioned masters in the а п of hunting. Т
ability о read п а с к з is а п п о е т ]egendary, and Ь е о п у р е о р ё е
who с а п compare with them in this respect а г е the А М ц п а
beduins о п Ь е northern fringes of the Empty Quarter.
Relieved at finding that our new acquaintance was а Sulubbi,
1 told him frankly that we were Ibn Saud's т е п - which was
quite safe in view о С the respect which these people have for
authority,- and requested Ы т о е х Ш Ь his fire. Т з done,
we settled о п the ground for а lengthy conversation.
Н е could not е П us much about the disposition of Ad­
Dawish's forces, 'for,' Ь е said, 'they а г е always о п the move,like .
jinns, never resting at о п е place for long'. It transpired, however,
that п о large с о в с е п ц а ц о п of hostile lkhlvan happened to ь е in
о ш immediate vicinity now, although small parties were
constantly crossing the desert in а directions.
An idea suddenly struck т е might wenot utilize the Sulubbi's
instinct for hunting and pathfinding о lead us to Kuwayt?
П а thou ever Ь е е п to Kuwayt Т 1 asked Ы т
Т Ь е Sulubbi laughed. М а п у times. 1 have sold gazeUe skins
there and clarified butter and с а ш е wool. Why, it is о у ten
days since 1 retumed from there.'
Т thou cou]dst р е г Ь а р з guide us to Kuwayt? - 1 т
guide us in such а manner а з to avoid meeting lkhlvan о п т е
way1'
. For а few moments the Sulubbi pondered over tills question;
then Ь ё replied hesitantly: '1 might, but it would ь е dangerous
for т е to becaught Ь у the {kl1lvan in thy company. 1 might,
though, but ... but it wou]d cost Ь е е а ]ot.' .
'How much 1'·
'Well .. .' - and 1 could discern Ь е tremor of greed in his
voice 'well, О т у master, ifthou wouldst give me'one hundred
riya/s, 1 might guide thee and thy friend to Kuwayt in such а
manner that п о п е but the birds of the sky would set eyes о п з
One hundred riya/s was equivalent о ten sovereigns - а ridic­
uiously small sum considering what it would mean to ш but
.the SuJubbi had probably never in his е held з о т о с Ь cash in
his hands.
240 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
'1 shall give thee о п е hundred - twenty now and the rest
after we г е а с Ь Kuwayt.'
О и г prospective guide had obviously not expected his demand
to Ь е so readily granted. Perhaps Ь е regrettcd that Ь е had п о set
his price higher, Г о г а в а п afterthought, Ь е added:
'But what about т у dromedary? IfI ride with у о и о Kuwayt
and then back, the р о о г beast Ш ь е worn out entirely, and 1
have о у о п е .. :
Not wishing to prolong the negotiations, 1 promptly replied:
'1 shall Ь и у thy dromedary. Т Ь о и shalt ride it to Kuwayt, and
there 1shall hand it to thee as а gift - but thou must lead us Ь а с х
as well:
That was п ю г е than Ь с could Ь а у е hoped С о г With great alac­
rity Ь е г о в е disappeared into the darkness and reappeared after
а few minutes, leading а п old but beautifuI and obviously hardy
animaI. Mter some haggling we settled и р о п о п е hundred and
fifty riya/s as its price, о п the understanding that 1 would р а у
him fifty now and the rest, together with his reward, in Kuwayt.
zayd fetched а purse filled with riya/s from о п е of о и г saddle­
bags and 1started counting the coins into the Iap of the Sulubbi.
From the depths of his bedraggled tunic Ь е drew out а piece of
cloth in which his т о п е у was tied; and as Ь е started to add т у
riya!s to his hoard, the glitter of а new coin caught т у е у е
'Stop!' 1exclaimed, placing т у hand о у е г his. 'Let т е see that
shining п у а of thine.'
With а hesitant gesture, as if afraid of being robbed, the
Sulubbi laid the с о ш gingerly о п the palm of т у hand. Itfelt
sharp-edged, like а new с о ш but to make sure 1 Iit а match and
looked at it closely. It was indeed а new Maria Т thaler ­
as new as if it hadjust left the mint. And when 1 held the match
over the rest о С the Sulubbi's т о п е у 1 discovered five о т six
т о г е coins of the same startling newness.
'Where didst thou get these riyals?'
'1 с а т е Ь у them honestly, О т у master, 1 swear ... 1 didnot
steal them. А Mutayri gave them to т е some weeks ago п е а г
Kuwayt. Н е bought а new а е г о т т е because his
was broken .. .'
А Mutayri? Art thou certain?' :
'1 а т certain, О т у master, and т а у God Ш т е ifI speak а
lie ... Н е was ofAd-Dawish's т е п о п е of а party that Ь ш т е
JINNS 241
c::ently been fighting again$t thc ami, о С Н а й It surely was not
в to Ш е т о п е у Crom bim.Cor а sadd1e ..• ? 1 could not
weU ш ш е and 1 am sure that the Shuyukh, т а у God lengthen
bis Ш е will understand this.• .'
1 reassured him. that the К would not bear а п у ma1ice to­
ward Ы and bis anxiety8ubsidOO. о п questioning ы Curther.
1 Cound that т а п у other Sulubba had receivOO such new riya/s
from various Ш о С Ad-Dawishin exchange for goods or
small services •..
о ц в SULUBBIINDBED P&OVED himselfanoutstandingguide.
For three nightsЬ е 100 usа meanderingс о ш в е acrossг е Ь е terri­
tory, over pathless 8tretches which even zayd. who knew this
с о ш ш у well. had neverseen Ь е С о г е Т days werespent in hid­
в the Sulubbi wasа past-masterat finding unsuspectOO places
о С concealment. о п о п е occasionЬ е 100 us 10 а water hole wblch,
Ь е told us, was unknown even to the beduins о С the region; its
brackish, brown water assuagOO the thirst о С our came1s and en­
а Ы о о us to г е П о ш waterslcins. О у twicedid we seegroups of
Ikhwansin th" distance, but о п neither occasion weretheyallow­
ed to seeus.
In the Corenoon of tbe fourth т о п в after our ш е е в with
the we с а т е within sight о С the town of Kuwayt. We
did not а р р г о а с Ь it й о ш the southwest,as travellersfrom Najd
wouldhavedone. but г о т the west, along the road from В
&0 that anyone who met us would think. wewerelraqi traders.
с е in Kuwayt,weт ourselves at Ь о ш е in Ш е compound
ofа merchant withwhomzayd wasacquaintOO Crom bis days in
the Iraqi Constabulary.
А ш р oppressive heat а у over the sandy streets and the
Ь о ш built о С sunbaked mud bricks; and, accustomed to the
о р е п steppes о С Najd, I"was О О П drenched with perspiration.
But there was п о Щ е С о г rest. Leaving the Sulubbi in с з в е о С
the с а т е ш - with the striet injunction ndt to mention to а п у о п е
from where we had е - zayd and 1 proceedOO to the Ь з г
to ш е о ш pre1iminary investigations.
Not в Camiliar with Kuwayt myseif, and not П в to
make zayd conspicuous Ь у т у presence, r remainOO for
about an Ь о ш а п е а cotree slLop. в coffee and
Q
242 т н в aOAD Т О М В С С А
smokingа 1I!UiiJe. W!tenlayd. at Jastre-appeared. it waaobvioua
г о ш ы triumphant expression that Ь е had found out son»
thing of ш р о с е
'Let us go о Ш О т у uncle. It is easier to talk in the ш а г
ket place without being overheard. And here 1 м у е brought
something for thee -.andfor т е as weU' - and from under his
а Ь а у а Ь е produced two Iraqi iga/s о С thick, 100sely plaited brown
wool. Т е з е will ш е Iraqis о С us.'
Т discreet enquiries Zayd ascertained that а former
е г of his - а с о ш р а ш о п о С з old smuggling days in the
Persian Gulf- was now living in Kuwayt, apparent1y still е п
gaged' in his aceustomed trade.
Н there is у о п е who can П us something about gun-run­
ning in this town, it is Bandar. Н е is а Shammar like щ у
о п е of- those stubbom fools who could never fuUy reconcile
themselves to Ibn Saud's rule. Wemust not let him knowthat we
а г е working for the Shuyukh - and, 1think, not е у е п from where
weha!e с о т е Cor В is not really а С о о Н е is а у е г у cun­
ning man - indeed,Ь е has tricked т е too о in the past that 1
should trust him. now.'
We finallytraeed the man to а house in а п о а п е closeto
the main э Н е was-taJ.l and thin, perhaps Corty ycars ofage,
with close-seteyesand а в о ш dyspepticexpression; but his fca­
tures lit о р in genuinepleasure when Ь е beheldZayd. В of
т у light Ю п 1 was introduced as а Tutk who had settled in
В and had been engaged in exporting Л а Ь horses г о ш
в to В о ш Ь а у 'But it does not р а у nowadays to bring horses
to В О ш Ь а у addedZayd. Т merchants from Anayza and
Burayda Ь а у е completely comered the market there.'
'1know,' repliedBandar. 'those dirty Southerners о Ь п Saud
are not content with having taken away our country; they are
bent о п ta.king away our livelihood as well .. :
'But what about gun-running, Bandar l' asked Zayd. Т г
should ь е а 10t of business here, with all these Mutayr and Aj­
man desirous of twistingIbn Saud's neck - hehl'
Т г was а 10tof business,' replied Bandar, with а shrug of
his shoulders. 'Until а few months ago 1 was making quite good
ш о п е у buying о р rifies in Transjordan and selling them to the
р е о р е of Ad-Dawish. But now а Н that is finished, entirely
fiDished. У о о couldn't seJ а single rifie now.'
JINNS 243
'How is that? 1 should think
,
Ad-Dawish would neod them
т о с е tban ever before.'
У es,' retorted В '50 Ь е does. But Ь е gets them at а price
for wblch о п е like thee о г т е could never afford to sen ••• Н е
gets them in cases, from overseas - English rifles, almost new ­
and Ь е pays ten riya/s for а rifle with two hundred rounds ofа т
т и о п _
'Praise ь е unto God!' exclaimed zayd in genuine astonish­
ment. Т е п riya/s for an almost new rifle with two hundred
rounds: but that is impossible ... !'
It really did seem impossible, for at that ш е ш Lee-Enfield
rifles' cost in Najd about thirty to thirty-five riya/sapiece, with­
out а р и о п and е у е п if о п е took into consideration that
the prices at Kuwayt might ь е lower than in Najd, the tremen­
dous difference was Ш unaccountable.
В smiled wryly. 'Well, it seems that Ad-Dawish has
powerful friends. У е с у powerful friends ... Some say that one
day he·will Ь е с о т е а п independent am;" in northem Najd.·
'What thou sayest, О В а п ё а г Iinterposed, 'is a1l wel1 and
goOO. Perhaps Ad-Dawish will г с а П у make himself independent
of Ibn Saud. But Ь е has п о т о п е у and without т о п е у even the
great Alexander could not Ь а у е built а kingdom.'
В broke о ш и и о а loud· guffaw: М о п е у Ad-Dawish
has plenty of that - plenty of new riya/s, which с о т е to Ы т in
cases, like the rifles, from beyond the в е а
'Cases о С riya/s? But that is very strange. From where could а
beduin о Ь cases о С new riya/s?'
Т 1 do not know,' replied В 'But 1 do know that al·
most daily some ofhis щ е п are taking delivery ofnew riyals that
а с е rcaching them. through various merchants inthe city. Why,
о у yesterday 1saw Farhan ibn М at the port supervising
the unloading о С such cases.'
Т was indeed news. 1 knew.Farhan well.He was а grand­
nephew of that CamousSyrian beduin prince, Nuri ash-Shaa1an,
who had о п с е fought together with Lawrence agaiDst ш е т ш п
1had first щ е young Farban in 1924 in Damascus, where Ь е was
notorious forhis revels in al1 the places о С entertain­
ment. Some ш е afterward Ь е fell out with his great-uncle, ш
gratedwith а sub-section ofhistri1)e, the Ruwala, to Najd, where
Ь е suddenly Ь е с а ш е 'pious' and joined the п Inovement. 1
244 Т И Н а О А О Т О М Е С С А
,methim again in 1927 in Ibn castleat Hai1. В у thenЬ е
had donned Ihehuge, wblteturban ofthe Jkhwan as а symbolof
his new-found faith, and was enjoying the bounty of the К
when 1remindedhim of о ш previousmeetingsin Damascus, Ь е
__quicldy changed the subject. Stupid and а т Ы и о ш as Ь е was, Ь е
had seenin Ad"Dawish's revolt an opportunity to а с Ы е у е an in­
dependent amirate for himselfin A1-Jawf, а п oasis п о п Ь of the
Great Nufud - for in as elsewhere, rebels follow the
time-honouredpracticeof divjdingthe Iion's skin beforethe lion
has Ь е е п k.ilIed.
"So Farhan is here in Kuwayt?' 1 asked В
"Of с о ш в е Н е comes here as often as Ad-Dawish, and goes
freelyin and out ofthe shaykh's palace.Т shaykh, they в а у has
а great liking for Ы
В ш do not the British object to Ad-Dawish's and Farhan's
coming to Kuwayt1 1 а е е т to rememberthat some т о п з ago
theyannounced that they would not alJow Ad-Dawish or his
people to enter this territory . . . l'
В а п ё а г guffawed again. "So they did, so they did. But, 1 have
told thee: Ad-Dawish has very powerful friends ... 1 am not
sure whether Ь е is in townjust now; but Farhan is. Н е goesе у и у
evening to the Great Mosque for the maghrib prayer - thou
canst see him there with Ы п е о eyesif thou dost oot believe
т е .. .'
And seehim wedid. When, taking В hint, з у and 1
strolled in the ear)y evening in the vicinity of the Great
weabnost collidedwith а group of beduins, unmistakably Najdi
in bearing, who emerged from around а street comer. At their
head was а т а п in his middle thirties, somewhat shorter than
the tal1 beduins who surrounded and followed him, his hand­
some face adomed Ь у а short, bIack beard. 1 recognized him at
о п с е 1 do not know to this з у whether Ь е recognized т е bls
eyes met е for а moment, swept over т е with а puzzled е х
pression, as if Ь е were trying to recall а ш т memory, and then
turned away; and а п instant Ь е and his retinue were lost in
the throng of peopIe moving toward the mosque.
We decidednot to extend our clandestinesojoum in Kuwayt
undu1y Ь у waitingfor а п opportunity to seeAd-Dawishas well.
В reveIations were confirmed Ь у zayd's adroit enquiries
о щ other acquaintancesin the town. Ad-Dawish's mysterious
JlNNS 245
supplies о С Lee-Enfield ri6es - о у superficially disguised as
'purchases' - clearly pointed to а Kuwayti merchant who had al­
ways been prominent as а п importer о С anns; п the large
amounts о С mint-new М з Т riya/s that circulated in the
bazaars о С Kuwayt were in almost every case traceable т о Ad­
Dawish and the men around ш Short of seeing his actual д е
, р о т в and examining the consignment papers - which was scarceIy
within the realrn of likelihood - we had enough evidence to с о п
firm the suspicions the К г had voiced during bls talk with т е
М у mission was completed; and in the following night we
made о ш way out о С Kuwayt as stealthily as we had с о т е Dur­
В zayd's and т у investigationsin the Ъ our Sulubbi had
found out that there were п о rebel groups at the moment to the
south о С Kuwayt. And so to the south we went - in the direction
о С Al-Hasa province, which was firm]y under the control о С the
К After two strenuous night marches, weе п с о ш п е г е ё not far
from the coast, а detachment oCBanuHajar beduins who had been
sent out Ь у the amir of Al-Hasa to reconnoitre the latest posi­
tions of the rebels; and in their с о т р а п у we re-entered 10yal
territory. Once safely within Ibn Saud's realm, we parted from '
о ц г Su1ubbi guide who, contentedly pocketing his well-eamed
reward, rode away toward the west о п the с а т е 1 had 'presen­
ted' to him, while we continued southward in the direction of
Riyadh.
Т н в SER.IES О Р ARTICLES Ф 1 subsequently wrote made
it clear Corthe б ш е з the rebels were being supported Ь у а
great European power. Т pointed out that the basic aim о С
these intrigues was to push Ibn Saud's frontiers southward and,
ultimately, to convert his northernmost province into а п 'inde­
pendent' principality between Saudi А с а Ы а and Iraq, which
would allow the В ш to Ь П д а railway line across its terri­
tory. А з г о ш this, Ad-Dawish's rebellion offered а we1come
т to Ь about so Q}uch confusion in Ibn Saud's kingdam
that hewou1d in п о position to resist, as Ь е had hitherto done,
Britain's п щ Cor two important concessions: о п е ofthem
а the leaSe of the Red Sea port of Rabigh, north о С Jidda,
wherethe British had long wanted to establish а naval base, 8I1d
the other, ccntrol of that of the Damascus-Medina rail­
246 Т Н Е ROAD Т О м а С С А
way which runs through Saudi territory. А defeat of Ь п Saud at
the hands of Ad-Dawish would have brought these schemes welI
м the rea.lm of practical possibility.
А flash ofsensation followed the publication of т у articles in
the European and м а Ы с (m.ainly Egyptian) press; and it т а у
well ь е that the premature disclosure of а Н that secret р а п в
contributed something to its subsequent frustration. At а п у rate,
the plan ofа British railway from Н з а to Basra was allowed to
lapse into oblivion in spite of the Jarge sums which appeared to
have Ь е е п spent for preliminary surveys, and was never heard of
again.
What happened afterward is а matter of history: that в а ш е
summer of 1929. Ibn Saud protested to the British against the
freedom accorded Ad-Dawish to purcbase arms and ammuni­
п о п at Kuwayt. Since Ь е had п о tangible 'proof' that these arms
were Ь е в supplied Ь у а foreign power, the К в could protest
о у against the saJesas such. Т British authorities replied that
it was the traders in Kuwayt who were supplying а г ш в to the
rebels - and that Britain could do п о в to stop this. since in
the treaty of Jidda of 1927 they had lifted their embargo о п the
import о С а г ш в to Arabia. IfIbn Saud wanted, they said. Ь е too
oould import а п п в via Kuwayt ... When Ibn Saud
that the very same treaty obliged both Britain and Saudi Arabia
prevent in their territories all activities directed the
security of the other р а п у ht received the answer that Kuwayt
crou!d not ь е tenned 'British territory' в ш с е was а п indepen­
dent shaykhdom with which Britain had п о more than treaty
re1ations ...
And 50 the civil war continued. In the late autumn о С 1929.
Ь Saud personal1y took the field. this ш е determined to р ш
SIDe Ad-Dawish even into Kuwayt if- as had always been the
casc in the з - that territory remained о р е п to the г е Ь е as а
n:fuge and basc Cor Curther operations. In the face of this deter­
mined attitude, which Ibn Saud took с а г е to communicate to
tIheBritish authorities. theyapparently realized that it would ь е
to ш с their gamc further. В ш Ь aeroplancs and
ured cars were sent out to prevent Ad-Dawish from retreat­
ш в again into Kuwayti territory.. Т rebel realized that his
с а ш е was 105t; never would Ь е ь е а Ы е to withstand the к in
(a;Jen battlc; and 50 Ь е 5tarted to negotiate. Т К terms
JINNS 247
were crispand clear: the rebel tribes ш 'urrender; their arms,
Ь о з and dromedaries would ь е taken away from them.; Ad­
Dawish's Ш е would ь е spared, btlt Ь е wou1d Ь а у е to spend the
rest of Ы days in Riyadh.
Ad-Dawish, always 50 active and П о movement, could not
resign himself to inaction and immobility: Ь е refused the offer.
Fighting а last-ditch battle against the· overwhebning forces of
the King, the rebels were completely routed; Ad-Dawish and а
few other leaders _. among them Farhan ibn Mashhur aIld Naif
а Ь и К cbleftain of the Ajman - Bed to Iraq.
Ibn Saud demanded Ad-Da"ish's extradition. For а ш е it
seemed that К Faysal of Iraq о Щ refuse his dem!ind Ь у in..
voking the ancient Arabian law of hospitality and з
but finally Ь е з у е in. Early in 1930, Ad-Dawish, seriously Ш
was handed over to the К and brought to Riyadh. When after
а few weeks it Ь е с а т е о Ь о ш that tbls time Ь е was real1ydying,
Ibn Saud, with his customary generosity, had-him back
to his family at Artawiyya, where his stormy Ш е с а т е to а п end.
And о п с е again р е а с е reigned in the realm of Ibn Saud ...
А н о ONCE AGAIN Р Е А С Е reigns around the wells of Atja.
М а у God give у о и life, О wayfarers! Partake of our bounty!'
calls out the old Mutayri beduin, and his т е п help us to water
our.camels. All grudges and enmities ofthe so г е с е ш past seem
to Ь е forgotten, as if they had never Ь е е п
For the beduins а г е а strange г а с е quick to fiare up in и п
controllable passion at е у е п imaginary р г о е о с а ц о в в andjust as
quick to 5wing back to the steady rhythm of а Ш е in which
modesty and kindness prevail: always Ь е а у е п and Ь е in close
proxirnity.
And as they draw water for our camels in their huge leather
buckets, the Mutayri е г ш е п chant in chorus:
Dr;nk, ond spare п о \\'oter,
Tlle И е ;s и о groce olld 110S п о bottom ...
-3­
ON Т Н Е Т NJGHT after our departure from Hail, we reach
the plain of Medina and see thh dark outline of М ount U11ud.
248 Т Н В в о в о Т О М В С С Л
ь е dromedaries move with tircd step; we have а long ш с Ь ь е
hind ц в from early т о deep into this nigbt. Zayd and М
а ш а с е silent, and 1am silent In the moonlight the city а р р е а г в
before us with its crenellated wa11s ш the slim, straight minarets
о С the Prophet's М о з и е
We arrive before the з ю wblch, Ь е с а ш е it С а с е з north, is
cal1ed the Syrian. Т о П shy before the shadows о its
Ь е а у у bastions, and we haveto use о ц г е з о make them е п
ter the gateway.
Now 1am а in the City о С the Prophet, Ь о т е after а 10ng
wandering: for this city hasЬ е е п т у Ь о т е for several years. А
deep, familiar quiet lies over its sleeping, empty streets. Н е г е and
there а dog rises lazily before the feet of the camels. А young
т а п walks Ь у singing; Ы з voice sways in а soft rhythm and fades
away in а side-lane. Т Ь е с а г е е ё balconies and о п е windows of
the houses hang black and silent over us. Т Ь е moon1it air is luke­
warm like fresh milk.
And here is т у house.
М а п а ш takes leave о go о some friends, while we two make'
Ь е camels kneel down before the ё о о г Zayd hobblesthem with­
out а word and begins о unload the saddlebags. 1 knock at the
door. Mter а Ы 1 п е а г voices and footsteps from within. Т Ь е
shine о С а lantem appears through the fanlight, the bolts а г е
drawn and т у old Sudanese maid servant, А ш ш а exclaims joy­
fully:
О Ь щ у master has с о т е Ь о т е
IX
PERSIAN LETTER
-1"'­
К
Т IS AFTERNOON. 1 а т sitting with а friend in his р ш
garden just outside the з о ш п е г п gate of Medina. Т multi­
tude of palm trunks Ь the orchard weaves а grey-green
twilight into itr. background, making it а р р е а г endless. Т Ь е
trees а г е still young and low; sunlight dances over their trunks
and the pointed а г е а с а of their fronds. Т green is somewhat
dusty because of the sand-storms which occur almost dai1y at
this ш е of year. О у the thick carpet of ш с е ш е under the
palms is of а brilliant, faultless green.
Not far in front of т е rise the city wa1ls, old, grey, built of
stone and mud bricks, with bastions jutting forward here and
there. From behind the wall tower the luxuriant palms of а п
other garden in the interior of the city, and houses with weather­
browned window shutters and enclosed balconies; some of them
have Ь е е п built into the city wall and have Ь е с о т е part of it. In
the distance' 1 с а п see the fiveminarets of the Prophet's Mosque.
high and tender li.ke the voices of f1.utes, the great green dome
which vaults over and conceals the little house of the Prophet ­
Ы Ь о т е while Ь е lived and his з у е after Ь е died - and still
farther, Ь е у о п ё the city·, the naked, rocky range of Mount Uhud:
а brown-red backdrop for the white minarets of the Holy
Mosque, the crowns of the palms and the т а п у houses of the
town.
Т sky, glaringly lighted Ь у the aftemoon sun, lies glass­
clear over opalescent clouds, and thecity is bathedin а blue,
gold- and green-8treaked li8ht. А high wind plays around the
80ft clouds, wblch in Arabia с а п ь е 80deceptive. Never с а п you
say here, ' Now it i8 cloudy; О О П it wil1rain ': for even а з the
clouds mass heavily, as ifpregnant with stonn, it often happens
that а Toar of wind с о т е 8udden1y from out of the desert and
sweeps them а р ш and the face8 of the people who have Ь е е п
waiting for rain tum away in 8ilent resignation, and they mutter.
249
2SO Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
& lbere is п о power aqd п о strength except in God •- while the
sky glares anew in а c:lea,"t'ess without merey.
1 bld good-bye to т у friend ш wa1k baek toward the outer
city gate. А т а п passes Ь у dri",,:;;\s fi pair of donkeys loaded with
luceme. himself riding о п а third donkey.He lifts his staff in
greeting and says, Р е а с е ь е with ш е е and 1 rcply with the
same words. Then comes а young beduin wnman. Ь е с black
с о Ь е trailing behind her and the lower р а п of her face covered
with а veil. Н е с shining eyes а г е so black that iris and pupil
merge into о п е and Ь е с step has something of the hesitant.
swinging tension of young steppe animals.
1enter the city and crossthe huge, о р е п square ofAI-Manakha
to the inner с Н у wall; beneath the heavy а с с Ь of the Egyptian
Gate. under wblch the money-changers sit clinking their goId
and siIver с о ш в 1 step into the main bazaar - а street hardIy
twelve feet across, tightly packed with shops around which а
smaIl but е а я е г Hfe pulsates.
Т vendors praise their goods with cheerfuI songs. Gay head­
cIoths, silken shawls and robes of figured К а ш wool attraet
the е у е C'f the passerby. Silversmiths croueh behind small gIass
cases containing beduin jeweIIery - arm-rings and ankle-rings,
necklaces and е а з Р е ш е vendors dispIay basins filled
with Ь е п п а little red Ь а з with а п ш о п у for colouring the е у е
Iashes, multicoloured bottles of oils and е з в е п с е в and heaps
of spices. Traders о ш Najd а с е seIling beduin garrnents and
camel-saddles and long-tasselled red and blue saddlebags from
eastem Arabia. An auctioneer runs through the street, shouting
at the top of his voice, with а Persian carpet and а с а т е Ш т
а Ь а у а over his shouIder and а brass ш о а under his arrn.
FIoods of people in both directions, р е о р е from М а and the
rest of Arabla and - as the ш е of the pilgrimage has ended oniy
а short while ago - from all the countries between the steppes of
Senegal and those of the К Ш between the В Indies and
the Atlantic О с е а п between Astrakhan and zanzibar: but in
spite of the mu]titude of peopIe and the narrowness of the street,
there is п о hurried frenzy here. п о pushing and jostling: for in
Medina time does not ride о п the з of р ш
But what might а р р е а т even more strange is that despite the
great variety of ш а п types and costumes that fiIIs them, there
is nothing of а п 'exotic' medley in the strects о С Medina: the
\
251 PBRSIAN LBTTER.
variety о С а р р е а г а п е е в reveals itselCо у о т е е у е that is deter­
mined о analyze. It в е е ш в о ш е tbat а П the р е о р е who Н у е in
з city, or е у е п 50jOurn in it ш р о у У е с у О П Call into
what о п е might с а П а с о ш ш о С mood and thus also о С ь е
haviour and, almost, е у е п о С Cacia1 expression: Cor а Н о С е ш
Ь а у е Callen under the spel1oCthe Prophet, whose city it о п с е was
and whose guests т е у now are ...
Even after thirteen centuries his spiritual presence is a1most as
alive here а з it а з then. It was о у Ь е с а ш е о С him. that т е
scattered group о С Ш В е once called Yathrib Ь е с а т е а city and
has Ь е е п lovecl Ь у а М ш ш down to this day as Щ city у
where else in the world has ever Ь е е п 10ved. It has not even а
п а ш е о С its own: Cor more tban thirteen hundred years it has
Ь е е п ca1led Madinat Н а Ы т е City о С т е Prophet'. For
ш о г е t11an thirteen hundred years, so mucb о у е has converged
here that а shapes and movements Ь а у е abquired а kind о С
С у г ш ы е and а differences о С а р р е а с е б п а tona1
transition into а common harmony.
Т is the Ь а р р з one always Ceels here - thi5 unifying har­
ш о п у AJthough liCe in Medina у has only а Cormal, distant
relationsblp м т what т е Prophet aiJiled at; although т е
spritual awareness о С lslam has been cheapened here, asin many
other parts о С т е Mus1im world: а п indescribable emotiona1
link with its great spiritual past has remained a1ivc. Neverhas
а п у :city been so loved Cor т е sake о Г one sing1e persona1ity;
never has any man, dead Cor о у е г tbltteen hundred years, been .
10ved so personal1y, and Ь у 50 т а п у а з he who lies buried ь е
neath the great green dome.
And yet Ь е never claimed to ь е anything but а mortal man,
and never Ь а у е Muslims attributed divinity to him, а з $0 у
Collowers о С other Prophets м у е done after т е Prophet'5 death.
Indeed, the К о с itse1f abounds in statements which stress
Muhammad's humanness: Muhammadis naught Ь и а Prophet;
а prophets м у е passedaway Ь е о т е him; ifhe diesо т is slain, will
у е then т backи о У О Ш heels? His utter insignificance before
Ь е majesty о С God hasthus been expressed the Kcran: Say О
Muhammad]: '1 do.not possess any,ower 10 grant у о и е у а о т
good.•. 1donot е у е possess у power10 с о у е у bene.fit о м т
10 myse/f, except as God т а у please; and had 1 kno\vn the и
knowable, 1wouldhaveacquiredmuchК О andп о evillvould е у е
252 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
be/aJlen т е 1о т nOlhing Ь и а wamer а м the giver о glad
tidiltgs 10 those who have/aith in God...' .
Itwas preciselybecause е was о о у human, becausehe lived
like other men, enjoying the 'pleasures aod suffering thc ills о
ш а п existence, that those around him could 50е а с о ш р а е е him
with theit love. .
This love has outlasted his death aod lives о п in the hearts of
his followers like the leitmolif of а melody built up о г ш а п у
tones. It lives о п in М It 5peaks to you out of every stone
of the а п е т е п т city. You с а п 'almost touch it with your hands:
but у о ц cannot с а р ш it in words ...
-2­
А I STROLL THROUGH the Ь а я а а г in the direction of the
Great М о ч и е т а п у an old acquaintance hai15 ш е in passing.
1 nod to this and that 5hopkeeperand finally allow myself to ь е
dragged Ь у т у friendAz-Zughaybidown о п to the littleplatform
о п wblch е selIs cloth to beduins.
е п didst thou return, О M1Jhammad, and from where'1 It
is months since thou Ь а з Ь е е п Ь е г е
'1 am с о в from Han and from the Nufud.'
'And wilt thou not remain at о т е for а timel'
'No brother, 1am е а в for М е с с а the day,after tomorrow.'
Az-Zughaybi ca1ls out to the О О у in the coffeeshop opposite,
and soon the у с и р з а г е с в before ц в
'But why, О Muhammad, art thou going to М е с с а now1 Т
season of hojj is past ..•'
'It js not а desirefor pi1grimage that takes ш е to М е с с а After
all, am 1not а hojjifive timesover'1 But somehow1have а feeling
.that 1will not о п в remain in Л Ь з and want to seeо в с е а
the city in wblch т у е in this land Ь е р п ...' And then 1 add
with а Iaugh: 'Well, brother - to П thee the truth, 1do not 00­
derstand myself why 1 amgoing10 М е с с а but 1 know 1 have
to •. :
Az-Zughaybi shake5his head in т 'Thou wouldst leave
this Щ п and thy brethren '1 How canst thou Р з like з
А familiar figures р з Ь у with а 10n8o hutriec;l 5tride: it is
layd. obviously in щ о С someone'.
Н е у zayd. where to l' ,
Н е tums abruptly toward т е with an eager face:
PElt.SIAN ь в т т в в 253
'It is thee 1 have Ь е е п looking for, О т у uncle; there was а
pack ofletters waiting thy return at the post о т с е Н е г е they are.
And р а с е ь е и р о п thee, Shaykh Az-Zughaybi!'
Sitting cross-legged before Az-Zughaybi's shop, 1 go through
the bundle of е п е е ю р е в there are severalletters from friends in
М е с с а о п е from the editor of the Н е Zurcher Щ of
Switzerland, whose correspondent 1 have Ь е е п for the past six
years; о п е from India, urging т е to с о т е there and make the
acquaintance of thc largest single М ш ш community in the
world; а fewletters from various parts ofthe Near East; and о п е
with а Т е а г а п postmark -from т у good friend A1i Agha, from
whom 1 have not heard for ш о г е than а year. 1 о р е п it and
glance through the pages covered with Ali Agha's elegant
shiqosta* writing:
Т о о г mostbeloved/riend а brother, the light %ur Ь е а п
the most respeetedAsad А к ш т а у God lengthen his life andр г о
teet his steps. А т е п
Р е а с е Ь е и р о у о и and the к г а с е о God, ever а ever. And we
р г а у ю God that Н е т а у gi\'e у о и heolth and happiness, knowing
that it Ш pleoseу о и to hearthat weolsoа г е in perfect health,God
ь е proised.
We did о write ю у о о г а К time Ь е с а и з е о the uneven
е г in which our life has Ь е е п progressing in the р а п months.
О и г /ather, т а у Godк г Ы т т е п с у has passedawayа у е а г а к о
and we, beilig tlJe eldest з о п had to spend much time and worry
о п the т о о и г а т а у afJairs. А й о и has Ь е е God's
wi/l that the a.ffairs о his unworthyservanthaveprospered Ь е у о
е х р е а а и о п the О о у е т т е т lJQving granted Ы т а promotion to
lieutenant eolonel. Т п addition, wehopesoonto Ь е joined'" т
у .vithа г а е о ш and beautifullady, о и г secondс о ш 5hirln
- and '" t1Jis way о и г old, unsettled days а г е coming to а close.
As is we//known to у о и г /riendly heart, we have о Ь е е without
sin and г г '" о и г past Ь did not Hafiz say,
О God, Т и lJast thrown а plank into the midst о а sea ­
Couldst Tll0U have desiredthat it remaindry?'
So old А Н Agha is at last going to settle down and Ь е с о т е re· .
spectable! И е was not 80 respectable when I first met Ы т а
• Lit.. 'broken' - а Pcrsian variant о С т е Arabic script. used Cor rapid writiDl.
2s4 Т Н Е а О А О Т О М Е С С А
little over seven years а в о in the town о С В а ш to wblch hehad
been 'exiled'. Although he was only twenty-six then, his р а з
had Ь е е п full of aetion and excitement; Ь е had taken part in the
political upheavals wblch precedcd the assumption о С power Ь у
Riza К п and could bave played а considerable role in Tehran
had Ь е not lived а Ы 100 П у His presence in out-of-the-way
в а т in Ш е southeastem corner of Iran had Ь е е п brought about
ь у о п and infiuential father in ш е Ь о р е tbat the son
might ь е reformed if Ь е were rcmoved from ш е pleasures of
Т е М а п But Ali Agha seemed to Ь а у е found compensations е у е п
in в а т - women, arrack and Ь С sweet poison of о р ш ш to
which Ь е was greatly devoted.
А tbat ш п е in 1925, Ь е was the о о П с gendarmerie с о т
mandei with ш е rank о С lieutenant. As 1 was about to cross the
р е а Dasht-i-Lut desert, 1 looked Ы т up with а letter of intro­
duetion from tOO governor of К п п province - which in it5
tum was based о п а letter from Riza К the Prime Minister
and dietator. 1found А Н Agha in а shady garden о С orange trees,
oleanders and palms through whose pointed vaults the rays о С
the sun were filtered,He was in his shirt sleeves. А carpet was
spread о п Ш е lawn, and о п it were dishes with the remnants о С а
т е а andhalf-empty bottles о С arrack. Ali Agha apologized, , It
is impossible to find wine in this damned hole,' and forced т е to
drink the local arrack - а terribIe brew which went to the brain
like а bIow. With the·swimming с у е в о С а northern Persian Ь е
glanced.throui,11 the letter from К tossed it aside and said:
, Even if you had с о т е without introduction,.I would have а с
с о п р а you myself о п your journey through Ш е Dasht-i-Lut.
You are т у guest. Iwould never let у о и ride alone into the
В desert.'
Someone who until Ш е п had Ь е е п sitting halfconcealed in the
shadow of а tree rose slowly: а у о и п в woman in а knee-Iength,
tunic and wide, white Balucbl trousers. She had а
sensual face tbat seemed to bum from witbln, large red Iips and
beautiful b1.it strangely vague eyes; the lids were pa.inted with
antimony.
'She is blind.' Ali Agha whispercd to т е in French, 'and з Ь е is
а wonderful singer.'
1 admired Ш е great tendemess and respect with wblch Ь е
treated Ш е girl who, i1S а pubIic singer, belonged to а category in
PBR.SIAN ь в т т в в 2SS
lran more or less equated М Ш courtesans; Ь е could not Ь а у е Ь е
Ь а у о о better toward any of ш е great ladies of Т е М а п
We sat down. $ll three ofus. о п Ш е с а г р е т and while А Н Agba
busied himself with Ь з е с and opium pipe. 1 talked with the
В и с Ы girl. In spite of Ь е с blindness she could laugh as о п у
those с а п laugb who dwell deep in inner gladness; aod she made
shrewd and witty remarks such as а lady of the great world oeed
not Ь а у е Ь е е о ashamed of. When Ali Agha fi.nished his pipe. Ь е .
took Ь е с gently Ь у ш е hand and said:
Т Ы stranger ·here. this Austriao. would sureJy like to hear
one of your songs; Ь е has п е у е с yet heard the songs of the
В о с з
е с the sightlcss face а у а faraway, dream.y happioess as з Ь е
took the lute that Ali А р handed to her and begao to strum the
з She sang with а deep. husky voice а Balucbl teot song
which sounded like а п е с Ь о о С life from Ь е с warm lips ...
1 return to the Jetter:
1 wonder if у о и still г е г brotlrer and respecled /riend,
how we trarelJed together in those old days through the Dasht-;­
Lut. and how we had 10 jight о г г lives with those Baluchi
bandits. . . ?
Do 1с е т е т Ь е с 1 smile inwardJy at Ali Agha's idJe question
and see myself and him. in the desoJate Dasht-i-Lut, the 'Naked
Desert' which spreads its huge е т р з from В а и с Ш Ш п deep
into the heart of Iran. 1 was about to cross it in order to с е а с Ь
Seistan, the easternmost province of Iran, and thence to proceed
to Afghanistan; as 1had с о ш е from К т а п there was п о other
way but з
We stopped, together witb our escort of BaJuchi gendarmes, а
а grecn з о п the fringe of the desert in order to blre с а т е з
aod Ь и у provisions for the 100g trek ahead. Our temporary
headquarters were in the station Ь о и з е of the Indo-European
TeJegraph. Т station-master, а tall, Ь о о у sharp-eyed т а п
almost п е у е с let т е out о С sight and seemed to appraise т е with
his glances.
В of this т а п Ali А в Ь а 10 т е Ь е is а
bandit.I know ы and Ь е knows that 1 know Ы т Until а few
у е а п ago Ь е was а real robber. but now Ь е has saved и р enough
256 Т И В Jl.OAD Т О М Е С С А
т о п е у and Ь з Ь е с о т е respectable - and makes more money
from supplying arms to bls former collea.gues. 1а т о у waiting
for а п opportune moment to cateh him at it. But the. fellow is
с в and it is difficult to prove anything. Since Ь е has heard
that you are а п Austrian Ь е is very е х с п е ё During the World
War some Austrian and German agents were trying to arouse
the tribes in these parts against the British; they had Ь а з о С gold
coins with them: and our friend Ы that every German or
Austrian is similarly щ Ш р р е д
But the cunning о С the station-master Ь е п е й т е ё о в for Ь е was
а Ь е to find for т е two о С the best riding-camels о С the region.
Т rest о С the day was occupied with haggling about waterskins.
camel-hair г о р е а П с е clarifiOO butter and т а п у other odds and
ends necessary for the desert journey.
Т afternoon о С ф е following day we startOO. Ali Agha de­
cided to В О ahead with four gendarmes to р г е р а г е а с а ш р в
place for the night, and the drawn-out Н п е of their щ О О а
soon disappeared beyond the horizon. We others - Ibrahim. т у
self and the fifth gendarme - followed at а slower р а с е
We swayed (how new it was then to т е with the strange,
swinging а т Ы е of the slinl-limbed dromedaries, at first through
sand dunes, yellow, sparsely dotted with clumps of grass, then
deeper and deeper· into the plain - into an endiess, в о ш к й е а в
grey р &1 and empty - so empty that it в е е ш е ё not to
flow but to faU toward the Ь о п fo;: your е у е could find
п о в there о п which to rest, п о ridge о п the gound, stone,
п о bush, п о г е е е а а blade of grass. No animal sound, п о chirping
of birds or Ь в of а beetle broke through that vast si1ence,
and even the wind, deprived of aU impediment, swept low with­
out voke over the void - п о е П into it, as а stone falls into an
abyss •.. т was not а silence of death, but rather of the un­
Ь о т of that which had never yet с о т е to Ш е the silence before
the Firs1 Word.
And then it happened. Т silence broke. А Ь voice
struck gent1y, chirpingJy, into the air and remainOO suspended,
as it were: and to you it seemOO as ifyou could not о у hear but
see it, 50 п е у and 80 undisguisOO Ь у other sounds it floatOO
over the desert plain. It was о ш Baluchi 801dier. Н е з п в а song
of his nomad days, а half-sung and half-spoken rhapsody. а
quick succession о hot and tender words wblch 1 could not un­
257 PERSIAN LETTEI.
derstand. His voice rang in а у е с у few tones, а о п е single level,
with а persistence that gradually grew into something like splen­
dour as it enveloped the brittle melody in а byplay of throaty
/sounds. nnd, Ь у sheer repetition and variation of the same theme,
unfoldcd а п unsuspected wealth in its flat tones - flat and limit­
less, likc the land in which it had Ь е е п born ...
Т р а п of the desert through which we now travelled was
called the 'Desert о С Ahmad's Bells'. Many years ago, а с а г а м а л
led Ь у а т а п named Ahmad 10st its way here, and а о С them,
ш е п а п д animals, perished from thirst; and to this day , it is said,
the bells which Ahmad's camels wore around their neck!> are
о т е П heard Ь у travellers - ghostly, mournful sounds Ы с Ь
entice Ь е unwary from their path and lead them to in
the descrt.
Shortly after sunset we caught up with Ali Agha and the ad­
vance guard and. made с а т р amidst some kahur shrubs - the
last we would see for days. А б г е was made from dry twigs, and
the inevitable tea prepared - while Ali Agha smoked his usual
opium pipe. Т Ь е camels were fed coatse barley т е а and made to
kneel in а с и с е around us. Three of the gendarmes were posted
as sentries о п the· outlying dunes, for the region in which we
found ourselves was in those days а playground о С the dreaded
demons о С the desert, the В а и с Ы tribal raiders from the south.
Ali Ag!"a Ь а д just .linished his pipe а п ё tea and was drinking
arrack - а ю п е for 1was not in а ш о о ё ю keep Ы т с о т р а п у ­
when а rifle shot shattered the silence of the night. А second shot
from о л е of our sentries answered and was followed Ь у а п out­
cry somewhere in the darkness. Ibrahim, with great presence of
mind, irnmediately threw sand о п Ь е б г е More г Ш е shots from
а directions. Т sentries were now invisible, Ь и о п е could hear
them с а Н out to one another. We did not know how т а п у the
attackers wei-e, for they kept uncannily silent. Qnly off and о п а
faint stab of light from а rifle т ш е п о и п с о о their presence;
and о л е е or twice 1 could discem white-clad figures flitting
through tbe blackness. Several low-aimed bullets 'whizzed over
our heads, but п о п е of us were hit. г а П у Ь е commotion
died down, а few more shots е П and were sucked in Ь у the night;
and the raiders, apparently disconcerted Ь у our watchfulness.
vanished as quietly as they had с о т е
А Н Agha called in the sentries and we held а short council.
258 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
Originally we had intended to spend the night here; but as we
had п о idea how strong the attacking р а п у was. and whether
they would п о retum with reinforcements, we decided to break
с а т р immediately andto move о п
Т night was as Ы з с as pitch; heavy, low clouds had con­
cealed the т о о п and the stars. In summertime it is better, as а
rule,to travel in the desert at night; but under п о п п а с п е ш в
stances we would п о г have risked а т а т с Ь in such darkness for
С е и о losing our way, for the hard gravel о Dasht-i-Lut does
not keep а п у tracks. In the early times the Iranian kings used to
mark the caravan routes in such deserts Ь у guideposts о С
ш о but like so у other good things о the old days,
these marks had long since disappeared. Indeed, they \vere п о
longer necessary: the wire ofthe Indo-European Telegrapb, laid
Ь у the British а the beginning о the century from the Indian
frontieracross the Dasbt-i-Lut to К ш а п served equally we1l,
or even better, as а guide; but in а night like this,.wire and tele­
graph posts were invisibIe.
1biswediscovered to our dismay"..Ь е п а й е г about balfа п hOur
the gendarme у Ь о had Ь е е п riding abead as our guide suddenly
reined in hismount and sbamefacedly reported to AIi А в Ь а
'Hazrat,I cannot see the wire а п у more .. .'
For а moment we all remained silent. Т were weUs, we
knew, only along the route marked Ь у ш е telegraph line, and
and even these were very widely spaced. Т о lose о п е в way here
would т to р е ш Ь like Ahmad's legendary caravan ...
Т AIi Agha spoke up in а way wblch was quite un­
like his usual manner; and one could safely presume that arrack
and opium were responsible. Н е drew out his pistol and bel­
lowed:
'Where is the wire? Why did you lose the wire, you sons о С
dogs? О Ь 1 know - у о и are in league with those bandits and м с
Ш to lead us astray so that we т а у р е ш Ь from thirst and
thus ь с easy plunder!'
т reproach was certainly unjust, Cor а Balucbl would never
Ь е и а у а man with whom Ь е has eaten bread and salt. О ш gen­
darmes, obviously hurt Ь у their lieutenant's accusation, ш
и з о С their innocence, but А Н А в Ь а broke in:
'Silence! Find the wire immediately or 1 will shoot down е у е т у
о п е о С у о и you sons о bumed fatbers!'
259 PBRSIAN ъ в т т в в
1coutd not в е е their faces in the darkness but could sense how
deeply Ф е у . the free Balucbls. were feeling the insult; they п о
longer е у е п bothered to reply. T h е п suddenly о п е ofthem - о ц г
guide of а while ago - detached himself from the group, struck
his с а т е ! with bls whip and disappeared at а gallop into the
darkness.
'Where to 7' shouted А Н Agha and received а few indistinct
words in reply. For а few seconds о п е could hear ф е soft pad­
ding о ! the camel's feet, then the sounds dived into Ш е night.
In spite о ! т у conviction, а moment before, о ! the innocence
of Ш е Baluchi gendarme, the hesitant thought crossed т у mind:
Now Ь е has gone to ф е bandits; Ali Agha was right, after а Н
... 1 heard А Н Agha draw back the safety-catch ofhis pistot and
1 did the same. Ibrablm slowly unslung his carbine. We sat
motionless in our saddles. О п е о ! the dromedaries grunted
softly. а gendarme's г Ш е Ь и Н struck against а saddle. Long
minutes passed. У о и could almost hear the breathing of the т е п .
Then, abruptly, а shout с а ш е from а great distance. Т о т е it
sounded mereIy like, '000,' but the Baluchis seemed to under­
stand it and о п е of them, cupping his hands to his mouth, е х ­
citedly shouted something back in the Brahui tongue. Again that
distant shout. О п е of the gendarmes turned toward Ali Agha and
said in Persian:
' Т Ь е ,,'ire, hazrat! Н е has found the wire!'
Т Ь е tension broke. Relieved, we followed the voice о ! the in­
visible scout directing us from ц ш е to time. When we reached
Ы т . Ь е rose in his saddie and pointed into the darkness:
.'There is the wire.'
And rightIy, after а few moments we almost struck against а
telegraph post.
Т h e first thing Ali Agha did was у е г у characteristic 'of h i ш .
Н е caught the soIdier Ь у his bclt, dre\v Ы т cIose to himself and,
learning nvcr the saddle, kissed Ы т о п both cheeks:
'11 is 1, and not thou, who is а son of а dog, т у brother. For­
give т е .. .'
It subsequently transpired that the Baluchi, this child о ! the
wilderness, had Ь е е п riding in а zigzag untiI Ь е heard from а dis­
tance of half а mile the wind Ь и т in the wire: а humming that
waseven now, when 1 passed directly under it, almost impercep­
tibJe to т у European ears ...
260 Т И Н В О Л т о М Е С С А
Wo .proceeded slowly, c:autiously, through the black night,
from invisible telegra'ph р о е to invisible telegraph р о е о п е о С
thegendarmes always riding ahead and calling out е а с Ь ш е his
hand steuck а polo. Wo had found our way and were е е Ш
not to 10se it apin.

1 Л А К В г в о м М У В Е Е Ц Е and return to А Н Agha's
letter:
With tl,epromotion to /ieutenant с о о е this ш е ш
has Ь е е appointed to the а е е г а '8taff; and this, О helovedfriend
andbrother, appea/s о us т о г е than ga/'rison life in а provincial
town ...
1amв ш е it does; Ali Agha has always had а flair for life in the
capital and its Л в о е э - especially political intrigues. And, in­
deed, in bls letter Ь е goes о п to describe the political atmosphere
ofTehran, those endless wranglings under the surface, those in­
tricate manoeuvrings with wblch fOl'eign powers Ь а у е for so long
р to keep Iran in а s18te о С restlessness that makes it
wel1-nigh impossible for the strange, gifted nation to с о т е into
its own.
R1gb( о у а г е being harassed Ь у the English oil с о т р а п у :
г е а pressure ;sbe;ng exerted р о о г п т 10 extendthe
concession and thus 10 pr%ng о г sla\·ery. TJ,e bazaars а г е Ь
zing with rumours, alldGod alone \vhere а П illis }vill /ead
to • • .
Т bazaar has always played а most important role in the
politicallife о С Е а з е т countries; and this is particularly true о С
ш е Т е bazaar, in wblch the' hidden heart о С а п pulsates
with а persistence that defies alI п а о decay and alIpassing о С
П е В the lines о С Ali Agha's letter this huge bazaar, а
mostа city in itself, reappears before т у eyes with the vividness
of а sight seen on1yyesterday: а wide-meshed twilight labyrinth
ofhalls and passageways roofed with vaults ofpointed arches. In
the main street, п е х to small, dark booths fil1ed с Ь е а р
trifles, there и е covered patios with skylights, stores iri which the
PERSIA.N LETTBR 261
most expensive European and Asiatic silks are being sold; next
to ropemakers' workshops. the 81ass cases ofthe silversmiths full
о С delicate work; multicoloured textiles from Bokhara
and India mingle with rare Persian с а г р е в - huntin8 carpets
with figures о С knights о п horseback. Н о п в leopards, peacocks
and antelopes; glass-pearl necklaces and automatic lighters next
to sewing machines; black, unhappy umbre11as side Ь у side with
yel1ow-embroidered sheepskin robes from К а as­
sembled in Ы extremely 10ng hall as if in an immense and not
too carefully arranged shop window.
In the innumerable side-lanes о С this tangled maze о С handi­
craftsand с о п ц п е г с е the shops а с е grouped according to trades.
Н е г е you see the 10ng е of saddlers and leatherworkers, with
the red о С dyed leather as the о щ а п colour and the sourish
ш о С leather permeatingthe ш Т а г е ш е taiJors: and
о ш е у е с у с Ь е - С о с most о С the shops consist о п у о С а single
raisea с Ь е with about three or four square yards о С floor space
- one Ь з the whirring о С industrious sewing machines; 10ng
а с е hung out for sale, always the same garments - в о
that when you walk you sometimes think that you are standing
still. У ou Ь а у е а similar impression in many other р а п а о С the
з г as wel1; п о п е the less. the abundance of sameness at е т е г у
single point has nothing in common ,vith monotony; it intoxi­
cates the stranger and fills him with uneasy satisfaction. Even
though you visit the bazaar for the hundredth .time, you find the
mood around you always the в а ш е seemingly unchanged - but
о С that inexhaustible, vibrating changelessness о С an о с е а п wave
which always alters its forms but keeps its substance unchanged.
The bazaar о С the coppersmiths: а chorus о С bronze bells are
the swinging hammers which beat out о С copper. bronze and
brass the mostvaried shapes, transforming formless metal sheets
into bowIs and basins and goblets. What а п acoustic sureness,
this hammering in altering tempos across the whole length of the
Ь з - е у е с у т а п acquiescing to the rhythm of ф е others - so
that there should ь е п о dissonance to the car: а hundred work­
men hammering о п differentobjects in different shops - but in
the whole bazaar street only о п е melody ... In this deep, more
than merelymusical, almost sociaIdesirefor harmony aprcars tl:t:
hidden з с е of the Iranian soul.
The spice Ь а з а г siIent а е у з о С white sugar cones, rice bags.
..
262 Т Н Е а О А О Т О М Е С С А
mounds о С almonds and pistacblos, hazelnuts and melon kernels.
baslns fun of dried apricots and ginger, brass plates with cin­
п а ш о п curry, р е р р е г saffron and р о р р у seeds, the т а п у litt1e
bowls ofaniseed, vanilla, cummin, cloves and countless odd herbs
and roots which exude а heavy, overpowering а г о ш а Over the
shining, brass scales crouch the Iords of these strangenesses, like
buddhas, with crossed. е з from time to time с а в out in а п
ц п ё е п о п е to а passerby and asking after Ы з wants. All speech is
only ,vhisper Ь е г е С о г о п е с а п п о т ь е noisy where sugar flows
smootbly С т о т bag into balance scaJe, and о п е cannot ь е noisy
\vhere thyme or aniseed is being weighed ... It is the same
adaptation to the ш о о ё of the material wmch enables the
Iranian to knot п о Ы е carpets out of innumerable coloured wool
threads - thread у thread, fraction о Г а п inch Ь у fraction о С а п
inch - until stands there in its playful perfection. lt is
п о accidcnt that Persian carpets have п о equal in the world.
Where else could о п е find this deep quiet, this thoughtfulness
and absorption in one's own doing? - where else such е у е в dark
depths to which time and the passing oftime т е а п so·little?
, п cavemous niches, somewhat larger ,than the usual ones, sit
silent miniature painters. Т are copying old miniatures from
hand-written books that Ь а у е о п в а в о Ь е е п torn to shreds. de­
pieting in breath-fine Iincs and colours the great things о С Ш е
fights and hunts, о у е and happiness and sadness. Р ш е and thin
as nerve-threads а г е their brushes; the colours are not entrusted
т о lifeless vessels but а г е mixed о п the living р of the painter
and distributed in minute bIobs and drops о п the fingers о С the
left hand. О п new pages offlawless whiteness the old miniatures
experience а rebirth, stroke after stroke, shade after shade. Side
Ь у side with the flaking gold backgrounds о С the origjnals emerge
the shining о п е з о С the copies. Т Ь е faded orange trees о С а royal
park blossom again in а new spring; the tender women in;silks
and' furs repeat о п е е again their loving gestures; anew rises Ь е
sun over а п old knigbtly 1'010 game ... Stroke after stroke.
shade after shade, the siIent т е п follow the creative adventures
of а dead artist, and there is as rnuch love in them as there was
enchantment in him; and this love makes у о и almost forget the
т ..t; U} '. 'J!" the eopies ...
'J-;rr";, and thc miniature painters sit bent over their
\vork, strangers unto the day. Time passes; in the bazaar streets
263 PERSIAN ь в т т в в
п е а г Ь у Westem junk penetrates with stubbom gradualness into
the shops; Ь е kerosene lamp from Chicago, the printed cotton
cloth from Manchester and Ь е teapot from Czechoslovakia ad­
, vance victoriously: but Ь е miniature painters sit cross-Iegged о п
their worn straw mats, burrowing with tender eyes and fingertips
into the blissful oldjoys, а п ё give to their royal hunts and ecstatic
lovers а new awakening, day after day , , .
Numberless are the people in the Ь а в а а г gents with Е ц г о р е а п
coHar а п ё often г а Ш п А г а Ы а п а Ь а у а over а Е ц г о р е а п or
semi-European suit, conservative burghers 'il1 long kajral1S and
silken sashes, peasants and artisans in blue о г drab jackcts, Sing­
ing г - Iran's aristocratic beggars - in white, flowing
garrnents, sometimes with а 1eopard skin over the back, 10ng
hair and mostly of fine build, Ь е women of the middle class а г е
according to their means, dressed in silk or с о ц о п but always in
bIack, with the traditional short Т е Ь г а п у е В standing stiffiy
з а у from their faces; the р о о г е г о л е \vear <t light-coloured
flo\vered cotton wrap. А п с е п г muHahs ride о п magnificcntly
caparisoned.asses о г г п ш е в and turn и р о п the strangcr а а п
atical в г а г е that seems to ask: 'What а г е у о и doing п с г е А г е
у о и one of those who work Г о г our country's ruin?'
Iran's long experience ofWestern intrigues has made its peopJe
suspicious. No Iranian г е а й у expects а п у good о с о т е to his
country д о т the /arangis, В ш А Н Agha does not seem to Ь е
unduly pessimistic:
т п is o/d - Ь ш certaln/y о у е reody 10 die. We о е о Л е
Ь е е п oppressed. М а п у nations IlOve slvept о у е г и з and а о т
110ve passed Q}vay: Ь ш Ive г е т а т а й х е н р о у е п у o//d о р р г е з к ю п
in igllorollce ond dorkl1ess: Ь Iveг е ш a/I}'c. This "':; because 11'l'
lranians a/woys.go о г Qlvn а у How О е 'IO! tl,e outside
lried to о г с е о п us new а у о /ife - and о O/IVOYS /oiled, W('
do п о oppose о и е г о г с е Ivitll Vio/eflCe, ond /1,er('10re {! т а
.sometimes о р р е а г а if у е Ilad surrend(!red о tlle,l" В о г е
о the tribe о the muryune - tllOt litt/(!, insignijicoJlt а Ivhic/l
lil'es under а а П У о и liglll о т у Ileart, mus/ I,ave seel1 some­
times 111 lran hO\li »'el/-buill IlOuses Ivitll stro"g II'a//s suddenly
co//apse о г п о о р р а г е reosoll. WI,ot Ivas tlze reaSO/l? Notllillg
Ь Il10se а у о which/or т а п у years, 1!';II,/f/lceasif1g induslry.
110\'(' Ь е burrm\'ing р а щ е and П i/i 111l' Т
264 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
a/ways advancing Ь у а hair's breadth, s/ow1y, patient/y, in aJ/
directions - unti/at last Ь е wa///oses its Ь а а с е and topp/es over.
We /ranians а г е с Ь а п и We do not oppose the powers о Ь е
world with noisy and useless violence, but allow т е т to do their
worst, and burrow 'n si/ence о г passageways and с а п и е until
о п е м у tlJeir build;ng Jt1i/1 suddenly co/lapse ...
And а е у о и з е е п what п when у о и throlv а stone into
Т Ь е з ю п е s;nks, a/ew circles а р р е а г о п the sur/ace, spread
out andgraduallylade away, until the water;sasplacidas Ь е о г е
We [ran;ans а г е such\t1ater.
Т Shah, т а у Godpro/ung ilis/ife, has а heavyburden to Ь е а г
M,;th the English о п о п е sideand the Russians о п the other. But we
Ь а е п о doubt that, Ь у thegraceofGod,lJe will.find а to з а у е
г а ...
Л Agha's implicit faith in Riza Shah does not, о п the surface,
а р р е а г to Ь е misplaeed. Н е is undoubtedly о п е of the most
dynamic personalities 1 have ever met in the Muslim world, and
of а the kings 1 have known, only Ibn Saud с а п с о ш р а г е with
Ь П
Т story of Riza Sbah's rise to power is like а fantastic fairy
tale, possible only in this Eastem world where personal courage
and wi1lpower с а п sometimes lift а т а п out о С utter obscurity to
the pinnaele of1eadership. When 1с а ш е to know Ы т during т у
first stay in Tehran in the summer о С 1924, Ь е was Р п ш е Minister
and undisputed dictator о С Iran; but the people had not yet quite
overcome tbeir 8hock at seeing him а р р е а г 60 suddenly, 80 ц п
cxpectedly, at the helm of tbe country's affairs. 1 still remember
the wonderment with whicb an old Iranian clerk in the О е п а п
Embassy at Tehran onee told т е О о у о и know that but ten
years а в о this Р П е Minister ofours stoOO guard asan ordinary
trooper before the gatcs of this very embassy 1 And that I myself
occasionally gave him а letter to deliver to the Foreign Ministry
and admonished Ь ш "Make haste, you П ofа dog, and don't
dawdle in the bazaar ... !" •
Yes, it had not Ь е е п so т а п у years since Riza thc trooper
5toOO 5entry before the embassies and public buildings of
ran. 1eould pieture Ы т as Ь е stood tl1ere in the shabby uniform
9Ithc Iranian eossaek brigade, leaning о п his Ш е and в at
/the act1vity in the 5treets around Ь ш Н е would wateb Persian
PERSIAN LETTER
peoplc stroll along like dreamy shadows о г sit in tbe cool о
eveninga10ng thewater cbannels. as 1watched tbem. And from Ь
English bank beblnd his back Ь е would hear the rattling oftypo­
writerIt. the bustle of busy р е о р т е the whole rustHng stir wblcb
distant Europe had brought into that Tehran bui1ding with its
ы е faience fa<;ade. It т а у have Ь е е п then, for the first ш п е п о
body told т е this. but 1 somehow tblnk it п ш ы have Ь е е п so),
that in tbe unschooled head ofthe soldier Riza а wondering.
questioning thought arose: 'Must it ь е like this ..• ? Must it ь е
that people of otber nations work and strive. while our е
О о з past like а dream 7'
And it was perhaps at tbat moment that desire for changc­
creator of lIJ1 great deeds, discoveries and revolutions - began to
flicker in his brain and ш е у CalI Cor expression ...
At other ш е з Ь е т а у have stood sentry before the garden
gateway of о п е of the great European embassies. The well­
tended trees moved with the wind, and the graveIled pathways
crunched under the feet of wblte-garbed servants. In that Ь о ш е
in the midst of the park а mysterious power seemed to dwcll; it
cowed every Iranian who passed through the gate and с а ш
him to straighten hisclothes self-consciously and made his hands
embarrassed and,awkward. Sometimes elegant carriages drew о р
and lranian politicians stepped о ш of them. Ь е soIdier Riza
knew т а п у of tbem Ь у sigbt: this о п е was the foreign minister,
that о п е tbe finance minister. Almost always they had tense, а р
prebensive faces when they entered that gateway, and it was
amusing to observe their expressions when they left the embassy:
sometimes they \vere radiant, as jf а great favour had Ь е е п с о п
ferred upon them; sometimcs pale and depressed, as ifа sentence
of doom had just been passed over them. Т mysterious
people within bad pronounced the sentence. Т soldier Riza
wondered: 'Must it ь е thus ... ?'
OccasionaIly it happened that а п 1ranian clerk с а ш е running
from the о т с е bui1ding Rjza was guarding, thrust а letter into
bls hand and said: 'Carr)' this quickly to so and so. But make
haste, thou son of а dog, othenvise the An1bassador wiII ь с
angry!' Riza was accus10med to being thus addressed, for his
о officers were not in the least fastidious in their cboiee of
epithets. But possibIy - п о almost certainly - the words 'son of
а dOB' gave Ы т а stab о Ш з о п for Ь е knew: Ь е was not а
266 Т В В ltOAD Т О М Е С С А
son of а dog but the son of а great nation that ca1lednames like
Rustam, Darius, ш К а у К Shah Abbas, Nadir
Shah its о But what did <those within' know о з What
did they knQw of the forces whdl moved like а dark, dumb
а и е а т through the breast of ш е (ort)'-year-old soldier and в о ш е
times threatened to burst his п Ь с ш make him bite his fists in
powerless despair, О Ь if о п у 1 could .. .'?
And the desire for self-::.ffirmatiofl that weepingly dwells in
every lranian sometimes rose up with painful, unexpected
п о е п с е in the soldier Riza, and made bls mind clear and made
him sudden1y understand а strange pattern in а Н Ь е saw ...
Т Great War was over. After the В revolution, the
Russian troops wblch had previously occupied northern lran
were withdrawn; but immediately afterward communist ц р
heavals broke out in the lranian province of Gilan о п the
Caspian Sea, led Ь у the influential Kuchuk К а п and supported
Ь у regular Russian units о п land and sea. The government sent
out troops against the rebels, but the bad1y disciplined and
poorly equipped lranian soldiers suffered defeat after defeat;
and the battalion in wblch Sergeant Ц then nearly tifty years
old, was serving proved п о е х с е р ц о п But о п с е when his unit
turned to flight after а п unlucky skirmish, Riza could п о hold
himself а п у 10nger. Н е stepped from the breaking ranks and
called out, for everyone to hear: <Why do you run away,
а - you, lranians!' Н е must have felt what Charles the
Twelfth of Sweden bad felt у Ь е п Ь е а у wounded о п the field of
Poltava and saw Ы з soldiers race Ь у in headless flight an(l ca1led
out to them with а despairing voice: 'Why do you run away,
Swedes - you Swedes!' But the difference was that К Charles
was bleeding from т а п у wounds and had nothing at his dis­
posal е х с е р his voice, while the soldier Riza was unhurt and
bad а loaded Mauser pistol in his hand - and his voice was
strong and threatening as Ь е з т о о his comrades: "Vhoever
flees, 1 will shoot him down - even if it is т у brother!'
Such an outburst was something new to the lranian troops.
Т confusion gave way to astonishment. Т Ь с с а т е
curious: what could this т а п have in mind? Some officers р г о
tested and pointed out the hopelessness of their pO$ition; a-nd
о п е of them scoffed: 'Will у о и perhaps, lead us 10 vietory?' In
that sC('ond,' F.iza may have relived all Ь е disappointments of
PERSIAN ь в т т в в 267
bis earlier у е а г в and а his dumb bopes were suddenly lighted
и р Н е saw Ь е end of а magic г о р е before him; and Ь е grasped
it. 'Accepted!' Ь е cried, and turned ю the soldiers: 'Will у о и have .
т е as your leader 7'
In п о nation is the cult of the hero 50 deeply ingrained as п
the Iranian; and this т а п here seemed to ь е а hero. Т Ь е soldiers
forgot their т е г г о т and their flight and roared with jubilation:
У о з Ь а ь е our leader!' - '50 р е it,' replied Riza, '1 will lead
у о и and 1 wi11 Ш whosoever attempts to П е е But п о о п е
tbougbt а п у 10nger of flight. Т Ь е у threw away the с ш Ь е г з о т е
knapsacks, attached their bayonets to their rifles: and under
Ю з leadersblp the whole battalion turned round and с а р
tured а Russian Ь а ц е г у in а surprise assault, drew other Iranian .
и з with it, overran the е п е т у - and after а few hours the
battle was decided in favour of the lranians.
т е days later а telegram from Tehran promoted Ю з to the
rank of с а р т а ш and hecould now а т х tbe title khan ю his п а т е
Н е had got hold of the end of the г о р е and c)imbed и р о п it.
His п а т е had sudden1y Ь е с о т е famous. In quick succession Ь е
Ь е с а т е major, с о ю п е brigadier; In the year 1921 Ь е brought
about, in с о т р у with the young joumalist п а ad-Din а п ё
three other officers, а с о и р d'etat, arrested the с о г г ц р г cabinet
and, with the help of his devoted brigade, forced the weak and
insignificant young Shah Ahmad to appoint а new cabinet: Zia
ad-Din Ь е с а т е Р п ш е Minister, Riza К Minister ofWar. Н е
could neither read nor write. But he was like а demon in his
driveforpower. And hehad Ь е с о т е the idol ofthearmy and the
р е о р е who now, for the fir5t time in ages, saw а т а п before
. them: а leader. '
In the politica1 history of Iran scenes change quickly. Zia ad­
Din disappeared from the stage and reappeared as an е ш е in
Europe. Riza К Ь а п remained - as Prime Minister. l! was
rumoured in Tehran in those days that Riza К а п Zia ad-Din
and the Shah's younger brother, the Cro\vn Prince, had. с о п
spired to remove the Ь а Ь from the throne; and it \vas whispered
- nobody knows to this day whether it is true - that at the last
moment Riza К Ь а п had betrayed his friends to the Ь а Ь in
order п о to risk Ы з own future in so dubious а п undertaking.
В и whether true о г not, з о о п afterward the Prime Ministcr­
Riza К - advised the у о п Shah Ahmad to undcrt:!kc а
268 Т Н Е Ш А Т О М Е С С А
pleasure trip to Europe. Н е accompanied Ы т with great р о т р
о п the automobile journey to the border of Iraq and is said to
Ь а у е told him: 'Ifyour Majesty ever retums to г а в у о и will ь е
а Ы е to у that Riza Khan understands nothing of the world.'
Н е п о longer needed to share his power with а п у о п е Ь е was,
in fact if not in name, the sole overlord о С Iran. Like а hungry
wolf, Ь е threw himself into work. All Iran was to ь е reformed
from top to bottom. The hitherto 100se administration was с е п
tralized; the old system о С а л out entire provinces to the
highest bidder was abolished; the govemors ceased to ь е satraps
and Ь е с а т е officials. The army, the dictator's pet child, was г е
organized о п Westem patterns. Riza К started campaigns
against unruly tribal ch.ieftains who had previously regarded
themselves as little kings and often refused to о Ь е у the Т е
govemment; Ь е dealt· harsbly with the bandits who for у
decades had terrorized the countryside. Some order was brought
into the :finances о С the country with the assistance о С an А ш е п
с а п adviser; taxes and customs began to flow in regularly. Order
was brought out о С chaos.
As if echoing the Turkish Kemalist movement, tfte idea о С а
republic emerged in Iran, :firstas а rumour, then as а demand о С
the more progressive elements о С the populace - and :finally as
the о р е п aim о С the dictator himself. But here Riza К seems
to have committed а п error о С judgment: а powerful cry о С р г о
arose from the lranian masses.
Ъ popular opposition to republican tendencies was not due
to any 10ve о С the reigning house, for nobody in Iran had т и с Ь
affection for the Qajar dynasty wh.ich- because о С its Turkoman
о п - had always Ь е е п regarded as 'foreign'; nor was it due to
any sentimental predilection for the round. boyish С а с е о С Shah
Ahmad. It was something quite different: it was prompted Ь у the
people's fear о С losing their religion as the Turks had 10st theirs
• in the wake о С Ataturk's revolution. In their ignorance, the
lranians did not understand а at о п с е that а republican form о С
ё would correspond much more closely to the Islamic
scheme о С и е than а monarchial о п е guided t'y the conser­
vatism о С their religious leaders - and justi:fiably
frightened Ь у Riza К obvious admiration of Kemal
Ataturk - the Iranians sensed in his proposal о п у а threat to
Islam as tbe о п а г С о г е е in the country.
269 PI!It.SIA N ь в т т в в
А great excitement took hold of the и с Ь а п population, espec­
ially in Т е Ь с а п А furious о Ь а г ш е ё with sticks and stones,
assembled before Riza К о т е е building а п д uttered curses
and threats against the dictator who Ь и yesterday Ь а д Ь е е п а
demigod. Riza Khan's aides urgently advised Ы т not to go о ш
before the excitement subsided; but Ь е brushed them aside а п ё
а с с о р а е д Ь у only о п е orderly а п д entirely и п а с т е д left т е
о т с е compound in а closed carriage. As soon as the carriage
emerged from the gates, the т о Ь seized the horses' reins and
brought them to а standstill. Some people tore the carriage д о о с
о р е п - 'Drag him о ш drag Ь out into т е street!' But already
Ь е 1Nas getting о ш himself, his а с е livid with rage, and began to
Ь е а the heads and shoulders of those about him with bls riding
crop: У о и sons of dogs, away from т е away! How dare у о и 1
а т Riza К Ь а п Away to у о и с women а п д your beds!' And the
raging crowd, which had Ь е е п threatening death and destruction
but а few minutes ago, Ь е с а т е silent under the impact of his
personal courage; they drew back, melted away, о п е Ь у о п е and
disappeared in the side-alleys. О п с е again а great leader had
spoken to his people; Ь е had spoken in anger, а п д the people
were cowed. It т а у Ь а у е Ь е е п at that о е п that а feeling of
contempt broke through Riza Khan's Iove for his people, and
clouded it forever.
But spite of Riza Khan's prestige success, the republic did
п о materialize. Т Ь е debacle of this plan made it ::>bvious that
т Ш а г у power а ю п е could not bring about а г е ю п п movement'
in the face of the people's resistance. Not that the Iranians were
opposed toreform as such: but they instinctively realized that а п
imported, Western political doctrine would т е а п the е п д of а Н
Ь о р е of ever attaining to а healthy development within the с о п
text of their own culture and reIigion.
Riza К did not understand this, then о с е У е с and thus Ь е
с а т е estranged from his people. Tlleir love for ш т vanished and
а fearful hatred gradually took its place. Т to ask
themselves: What has the hero reaHydone С о т his country? They
е П П е г а е Riza К achievements: the reorganization of
the а с т у - but а т е price of tremendous costs \vhich placed
crushing tax burdens о п the already impoverished people; the
suppressed П Ь а г е Ь е Ш о п - Ь и also the suppressed patriots:
showy bui1ding. activity in Т е Ь с а п - Ь и ever-gro\..ing misery
270 т н в ROAD Т О М Е С С А
among the peasants in the countryside. Р е о р е OOgan to remem­
Ь е г that but а fewyears ago Riza К а п had Ь е е п а р о о г soldier­
and now hewas the richest т а п in Iran, with innumerable acres
of land to his п а т е Were these the 'reforms' about which so
т и с Ь had Ь е е п spoken? Did the few glittering о т с е buildings in
Tehran and the luxury botels which had и р here and
there under the dictator's influence reaHy represent а п у Ь е ц е г
ment of the people's 10t?
Г т WAS А Т т н т в STAGE of bls с а г е е г that 1 с а т е ю know
Riza К Whatever the rumours about his personal ambition
and alleged selfishness, I could not faH to recognize the man's
greatness from the momcnt he first received т е in bls о т с е at the
War Ministry. It was probably the simplest officeoccupied а п у
\vbere. at а п у time, Ь у а prime minister: adesk, а sofa covered
with black oilcloth, а с о и р е of chairs, а small bookshelf and а
bright but modest carpet о п the :Ooor were а that the room с о п
tained; and the ta11, heavy-set т а п in his middle fifties who rose
from bebind the desk was attired in а р з п khaki uniform with­
out а п у meda1s, ribbons о г badges of rank.
1 had Ь introduced Ь у the Gerrnan Ambassador, Count
у о п der Schulenburg (for although 1 was Austrian myself, I г е
presented а great German newspaper). Е е е п during that first,
formal conversation I Ь е с а е aware ofthe sombre dynamism of
П а Khan's nature. From under grey, bushy brows а pair of
sharp, brown е у е в regarded т е - Persian eyes that were usually
vei1ed Ь у Ь е а у У lids: а strange mixture of е а п с Ь о у and hard­
ness. Т were bitter lines around bls nose and mouth, but the
Ь е а у у Ь о п о о features betrayed а п и п с о о п power of wi1l
wblch kept the lips compressed and fil1ed the jaw with tension.
When у о и listened to bls low and о а е voice - the
voice о а т а п accustomed to speak words о С ilnportance and to
weigh е а с Ь of them о п his tongue before it \vas permitted to 00­
с о т е sound - у о и thought у о и were listening to а т а п with а
thirty-year career of staff officer and blgh dignitary beblnd Ы т
and у о и could hardly Ь е Н е у е that it \vas о п у six years since
Riza К Ь had Ь е с п а sergeant. and only three since Ь е had
leamed to read а п д \vrite.
Н е m1ist Ь а у е sensed т у interest in him - and perhaps also
\
\
PERSIAN ь в т т в в 271
г п у affection for his people - for Ь е insisted that this interview
shoUld. п о ь е the and aske? т е as welI as Schul to
tea next week at his в ш ш п е г г е з ш е в с е at Shemran, the beautifuI
garden resort some miles out of Tehran.
1arranged with Schulenburg to с о т е first to Ы т (lik most о С
the other foreigl1 representatives, Ь е aIso was spending the sum­
ш е г in Shemran) and to go together to the Prime Minis er's resi­
dence. В щ as it happened, 1 was и п а Ы е о arrive in ti е А few
days earlier 1 had purchased а small four-wheeled Ь и ting с а г
riage \vith two spirited horses. How spirited they wer Ь е с а т е
С и Н у obvious а few m.iles outside Tehran, when, foIlowing з о т п с
wicked impulse, tlley obsiinately refused т о go а Ь е а and in­
sisted о п returning п о г п е Р о г about twenty minutes 1 trugg!ed
with ш е п т il1 the е п ё 1 Iet Ibrahim take horses а п carriage
Ь о т е and stt о ш о п foot in search о т some other means Г г г а п в
р о п а п о п А г г а т п р of t\",O т brought т е to а Ш а е г е 1
ю г ш п а т е з у О п а droshky, but when 1 arri..'ed at the т е г г п а п
Embassy, it was about а п Ь о ш and а half after the а pointed
time. 1found Schulenburg pacing и р and dowl1 his stud like а п
angry tiger, with а Н hi:.: ц в ц а suavitygone: for ю his Р а п
з ш Ь а а о а в е п в е of discipline, such а п о й е п с е against
punctua1ity seemed п о less than blasphemy. At т у sig t Ь е е х
plodcd wjth indignation: \
У о и с а п г - у о и с а п т do that to а р п ш е minister! H\lve у о и
forgotten that Riza Khan is а dictator and, like а Н з о г е х
tremcly touchy?'
М у horses к е е ш to have overlooked this fine point, Count
с е п г was т у on1y т е р у 'Even if it had Ь е п the
Emperor of С Ы п а 1 would not have Ь е е п able to ar у е а п у
earlier.'
At that the Count recovered his sense of humour and broke
out п о 10ud laughter:
В у God, such а thing has never happened to т е beford! Let's
go tben - and Ь о р е that the footman doesn't slam the dloor in
our faces ....
Н е did not. When we arrived at Ю а Khan's р а а с е Ь е tea
party was ]ong о у е г and а Н the other guests had depart d, but
the dictator did not а р р е а г in the least offended Ь у т у bre с Ь of
protocol, Upon hear.ng the reasons for our delay. Ь е е х с imed'
'WeJI, 1 wouldlike to see these horses о С yours! 1 thin they
272 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
must bel9ng to the opposition party. 1 don't know whether it
might п с г ь е wise to Ь а у е с Ь е т placed in poliee custody!'
If anything, т у contretemps rather helped tban hindered the
establishment of а п е а в у informal relationship between the а
powerful Р г п п е Minister ofIran and theyoungjournalist, which
later made it possible for т е to move about the country м с Ь а
freedom greater than that accorded to rnost other foreigners.
В п т Л Л Н Л Т does п о т refer to the Riza К Ь а п of
those early days, the т а п who lived with а simplicity almost ц п
believable in display-loving Iran: icrefers to Riza Shah Pablavi,
who ascended the Peacock Т Ь г о п е in 1925; it refers to the king
who has given и р а Н р г е т е п с е of humility and п о у seeks to
emulate К е т а Ataturk in building а vainglorious Western .
onto bis ancient Eastern land ...
1 с о т е to the end of the letter:
AltllOUgh у о и belm'edfrie12d, а г е 11011' in tlle blessed С й у ofthe
Holy Prophel, и е trust у о и п а у е notforgottelll1or е у е 11!il/forget
у о и г ш о г у friend and his с о и п т у ...
о А Н Agha, friend of т у younger days -'light of т у heart',
а з у о и yourself would phrase it - your letter has made т е drunk
with г е ш е г п о г а п с е Persia-drunk as 1 Ь е с а т е when 1 began to
know your country, that old, dimjewel set in а setting ofancient
gold and cracked marble and dust and shadows - the shadows of
а the days and nights of у о ш melancholy country and of the
dark, dreaming е у е в of у о ц г people ...
1 still г е е Ь е г К the first Iranian town 1sa\Vafter
1 left the mountains of Kurdistan. А strange, faded, opaque
atmosphere lay about it, muffied, subdued - not to say shabby.
No doubt, in every Eastcm city poverty lies close to the surface,
т и с Ь т о г е visible than in а п у Е ш о р е а п city - but to that 1 \vas
already accustomed. It was not just pG1
/
erty in а п е с о п о ш с
sense whicll thrust itself и р о п т е о г К у а sabl to Ь е
а prosperous to'vn. It was rather а kind of depression that lay
о у е г the pcople, something that was directly connected \vith
them and seemed to have hardly anything С О С О with economic
circumstances.
273 PERSIAN ь в т т в в
All these people had large, black eyes under thick, black bro",s
that о е п met over the bridge of the nose, weighted Ь у Ь е а у у lids
like veils. Most of the т е п wereslim (1 hardly remember having
seen а fat т а п in Iran); they never laughed aloud, and in their
silent smiles lurked а faint irony which seemed to с о п с е а more
than it revealed. No mobility о С features, п о gesticulations. о у
quiet, measured movements: as if they wore masks.
As in а Н Eastern cities, the life of the town was concentrated
in the bazaar. It revealed itself to the stranger as а subdued mix·
ture ofbrown, and carpet-red, with shimmering с о р
per plates and basins here and there and perhaps а blue majolica
painting over the door of а caravanserai with figures of black­
eyed knights and winged dragons. If у о и looked ш о г е careful1y,
у о и could discover in this bazaar а Н the colours of the world ­
but п о п е ofthese variegated colours could е у е с quite assert itself
in the unifying shadows ofthe vaults that covered the bazaar and
drew everything together into а sleepy duskiness. Т pointed
arches о С the Vaulted roof were pierced at regular intervals Ь у
smal1 vpenings to let in the daylight. Т these openings the
rays of the sun е in; in the aromatic air of the hal1s they gained
the quality of а substance and resembled opaque, slanted pillars
of light; and not the people seemed to go tbrough them but they,
the shining pillars, seemed to go through the shadowy people ...
For the people in щ bazaar were gentle andsi1ent like
shadows. Ifа trader called out to the passerby, Ь е did so in а low
voice; п о п е of them praised hiswares with calls and songs, as is
the custom in м а Ы а п bazaars. О п soft soles Ы е threaded its
way here. Т people did not elbow or shove one another. Т
were polite - with а politeness which seemed to bend forward to
у о и but in reality held у о и at arm's length. Т were obviously
shrewd and did not mind starting а conversation with the
stranger - but only their lips \vere talking. Т souls stood
somewhere in the background, waiting, weighing, detached ...
In а teahouse some men of the working class sat о п straw mats
- perhaps artisans, labourers, caravan drivers - htldd1ed to­
gether laround an iron basin fiUed with glowing coals. Two long­
stemmf.d pipes with round porcelain bowls made the round. Т Ь е
sweetiShsmell of opium was in the Ш Т Ь е у smoked wordlessly;
е а с Ь т а п took о у а few deep draughts at а ш е passing the
pipe о п to his neighbour. And then 1 saw what 1 had not о Ь
s
274 Т Н Е в о в о Т О М Е С С А
served before: т а п у very у people were smoking о р ш ш
some of them more and others less publicly. е shopkeeper in
his niche; tbe 'oafer under the arched gateway of а caravanserai;
the coppersmith in bis workshop during а moment of respite:
they al1 were smoking with the same withdrawn. somewhat tired
face. gazing with dull eyes into а spaceless void ...
Fresh. green poppies with thick buds were being sold Ь у ven­
dors all over the Ь а а а а г and apparently consumed in tbls way ­
another, milder form of taking opium. Even Ы were eating
the seeds in doorways and corners. Two, three of them would
divide the delicacy among themselves with а п old-age tolerance
toward е а с Ь о ш е г without childish egoism - but also without
childish joy о г vivacity. But how could they Ь а у е Ь е е п other­
wise? In their earliest life they were given а Ь е а у у brew of р о р р у
seeds to drink whenever they cried а п д bothered their parents.
When they grew и р and began to roam the streets, the border­
lines of quietude. lassitude and kindness were already Ы ш т е ё in
them.
And then 1 knew what had moved т е so 5trongly when 1 f1rst
beheld the melancholy eyes of the Iranians: the sign of а tragic
destiny in them. 1 felt that the opium belonged to them in the
same way as а suffering smile belong5 to the face ofa sufferer; it
belonged to their gentleness, to their ш п е г lassitude - it Ь е
longed е у е п to theu great poverty and great frugality. It did not
seem to ь е so т и с Ь vice as expression - and р е ш а р е also help.
Help against what? Strange а п д of questions ...
М У MIND DWELLS 80 LONG о п т у impressions of К а п
sbah, the first Iranian city 1 с а ш е to know, because those ш
pressions continued. in у а г forms but always unchanged in
substance. throughout the у е а с and а half that 1 remained in
Iran. А 50ft, pervasive melancholy was the dominant note е у е с у
where. 1t was perceptible in Ш а е and towns. in the daily do­
ings of the р е о р е and in their т а п у religious festivals. 1ndeed.
their religious feeling itselt', so unlike that of the Arabs, bore а
strong tinge of sadness а п д mouming: to weep over the tragic
happenings ofthirteen centuries ago - to weep over the deaths of
Ali, the Prophet's son-in-law, and Ali's two sons, Н and
Н ш а - 5eemed to them more important than to consider
275 PBRSIAN ь в т т в в
what Islam stood for and what direction it wanted to give to
men's lives ...
. О п т а п у evenings, in т а п у towns, you could see groups of
т е п and women assembled in а street around а wandering
dervish, а religious mendicant clad-in white, with а panther skin
о п his back, а long-stemmed а х е in his right hand and а п aIms­
bowl carved from а coconut in his left. Н е would· recite а ha1f­
sung, half-spoken ballad about Ш е strugg1es for succession to the
Caliphate that followed the death of the Prophet in the seventh
century - а mournful tale of faith and blood and death - and it
would always run somewhat like this:
Listen, О people, ю Ivhat Ь е е П God's ehosen о п е з andhow the
b/ood о the Prophet's seed wasspi1led о у е г the earth.
Tlfere wasо п с е а Р г о р м whom Godhad likenedunto а City о
К and the Gate to that City was (Ife most trusted and
valiant о his /ollowers, IJis son-in-law Ali, Liglft о the. Wor/d,
sharero/the Prophet's Message, ealledthe Lion o/God.
М е tlfeProphet passedaway, the Lion о God ф his right­
и в и с с е з з о е В и wieked т е п usurped the Lion's G,od-ordained
right and made another the Prophet's khalifa; and after thefirst
usurper's death, а п о т е о his evil ilk succeeded Ы and a/ter
Ы т у е а п о т е п
And only a/ter the third usurper perished did the WiII о God
Ь е с о т е manifest, and the Lion о God attained to this rightful
place as Commander о tlfe Faiihful.
В Ali's and God's enemies were т а п у and о п е day, when he
а у prostratedЬ е о г е hisLord'n р г а у е г а л assassin's swordstruek
Ы т dead. Theearthshook;nanguish а theb/asphemous deed, and
and the mountains wept and the stonesshed tears.
Oh, God's curse ь е р о the eviJdoers, and т а у everlasting
punishment consume tllem! .
And again anel'i/usurper с а т е to the о г е anddeniedtheLiono/
God's sons, Hasan and Husayn, п о В tlte;r
right о success;on to tl,e Prophet's Г Ha'san was fou1/y
po;soned; and и е Н ш а у г е ;nde/enee о the Eaith.hisbeau­
tifulli/e was extingu;slled о п thefield о Karbala as he kneJt down
Ь у Q р о о o/\t-'ater to queneh his thirst a/ter thebattle.
Oh, God'scurse ь е и р о theev;ldoers, and а у ш angels' г
forever water the saeredso;1 о К
276 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
Т head о Н а у - the head the Prophet had о п с е kissed­
was с г и е у с ш off and his Ileadless body was brought ю с to the
tent where his weeping cllildren awaited their /ather's return.
A-nd ever since, the Faithful have л о е God's curse о п т е
transgressors and wept over the deaths о A-/i and Н а з а п and Н и
з а у п and у о и О Faithful, ra;se у о и г voices in lament о г their
deaths - о г God/org;,'es the sins о those who }veep for the Seed
о the Prophet •.•
And the chanted ballad would bring forth passionate sobbing
from the listening women, while silent tears would г о П over the
faces of bearded т е п ...
Such extravagant 'laments' were а far с с у indeed from the
true, blstorical picture of those early happenings that had caused
а never-healed schism in the world of Islam: the division of the
Mus1im community into Sunnites, who form the bulk of the
Mus1im peoples and stand л о п the principle of а п elective
succession to the Caliphate, and the Shiites, who maintain that
the Prophet designated Ali. his son-in-Iaw, as his rightful heir
and successor. In reality, however, the Prophet died without
nominating а п у в ц с с е в в о г whereupon о п е of his oldest and most
faithful С о ш р а ш о п в Abu В а к г was elected kllalifa Ь у the over­
whelming majprity of the community. А Ь и Bakr was succeeded
Ь у Umar and the latter Ь у Uthman; and о п у after Uthman's
death was Ali elected to the Caliphate. Т was, as 1 knew
well even in т у Iranian days, nothing evil or wicked about Ali's
three predecessors. Т were undoubtedly the greatest and
noblest figures of Islamic history after the Р г о р п е г and ,had С о г
manyyears Ь е е п а т о п в his most intimate Companions; and they
were certainly not 'usurpers', having Ь е elected Ь у the people in
the free exercise of Ь е right accorded to them Ь у Islam. It was
nottheir assumption ofpower but ratherAli's and his о П о е г
unwillingness to accept wholeheartedJy the results of those р о р и
lar elections that led to the subsequent struggles for power. to
Ali's death, and to the transformation - under the fifth Caliph,
Mu'awiyya- ofthe original, republican form ofthe Islamic State
into а hereditary kingship, and, ultimately. to Husayn's death at
Karbala.
у es, 1had known а Н this before 1с а т е to lran; but Ь е г е 1was
struck Ь у the boundless е т о и о п which that old, tragic tale of
217 PERSIAN ь в т т в в
thirteen centuries ago could still о ш е among the Iranian
people whenever the п а т е з of, Ali, Hasan or Н и з were
mentionOO. 1 began to wonder: Was it the innate melancholy
of the Iranians and their sense of the dramatic that had caused
them to е п ю г а с е the Shia doctrine? - or was it the tragic qual­
ity of the latter's origin that had 100 to this intense I(anian
т е а п с Ь о у
В у degrees, over а number of months, а startling answer took
з Ь а р е in т у mind.
When, in tbe middle of the seventh century, the armies of
Caliph Umar the ancient Sasanian Empire, bringing
Islam with thern, Iran's Zoroastrian cult had already 10ng Ь е е п
rOOuced to rigid formalism and was thus unable to о р р о з е effec­
tively the dynamic new idea that had с о т е from Arabia. But at
the time when the А г а Ь conquest burst и р о п it, Iran was passing
through а period of social and intellectual ferment whicb з е е т о о
to promise а п а ц о п а regeneration. Tbis Ь о р е of а п inner,
organic revival was shattered Ь у the Arab invasion; and the
lranians, abandoning their own bistoric line of е О Р П е п
henceforth accommodatOO themselves to the cultural and ethical
concepts that bad Ь е е п brought in from outside.
Т п е advent of Islam represented in Iran, а з in so т а п у cther
countries, а tremendous social advance; it destroyed the old
Iranian caste system and brought into being а new com.m.unity of
free, equal people; it opened new channels for cultural energies
tllat had 10ng ш п "dormant and inarticulate: but witb а Н this, the
proud descendants of Darius and Xerxes could never forget that
the bistorical continuity of their national Ш е the organic с о п
nection between their Yesterday and Today, had suddenly Ь е е п
broken. А р е о р е whose innermost character had found its е х
pression in the baroque dualism of the zand religion and its а
most pantheistic worship of the four elements - air, water, fi.re
and earth - was now faced with Islam's austere, uncompromising
monotheism and its passion for the Absolute. Т Ь е .transition was
too sharp and р и to allow the Iranians to subordinate tbeir
deeply rootOO national consciousness to the supranational с О п
cept of Islam. п spite of their speedy and apparent1y voluntary
acceptance of the new religion, they subconsciously equated the
vietory of tbe Is1amic idea witb lran's й о п а defeat; and the
feeling of having Ь е е п defeated э irrevocably tomout of the
278 Т Н Е ROAD Т О м а С С А
context о С their ancient cultura1 heritage - а feeling desperately
intense for а its vagueness - was destined to с о п е their
national self-confidence for centuries to с о т е Unlike о ш у
other nations to whom the а с с е р т а п с е о С Islam gave almost ш
mcdiately а most positive impulse о further cultural develop­
ment, Ь е lranians' first - а п д in а way, most durable - reaction
to it \vas о п е о С deep humiliation and repressed resentment.
That resentment /lad to ь е repressed а п д smothered in the
dark folds о С the subconscious, for in the meantime Islam had .
Ь е с о т е Iran's о faith. But in their hatred ofthe Arabian с о п
quest, Ь е Iranians instinctively resorted to what psychoanalysis
describes as 'overcompen!ation': Ь е у began о regard the faith
brought to them Ь у their Arabian conquerors as sometblng that
was exclusively their own. Т did it Ь у subtly transforming the .
rational, unmystical God-consciousness о С the Arabs into its
very opposite: mystical fanaticism and sombre е п ю ц о п А faith
which to the Arab was presence and reality and а source о С с о т
posure and freedom, evolved, in the Т г а ш а п mind. into а dark
longing for the supernatural and symbolic. Т Islamic principle
of God's ungraspable transcendency was transfigured into the
mystical doctrine (for у щ с Ь there were ш а п у р г е е е ё е п в in р г е
Islamic Iran) of God's physical manifestation in especially
chosen mortals who would transmit trus divine essence о their
descendants. Т о such а т е п ё е п с у а п espousal of Ь е Shia с о с
trine offered а п ю в г welcome channel: for there could ь е п о
doubt that the Shiite veneration, almost deification, о С Ali and
. bls deScendants concealed Ь е germ of Ь е idea of God's ш с а г
п а ц о п and continual reincamation - а п idea entirely а й е п to
Islam· but very close tc the Iranian heart.
Ithad Ь е е п п о accident that the Prophet Muhammad Ш О О
without havll1g nominated а successor and, indeed, refused to
nominate о п е when а suggestion to that effect was made shortly
beforehis death. В у his attitude Ь е intended to convey. firstly.
thatthespiritual quality ofProphethoQd \vas not something that
couldbe 'inherited', and, secondly. that the future leadership of
the cQmmuni1y should ь е the outcome of free election. Ь у the
people themselves and п о о С а п Ь у the Prophet
(wblchwould naturally have Ь е е п implit'd m i..!.\ designatioo о С а
successor); а о д t1ius Ь е deliberatrly ruled о и the idea tbat the
community's leadership could e'ier Ь е anything but secu1ar or
279 PBRSIAN ъ в т т в в
could ь е in the nature о С а п 'apostolic succession'. But this was
precisely what the Shia doctrine aimed а т It not only insisted ­
in clear с о п а ф о п to the spirit of Islam - о п the principle о С
apostolic succession, but г е в е г у е ё that succession exclusively to
'the Prophet's seed', thatiS, to his cousin and son-in-law А Н and
bis lineal descendants.
This was entirely in tune with the mystical inc1inations о С ihe
Iranians. But when they enthusiastically joined the с а т р of those
who claimed that Muhammad's spi:titual essence 1ived о п in Ali
and the latter's descendants, the Iranians did not merely satisfy а
mystical desire: there was yet another, subconscious motivation
for their choice. If Ali was the rightful heir and successor of the
Prophet, the three С а Н р Ь в who preceded Ы т must obviously
Ь а м е Ь е е п usurpers - and among ф е т had Ь е е п Umar, that
в а ш е Umar у Ь о had conquered lran! Т Ь е national hatred of the
conqueror of the Sasanian Empire could now Ь е rationalized in
terms :of religion - the religion that had Ь е с о т е Iran's о
Umar had 'deprived' Ali and his sons Hasan and Husayn of
their divinely ordained right of succession to the Caliphate
о С Islam and, thus, had opposed the у о С God; consequent­
ly, in obedience to the wil1 о С God, AJi's party was to Ь е sup­
ported. Out о С а national antagonism, а religious doctrine was
Ь о
In the Iranian enthronement о С the Shia ё о с ш п е 1 discerned а
mute protest against the Arabian conquest of Iran. Now 1 under­
stood why the Iranians cursed Umar with а hatred far more
bitter than that reserved for the other two 'usurpers', А Ь и В а к г
and Uthman: from the doctrin<tl point of view, the first Caliph,
А Ь и Bakr, should Ь а у е Ь е е п regarded а в the principal trans­
gressor - but it was Umar who had conquered Iran ...
This, then, was the reason for the strange intensity with which
thc House о С Ali was venerated in Iran. Its cult represented а
symbolic"act of а ш а п revenge о п Arabian Islam у Ы с Ь stood
so uncompromisingly against the deification of а п у Ь а п per­
sonality including that of Muhammad). True, the" S!lia doctrine
had not originated in Iran; there were Shiite groups in other
Muslim lands as weJl: but nowhere else had it achieved 50 с о т
plete а hold over the people's emotions and imagination. У Ь е п
the а ш а п gave passionate vent to their mourning over the
death5 of A1i, Hasan and Н з у п they wept not merely over the
280 Т Н Е l\OAD Т О М Е С С А
destruction of the House of Ali but also о е е г themselves and the
1055 of their ancient glory ...
Т Н Е У .WERE А MELA NCHOL У people, th05e Т г а ш а п в Т
melancholy was retlected е у е п in the Iranian landscape - in the
endless stretches of fallow land, the lonely mountain paths and
blghways, the widely scattered villages of mud houses, the fiocks
of sheep which were driven in the evening in г е у Ь г о п waves
to the well. In the cities life dripped in slow, incessant drops, with­
out industry or gaiety; everything seemed to Ь е shrouded in
dreamy vei1s, and е а с Ь face had а look of indolent waiting. О п е
п е т е г heard п ш в ю in the streets. lf in the evening а Tatar stable
О О у broke into song in а caravanserai, о п е involuntarily pricked
и р one's ears in astonishment. Publicly only the т а п у dervishes
sang: and they always saq.g the same ancient, tragic ballads
about А Н Hasan and Husayn. Death and tears wove around
those songs and went like heavy wine to the heads of the lis­
teners. А т е г г о т of sadness, but of а willingly, almost greedily
accepted sadness, seemed to lie over these people.
О п summer evenings in Т е Ь г а п у о и could see т е п and women
crouching motionless Ь у the watercourses that ran along both
sides of the streets under the shadow of the huge elm trees. Т
sat and stared into the fiowing water. Т did not talk to о п е
another. Т о у Н в г е п е ё to the gurgling of the water and let
the-rustling of the tree branches pass over their heads. Whenever
1 saw them 1 had to think of David's psalm: В у the п у е з о
Babylon, there we sat О Ю у е а Ive wept ...
Т Ь е у в а т Ь у the side of the watercourses like huge, dumb, dark
birds, lost in silent contemplation of the tlowing water. Were
they thinking а long, long-drawn-out thought which belonged to
them, and to them alone? Were they waiting? .. for what?
And David sang: We hanged о и г harps р О the Ш in the
midst thereo/ . . .
-3­
С О М Е ZA YD, let us go' - and 1put А Н Agha's letter into т у
pocket and rise to say good-bye to Az-Zughaybi. But Ь е shakes
rus head: .
281
PERSIAN ь в т т в я
·No. brother. let Zayd stay here with т е for а while. If thou
art ю о niggardly ( о tell т е а l I that has befallen ( Ь е е during thcsc
past ш о п й в , let hint t е П т е the story in thy stead. Or dost ( Ь о о
think thy friends п о Jonger с а г е а б о ш what happens to ( Ь е е ? '
х
DAJJAL
-1­
Е н т в в Т О Е winding al1eys ofthe oldest р а п of Medina:
К
house-wal1s of stone rooted in shadow, Ь а у windows and
Ь а С О е hanging over lanes that resemble gorges а п о в г е 5.0
narrow ш place5 that two people с а п Ь а г е г у pass о п е а п
other; and б п myselfbefore the grey stone ofthe library
built about о п е hundred years ago Ь у а Turkish scholar. In its
courtyard, bchind the forged bronze г ofthe gate, а п inviting
silence. 1 cross the stone-flagged у а г д past the single т г е е that.
stands with motionless branches in its middle, and step into Ь е
domed Ь а lined \vith glas5-covered bookcases - thousand5 of
г books, among them some of the rarest manuscripts
known to the Islamic \"orld. It is books like these that have given
glory to Islamic culture: а glory ш has passed away like Ь е
wind of yesterday.
. As 1 look at these books in their tooled-Ieather covers, the dis­
с г е р а п с у between the Muslim Yesterday а п д Today strikc$ т е
like а painful blow .. , .
'What ails thee, т у son? Why this bitter look о п thy а с е
1 turn tQward the voice - and behold, sitting о п the с а г р е г Ь е
tween о п е о Г the Ь а у \\'indows, а о Н о у о ш г п е о п his knees, the
diminutive figure о Г т у old friend, Shaykh Abdullah ibn В ш а у
hid. Н sharp, ironical eyes greet т е \\'ith а warm flicker as 1 kiss
his forehead and sit do\vn Ь у his side. Н е is the greatest о Г а the
т of Najd and, in spite .of а с е п а ш ё о с ш п а п е п а г г о с п е э э
peculiar о the Wahhabi outlook, о п е ofthe keenest minds 1have
ever met in Muslim countries. His friendship о г т е has contri­
buted greatly to making т у Hfe in А г а ш а е а з у and pleasant, Г о г
in Ibn Saud's kingdom his 'word counts ш о г е than that of а п у
other т а п except the К himself. Н е closes his book with а
snap and draws т е to blmself, looking at т е inquiringly.
'1 was thinking, О Shaykh, how а г we Muslims have travelIed
from this' - and 1point to\vard the books о п the shclve:; -'to our
present misery and degradation.'
282
DAJJAL· 283
М у soo,' answers the old т а п 'we а г е Ь и reaping what we
have sown. Onee we were great; and it was Islam that made us
great. We were the bearers of а message. As long as we remained
faithful to that message, our hearts were inspired and о ц г mind5
Ш п but as О П as we forgot for what ends we had Ь е е п
chosen Ь у the Almighty, we е П We Ь а у е travelled far away from
tbls'- and the shayk/r repeats т у gesture toward the books Ь е
cause we Ь а у е travelled far away from what Ь е Prophet - т п а у
God bless Ы т and give Ы т р е а с е - taught us thirteen centurics
ago .. .'
'And how goes Ь у work l' Ь е inquires after а р а ц в е for Ь е
knows Ь а 1 а т engaged in studies connected with early Islamic
hi5tory.
'1 must confess, О Shaykh, not у е с у well. 1 с а п п о т find rest in
т у heart а п д do п о т know why. And so 1 Ь а у е taken again to
wandering in the desert.'
Ibn Bu)aybld 100k5 а т е with ю Ш п у squinting е у е в those
wise, penetrating eyes - and twirls his. henna-dyed beard: Т Ь е
m.ind will haveits due and the body will Ь а у с its д и е ... Thou
shouldst marry.'
1 п о of course, that in Najd marriage is с о п е Щ о ь е
Ь е в о п ш о п for almost е м е г у sort oi" perplexity, а п д so 1 с а п п о т
hold back т у laughter:
, But; Shaykh, thou art well aware Ь а 1 Ь а у е married again
only two years ago, and this year а П has Ь е е п born 10 т е
Т old т а п 5hrugs his shoulders: 'If а т а п 's Ь е а п i5 а rest
with his wife, Ь е stays а Ь о т е а в и с Ь as Ь е с а п Thou dost not
stay Ь а ш и с Ь а Ь о т е ... And, moreover, it has never yet
hurt а т а п to wed а second wife.' Н е blmself, in spite of his
5eventy years, has three з present, and 1 а т told ь а Ь е
youngest о п е whom Ь е married only а couple of months ago, is
barely sixteen years old.)
'It т а у Ь е I'rejoin, 'that it doesn't hurt а т а п о take а
second wife; but what ofthe first wife? Does п о her hurt matter
\
М у son: if а woman holds the whole of her man's з Ь е
will not think of, nor need, marrying another. But if his heart is
п о entirely with Ь е с - will she gain anything Ь у keeping Ы thus
half-heartedly о herself alone l'
Т is certainly п о answer to that.Islam recnmmends, to ь е
284 Т Н Е ROAD Т О М Е С С А
ш е single marriages, but allows а т а п to т а е т у и р to four
wives under exceptional circumstances. One nlight ask why the
same latitude has not been given to woman as weU; but the
answer is simple. Notwithstanding the spiritual fact of 10vethat
has е т п е г е ё Ь и т а п life in the course of man's development, the
undcrlying bi%gica/ reason for the в е х и а urge is, in both sexes,
procreation: and while а woman с а п at о п е ш п е conceive а
child from о п е т а п о у and has to carry it for nine months Ь е
fore she is а Ы е to с о п с е г с е another, т а п is so constituted that Ь е
т а у beget а child е у е т у time Ь е embraces а woman. Т while
nature would Ь а у е Ь е е п merely wasteful ю produce а р о у
о ш instinct in woman, man's undoubted polygamous ln­
clination з from nature's point ofview, biologieaHy justified. It
з of course, о Ь о ш that the biological factor is о у о п е - and
Ь у п о means a1ways the most important - of the aspects of love:
п о п е the less, it is а basic factor and, therefore, decisive in the
social institution of marriage as such. With the wisdom that а
ways takes human п а ш г е С и Н у into account, Islamic Law under­
takes п о more з п the safeguarding о С the socio-biological
function о С ш а г п а я е (which includes, of с о ш в е с а г е for the
progeny as well), allowing а т а п to marry more than one П е
and not aUowing а woman to Ь а у е ш о г е than о п е husband at
о п е time; while the spiritual problem о С marriage, being impon­
and thereCore outside the of law, is left to the
discretidn of the partners. Whenever 10veis и Н and complete,
the question of1inother marriage natura:Ily does not arise for
either of them; whenever а husband does not 10vehis П е with
Iill hisheart but still well enough not to want to 10seher, Ь е т а у
.take another П е provided the first о п е is agreeable to thus
sba!ing his affection; and if she cannot agree to tms, she т а у
о Ь а ш у о с с е and is free to remarry. In а п у case - since
п в е in Islam is not а sacrament but а civil contract - re­
с о ш to ш у о с с е is always open to either of the marriage part­
DeI'S, the т о с е so as the stigma Ы elsewhere attaches to
divorce with greater or lesser intensity is absent in Muslim
society (with the possible exception о С the Indian Muslims, who
have Ь е е п influenced in this respect Ь у centuries of contact with
Hindu society, in wblch divorce is utterly forbidden).
.Т freedom wblch Islamic Law accords to both