4: The Somal, Their Origin and Peculiarites
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Before leaving Zayla, I must not neglect a short description of its
inhabitants, and the remarkable Somal races around it.
Eastern Africa, like Arabia, presents a population composed of three
markedly distinct races.
1. The Aborigines or Hamites, such as the Negro Sawahili, the Bushmen,
Hottentots, and other races, having such physiological peculiarities as
the steatopyge, the tablier, and other developments described, in 1815, by
the great Cuvier.
2. The almost pure Caucasian of the northern regions, west of Egypt: their
immigration comes within the range of comparatively modern history.
3. The half-castes in Eastern Africa are represented principally by the
Abyssinians, Gallas, Somals, and Kafirs. The first-named people derive
their descent from Menelek, son of Solomon by the Queen of Sheba: it is
evident from their features and figures,—too well known to require
description,—that they are descended from Semitic as well as Hamitic
progenitors.(1) About the origin of the Gallas there is a diversity of
opinion. (2) Some declare them to be Meccan Arabs, who settled on the
western coast of the Red Sea at a remote epoch: according to the
Abyssinians, however, and there is little to find fault with in their
theory, the Gallas are descended from a princess of their nation, who was
given in marriage to a slave from the country south of Gurague. She bare
seven sons, who became mighty robbers and founders of tribes: their
progenitors obtained the name of Gallas, after the river Gala, in Gurague,
where they gained a decisive victory our their kinsmen the Abyssins. (3) A
variety of ethnologic and physiological reasons,—into which space and
subject prevent my entering,—argue the Kafirs of the Cape to be a
northern people, pushed southwards by some, to us, as yet, unknown cause.
The origin of the Somal is a matter of modern history.
"Barbarah" (Berberah)(4), according to the Kamus, is "a well known town
in El Maghrib, and a race located between El Zanj—Zanzibar and the
Negrotic coast—and El Habash (5): they are descended from the Himyar
chiefs Sanhaj ([Arabic]) and Sumamah ([Arabic]), and they arrived at the
epoch of the conquest of Africa by the king Afrikus (Scipio Africanus?)."
A few details upon the subject of mutilation and excision prove these to
have been the progenitors of the Somal(6), who are nothing but a slice of
the great Galla nation Islamised and Semiticised by repeated immigrations
from Arabia. In the Kamus we also read that Samal ([Arabic]) is the name
of the father of a tribe, so called because he thrust out ([Arabic],
samala) his brother's eye.(7) The Shaykh Jami, a celebrated
genealogist, informed me that in A.H. 666 = A.D. 1266-7, the Sayyid Yusuf
el Baghdadi visited the port of Siyaro near Berberah, then occupied by an
infidel magician, who passed through mountains by the power of his
gramarye: the saint summoned to his aid Mohammed bin Tunis el Siddiki, of
Bayt el Fakih in Arabia, and by their united prayers a hill closed upon
the pagan. Deformed by fable, the foundation of the tale is fact: the
numerous descendants of the holy men still pay an annual fine, by way of
blood-money to the family of the infidel chief. The last and most
important Arab immigration took place about fifteen generations or 450
years ago, when the Sherif Ishak bin Ahmed(8)left his native country
Hazramaut, and, with forty-four saints, before mentioned, landed on
Makhar,—the windward coast extending from Karam Harbour to Cape
Guardafui. At the town of Met, near Burnt Island, where his tomb still
exists, he became the father of all the gentle blood and the only certain
descent in the Somali country: by Magaden, a free woman, he had Gerhajis,
Awal, and Arab; and by a slave or slaves, Jailah, Sambur, and Rambad.
Hence the great clans, Habr Gerhajis and Awal, who prefer the matronymic—
Habr signifying a mother,—since, according to their dictum, no man knows
who may be his sire.(9) These increased and multiplied by connection and
affiliation to such an extent that about 300 years ago they drove their
progenitors, the Galla, from Berberah, and gradually encroached upon them,
till they intrenched themselves in the Highlands of Harar.
The old and pagan genealogies still known to the Somal, are Dirr, Aydur,
Darud, and, according to some, Hawiyah. Dirr and Aydur, of whom nothing is
certainly known but the name(10), are the progenitors of the northern
Somal, the Eesa, Gudabirsi, Ishak, and Bursuk tribes. Darud Jabarti(11)
bin Ismail bin Akil (or Ukayl) is supposed by his descendants to have been
a noble Arab from El Hejaz, who, obliged to flee his country, was wrecked
on the north-east coast of Africa, where he married a daughter of the
Hawiyah tribe: rival races declare him to have been a Galla slave, who,
stealing the Prophet's slippers(12), was dismissed with the words, Inna-
tarad-na-hu (verily we have rejected him): hence his name Tarud
([Arabic]) or Darud, the Rejected.(13) The etymological part of the story
is, doubtless, fabulous; it expresses, however, the popular belief that
the founder of the eastward or windward tribes, now extending over the
seaboard from Bunder Jedid to Ras Hafun, and southward from the sea to the
Webbes(14), was a man of ignoble origin. The children of Darud are now
divided into two great bodies: "Harti" is the family name of the
Dulbahanta, Ogadayn, Warsangali and Mijjarthayn, who call themselves sons
of Harti bin Kombo bin Kabl Ullah bin Darud: the other Darud tribes not
included under that appellation are the Girhi, Berteri, Marayhan, and
Bahabr Ali. The Hawiyah are doubtless of ancient and pagan origin; they
call all Somal except themselves Hashiyah, and thus claim to be equivalent
to the rest of the nation. Some attempt, as usual, to establish a holy
origin, deriving themselves like the Shaykhash from the Caliph Abubekr:
the antiquity, and consequently the Pagan origin of the Hawiyah are proved
by its present widely scattered state; it is a powerful tribe in the
Mijjarthayn country, and yet is found in the hills of Harar.
The Somal, therefore, by their own traditions, as well as their strongly
marked physical peculiarities, their customs, and their geographical
position, may be determined to be a half-caste tribe, an offshoot of the
great Galla race, approximated, like the originally Negro-Egyptian, to the
Caucasian type by a steady influx of pure Asiatic blood.
In personal appearance the race is not unprepossessing. The crinal hair is
hard and wiry, growing, like that of a half-caste West Indian, in stiff
ringlets which sprout in tufts from the scalp, and, attaining a moderate
length, which they rarely surpass, bang down. A few elders, savans, and
the wealthy, who can afford the luxury of a turban, shave the head. More
generally, each filament is duly picked out with the comb or a wooden
scratcher like a knitting-needle, and the mass made to resemble a child's
"pudding," an old bob-wig, a mop, a counsellor's peruke, or an old-
fashioned coachman's wig,—there are a hundred ways of dressing the head.
The Bedouins, true specimens of the "greasy African race," wear locks
dripping with rancid butter, and accuse their citizen brethren of being
more like birds than men. The colouring matter of the hair, naturally a
bluish-black, is removed by a mixture of quicklime and water, or in the
desert by a lessive of ashes(15): this makes it a dull yellowish-white,
which is converted into red permanently by henna, temporarily by ochreish
earth kneaded with water. The ridiculous Somali peruke of crimsoned
sheepskin,—almost as barbarous an article as the Welsh,—is apparently a
foreign invention: I rarely saw one in the low country, although the hill
tribes about Harar sometimes wear a black or white "scratch-wig." The head
is rather long than round, and generally of the amiable variety, it is
gracefully put on the shoulders, belongs equally to Africa and Arabia, and
would be exceedingly weak but for the beauty of the brow. As far as the
mouth, the face, with the exception of high cheek-bones, is good; the
contour of the forehead ennobles it; the eyes are large and well-formed,
and the upper features are frequently handsome and expressive. The jaw,
however, is almost invariably prognathous and African; the broad, turned-out lips betray approximation to the Negro; and the chin projects to the
detriment of the facial angle. The beard is represented by a few tufts; it
is rare to see anything equal to even the Arab development: the long and
ample eyebrows admired by the people are uncommon, and the mustachios are
short and thin, often twisted outwards in two dwarf curls. The mouth is
coarse as well as thick-lipped; the teeth rarely project as in the Negro,
but they are not good; the habit of perpetually chewing coarse Surat
tobacco stains them(16), the gums become black and mottled, and the use
of ashes with the quid discolours the lips. The skin, amongst the tribes
inhabiting the hot regions, is smooth, black, and glossy; as the altitude
increases it becomes lighter, and about Harar it is generally of a cafe au lait colour. The Bedouins are fond of raising beauty marks in the
shape of ghastly seams, and the thickness of the epidermis favours the
size of these stigmates. The male figure is tall and somewhat ungainly.
In only one instance I observed an approach to the steatopyge, making the
shape to resemble the letter S; but the shoulders are high, the trunk is
straight, the thighs fall off, the shin bones bow slightly forwards, and
the feet, like the hands, are coarse, large, and flat. Yet with their
hair, of a light straw colour, decked with the light waving feather, and
their coal-black complexions set off by that most graceful of garments the
clean white Tobe(17), the contrasts are decidedly effective.
In mind the Somal are peculiar as in body. They are a people of most
susceptible character, and withal uncommonly hard to please. They dislike
the Arabs, fear and abhor the Turks, have a horror of Franks, and despise
all other Asiatics who with them come under the general name of Hindi
(Indians). The latter are abused on all occasions for cowardice, and a
want of generosity, which has given rise to the following piquant epigram:
"Ask not from the Hindi thy want:
Impossible that the Hindi can be generous!
Had there been one liberal man in El Hind,
Allah had raised up a prophet in El Hind!"
They have all the levity and instability of the Negro character; light-
minded as the Abyssinians,—described by Gobat as constant in nothing but
inconstancy,—soft, merry, and affectionate souls, they pass without any
apparent transition into a state of fury, when they are capable of
terrible atrocities. At Aden they appear happier than in their native
country. There I have often seen a man clapping his hands and dancing,
childlike, alone to relieve the exuberance of his spirits: here they
become, as the Mongols and other pastoral people, a melancholy race, who
will sit for hours upon a bank gazing at the moon, or croning some old
ditty under the trees. This state is doubtless increased by the perpetual
presence of danger and the uncertainty of life, which make them think of
other things but dancing and singing. Much learning seems to make them
mad; like the half-crazy Fakihs of the Sahara in Northern Africa, the
Widad, or priest, is generally unfitted for the affairs of this world, and
the Hafiz or Koran-reciter, is almost idiotic. As regards courage, they
are no exception to the generality of savage races. They have none of the
recklessness standing in lieu of creed which characterises the civilised
man. In their great battles a score is considered a heavy loss; usually
they will run after the fall of half a dozen: amongst a Kraal full of
braves who boast a hundred murders, not a single maimed or wounded man
will be seen, whereas in an Arabian camp half the male population will
bear the marks of lead and steel. The bravest will shirk fighting if he
has forgotten his shield: the sight of a lion and the sound of a gun
elicit screams of terror, and their Kaum or forays much resemble the style
of tactics rendered obsolete by the Great Turenne, when the tactician's
chief aim was not to fall in with his enemy. Yet they are by no means
deficient in the wily valour of wild men: two or three will murder a
sleeper bravely enough; and when the passions of rival tribes, between
whom there has been a blood feud for ages, are violently excited, they
will use with asperity the dagger and spear. Their massacres are fearful.
In February, 1847, a small sept, the Ayyal Tunis, being expelled from
Berberah, settled at the roadstead of Bulhar, where a few merchants,
principally Indian and Arab, joined them. The men were in the habit of
leaving their women and children, sick and aged, at the encampment inland,
whilst, descending to the beach, they carried on their trade. One day, as
they were thus employed, unsuspicious of danger, a foraging party of about
2500 Eesas attacked the camp: men, women, and children were
indiscriminately put to the spear, and the plunderers returned to their
villages in safety, laden with an immense amount of booty. At present, a
man armed with a revolver would be a terror to the country; the day,
however, will come when the matchlock will supersede the assegai, and then
the harmless spearman in his strong mountains will become, like the Arab,
a formidable foe. Travelling among the Bedouins, I found them kind and
hospitable. A pinch of snuff or a handful of tobacco sufficed to win every
heart, and a few yards of coarse cotton cloth supplied all our wants, I
was petted like a child, forced to drink milk and to eat mutton; girls
were offered to me in marriage; the people begged me to settle amongst
them, to head their predatory expeditions, free them from lions, and kill
their elephants; and often a man has exclaimed in pitying accents, "What
hath brought thee, delicate as thou art, to sit with us on the cowhide in
this cold under a tree?" Of course they were beggars, princes and paupers,
lairds and loons, being all equally unfortunate; the Arabs have named the
country Bilad Wa Issi,—the "Land of Give me Something;"—but their wants
were easily satisfied, and the open hand always made a friend.
The Somal hold mainly to the Shafei school of El Islam: their principal
peculiarity is that of not reciting prayers over the dead even in the
towns. The marriage ceremony is simple: the price of the bride and the
feast being duly arranged, the formula is recited by some priest or
pilgrim. I have often been requested to officiate on these occasions, and
the End of Time has done it by irreverently reciting the Fatihah over the
happy pair.(18) The Somal, as usual amongst the heterogeneous mass
amalgamated by El Islam, have a diversity of superstitions attesting their
Pagan origin. Such for instance are their oaths by stones, their reverence
of cairns and holy trees, and their ordeals of fire and water, the Bolungo
of Western Africa. A man accused of murder or theft walks down a trench
full of live charcoal and about a spear's length, or he draws out of the
flames a smith's anvil heated to redness: some prefer picking four or five
cowries from a large pot full of boiling water. The member used is at once
rolled up in the intestines of a sheep and not inspected for a whole day.
They have traditionary seers called Tawuli, like the Greegree-men of
Western Africa, who, by inspecting the fat and bones of slaughtered
cattle, "do medicine," predict rains, battles, and diseases of animals.
This class is of both sexes: they never pray or bathe, and are therefore
considered always impure; thus, being feared, they are greatly respected
by the vulgar. Their predictions are delivered in a rude rhyme, often put
for importance into the mouth of some deceased seer. During the three
months called Rajalo(19) the Koran is not read over graves, and no
marriage ever takes place. The reason of this peculiarity is stated to be
imitation of their ancestor Ishak, who happened not to contract a
matrimonial alliance at such epoch: it is, however, a manifest remnant of
the Pagan's auspicious and inauspicious months. Thus they sacrifice she-
camels in the month Sabuh, and keep holy with feasts and bonfires the
Dubshid or New Year's Day.(20) At certain unlucky periods when the moon
is in ill-omened Asterisms those who die are placed in bundles of matting
upon a tree, the idea being that if buried a loss would result to the
Though superstitious, the Somal are not bigoted like the Arabs, with the
exception of those who, wishing to become learned, visit Yemen or El
Hejaz, and catch the complaint. Nominal Mohammedans, El Islam hangs so
lightly upon them, that apparently they care little for making it binding
The Somali language is no longer unknown to Europe. It is strange that a
dialect which has no written character should so abound in poetry and
eloquence. There are thousands of songs, some local, others general, upon
all conceivable subjects, such as camel loading, drawing water, and
elephant hunting; every man of education knows a variety of them. The
rhyme is imperfect, being generally formed by the syllable "ay"
(pronounced as in our word "hay"), which gives the verse a monotonous
regularity; but, assisted by a tolerably regular alliteration and cadence,
it can never be mistaken for prose, even without the song which invariably
accompanies it. The country teems with "poets, poetasters, poetitos, and
poetaccios:" every man has his recognised position in literature as
accurately defined as though he had been reviewed in a century of
magazines,—the fine ear of this people(22)causing them to take the
greatest pleasure in harmonious sounds and poetical expressions, whereas a
false quantity or a prosaic phrase excite their violent indignation. Many
of these compositions are so idiomatic that Arabs settled for years
amongst the Somal cannot understand them, though perfectly acquainted with
the conversational style. Every chief in the country must have a panegyric
to be sung by his clan, and the great patronise light literature by
keeping a poet. The amatory is of course the favourite theme: sometimes it
appears in dialogue, the rudest form, we are told, of the Drama. The
subjects are frequently pastoral: the lover for instance invites his
mistress to walk with him towards the well in Lahelo, the Arcadia of the
land; he compares her legs to the tall straight Libi tree, and imprecates
the direst curses on her head if she refuse to drink with him the milk of
his favourite camel. There are a few celebrated ethical compositions, in
which the father lavishes upon his son all the treasures of Somali good
advice, long as the somniferous sermons of Mentor to the insipid son of
Ulysses. Sometimes a black Tyrtaeus breaks into a wild lament for the loss
of warriors or territory; he taunts the clan with cowardice, reminds them
of their slain kindred, better men than themselves, whose spirits cannot
rest unavenged in their gory graves, and urges a furious onslaught upon
the exulting victor.
And now, dear L., I will attempt to gratify your just curiosity concerning
the sex in Eastern Africa.
The Somali matron is distinguished—externally—from the maiden by a
fillet of blue network or indigo-dyed cotton, which, covering the head and
containing the hair, hangs down to the neck. Virgins wear their locks
long, parted in the middle, and plaited in a multitude of hard thin
pigtails: on certain festivals they twine flowers and plaster the head
like Kafir women with a red ochre,—the coiffure has the merit of
originality. With massive rounded features, large flat craniums, long big
eyes, broad brows, heavy chins, rich brown complexions, and round faces,
they greatly resemble the stony beauties of Egypt—the models of the land
ere Persia, Greece, and Rome reformed the profile and bleached the skin.
They are of the Venus Kallipyga order of beauty: the feature is scarcely
ever seen amongst young girls, but after the first child it becomes
remarkable to a stranger. The Arabs have not failed to make it a matter of
"'Tis a wonderful fact that your hips swell
Like boiled rice or a skin blown out,"
sings a satirical Yemeni: the Somal retort by comparing the lank haunches
of their neighbours to those of tadpoles or young frogs. One of their
peculiar charms is a soft, low, and plaintive voice, derived from their
African progenitors. Always an excellent thing in woman, here it has an
undefinable charm. I have often lain awake for hours listening to the
conversation of the Bedouin girls, whose accents sounded in my ears rather
like music than mere utterance.
In muscular strength and endurance the women of the Somal are far superior
to their lords: at home they are engaged all day in domestic affairs, and
tending the cattle; on journeys their manifold duties are to load and
drive the camels, to look after the ropes, and, if necessary, to make
them; to pitch the hut, to bring water and firewood, and to cook. Both
sexes are equally temperate from necessity; the mead and the millet-beer,
so common among the Abyssinians and the Danakil, are entirely unknown to
the Somal of the plains. As regards their morals, I regret to say that the
traveller does not find them in the golden state which Teetotal doctrines
lead him to expect. After much wandering, we are almost tempted to believe
the bad doctrine that morality is a matter of geography; that nations and
races have, like individuals, a pet vice, and that by restraining one you
only exasperate another. As a general rule Somali women prefer
amourettes with strangers, following the well-known Arab proverb, "The
new comer filleth the eye." In cases of scandal, the woman's tribe
revenges its honour upon the man. Should a wife disappear with a fellow-
clansman, and her husband accord divorce, no penal measures are taken, but
she suffers in reputation, and her female friends do not spare her.
Generally, the Somali women are of cold temperament, the result of
artificial as well as natural causes: like the Kafirs, they are very
prolific, but peculiarly bad mothers, neither loved nor respected by their
children. The fair sex lasts longer in Eastern Africa than in India and
Arabia: at thirty, however, charms are on the wane, and when old age comes
on they are no exceptions to the hideous decrepitude of the East.
The Somal, when they can afford it, marry between the ages of fifteen and
twenty. Connections between tribes are common, and entitle the stranger to
immunity from the blood-feud: men of family refuse, however, to ally
themselves with the servile castes. Contrary to the Arab custom, none of
these people will marry cousins; at the same time a man will give his
daughter to his uncle, and take to wife, like the Jews and Gallas, a
brother's relict. Some clans, the Habr Yunis for instance, refuse maidens
of the same or even of a consanguineous family. This is probably a
political device to preserve nationality and provide against a common
enemy. The bride, as usual in the East, is rarely consulted, but frequent
tete a tetes at the well and in the bush when tending cattle effectually
obviate this inconvenience: her relatives settle the marriage portion,
which varies from a cloth and a bead necklace to fifty sheep or thirty
dollars, and dowries are unknown. In the towns marriage ceremonies are
celebrated with feasting and music. On first entering the nuptial hut, the
bridegroom draws forth his horsewhip and inflicts memorable chastisement
upon the fair person of his bride, with the view of taming any lurking
propensity to shrewishness.(23) This is carrying out with a will the Arab
"The slave girl from her capture, the wife from her wedding."
During the space of a week the spouse remains with his espoused, scarcely
ever venturing out of the hut; his friends avoid him, and no lesser event
than a plundering party or dollars to gain, would justify any intrusion.
If the correctness of the wife be doubted, the husband on the morning
after marriage digs a hole before his door and veils it with matting, or
he rends the skirt of his Tobe, or he tears open some new hut-covering:
this disgraces the woman's family. Polygamy is indispensable in a country
where children are the principal wealth.(24) The chiefs, arrived at
manhood, immediately marry four wives: they divorce the old and
unfruitful, and, as amongst the Kafirs, allow themselves an unlimited
number in peculiar cases, especially when many of the sons have fallen.
Daughters, as usual in Oriental countries, do not "count" as part of the
family: they are, however, utilised by the father, who disposes of them to
those who can increase his wealth and importance. Divorce is exceedingly
common, for the men are liable to sudden fits of disgust. There is little
ceremony in contracting marriage with any but maidens. I have heard a man
propose after half an hour's acquaintance, and the fair one's reply was
generally the question direct concerning "settlements." Old men frequently
marry young girls, but then the portion is high and the menage a trois
The Somal know none of the exaggerated and chivalrous ideas by which
passion becomes refined affection amongst the Arab Bedouins and the sons
of civilisation, nor did I ever hear of an African abandoning the spear
and the sex to become a Darwaysh. Their "Hudhudu," however, reminds the
traveller of the Abyssinian "eye-love," the Afghan's "Namzad-bazi," and
the Semite's "Ishkuzri," which for want of a better expression we
translate "Platonic love." (25) This meeting of the sexes, however, is
allowed in Africa by male relatives; in Arabia and Central Asia it
provokes their direst indignation. Curious to say, throughout the Somali
country, kissing is entirely unknown.
Children are carried on their mothers' backs or laid sprawling upon the
ground for the first two years(26): they are circumcised at the age of
seven or eight, provided with a small spear, and allowed to run about
naked till the age of puberty. They learn by conversation, not books, eat
as much as they can beg, borrow and steal, and grow up healthy, strong,
and well proportioned according to their race.
As in El Islam generally, so here, a man cannot make a will. The property
of the deceased is divided amongst his children,—the daughters receiving
a small portion, if any of it. When a man dies without issue, his goods
and chattels are seized upon by his nearest male relatives; one of them
generally marries the widow, or she is sent back to her family. Relicts,
as a rule, receive no legacies.
You will have remarked, dear L., that the people of Zayla are by no means
industrious. They depend for support upon the Desert: the Bedouin becomes
the Nazil or guest of the townsman, and he is bound to receive a little
tobacco, a few beads, a bit of coarse cotton cloth, or, on great
occasions, a penny looking-glass and a cheap German razor, in return for
his slaves, ivories, hides, gums, milk, and grain. Any violation of the
tie is severely punished by the Governor, and it can be dissolved only by
the formula of triple divorce: of course the wild men are hopelessly
cheated(27), and their citizen brethren live in plenty and indolence.
After the early breakfast, the male portion of the community leave their
houses on business, that is to say, to chat, visit, and flaner about the
streets and mosques.(28)They return to dinner and the siesta, after
which they issue forth again, and do not come home till night. Friday is
always an idle day, festivals are frequent, and there is no work during
weddings and mournings. The women begin after dawn to plait mats and
superintend the slaves, who are sprinkling the house with water, grinding
grain for breakfast, cooking, and breaking up firewood: to judge, however,
from the amount of chatting and laughter, there appears to be far less
work than play.
In these small places it is easy to observe the mechanism of a government
which, en grand, becomes that of Delhi, Teheran, and Constantinople. The
Governor farms the place from the Porte: he may do what he pleases as long
as he pays his rent with punctuality and provides presents and douceurs
for the Pasha of Mocha. He punishes the petty offences of theft, quarrels,
and arson by fines, the bastinado, the stocks, or confinement in an Arish
or thatch-hut: the latter is a severe penalty, as the prisoner must
provide himself with food. In cases of murder, he either refers to Mocha
or he carries out the Kisas—lex talionis—by delivering the slayer to the
relatives of the slain. The Kazi has the administration of the Shariat or
religious law: he cannot, however, pronounce sentence without the
Governor's permission; and generally his powers are confined to questions
of divorce, alimony, manumission, the wound-mulct, and similar cases which
come within Koranic jurisdiction. Thus the religious code is ancillary and
often opposed to "El Jabr,"—"the tyranny,"—the popular designation of
what we call Civil Law.(29)Yet is El Jabr, despite its name, generally
preferred by the worldly wise. The Governor contents himself with a
moderate bribe, the Kazi is insatiable: the former may possibly allow you
to escape unplundered, the latter assuredly will not. This I believe to be
the history of religious jurisdiction in most parts of the world.
(1) Eusebius declares that the Abyssinians migrated from Asia to Africa
whilst the Hebrews were in Egypt (circ. A. M. 2345); and Syncellus places
the event about the age of the Judges.
(2) Moslems, ever fond of philological fable, thus derive the word Galla.
When Ullabu, the chief, was summoned by Mohammed to Islamise, the
messenger returned to report that "he said no,"—Kal la pronounced Gal
la,—which impious refusal, said the Prophet, should from that time become
the name of the race.
(3)Others have derived them from Metcha, Karaiyo, and Tulema, three sons
of an AEthiopian Emperor by a female slave. They have, according to some
travellers, a prophecy that one day they will march to the east and north,
and conquer the inheritance of their Jewish ancestors. Mr. Johnston
asserts that the word Galla is "merely another form of Calla, which in
the ancient Persian, Sanscrit, Celtic, and their modern derivative
languages, under modified, but not changed terms, is expressive of
blackness." The Gallas, however, are not a black people.
(4) The Aden stone has been supposed to name the "Berbers," who must have
been Gallas from the vicinity of Berberah. A certain amount of doubt still
hangs on the interpretation: the Rev. Mr. Forster and Dr. Bird being the
Rev. Mr. Forster. Dr. Bird
"We assailed with cries of "He, the Syrian philosopher
hatred and rage the Abyssinians in Abadan, Bishop of
and Berbers. Cape Aden, who inscribed this
in the desert, blesses the
"We rode forth wrathfully institution of the faith."
against this refuse of mankind."
(5)This word is generally translated Abyssinia; oriental geographers,
however, use it in a more extended sense. The Turks have held possessions
in "Habash," in Abyssinia never.
(6)The same words are repeated in the Infak el Maysur fl Tarikh bilad el
Takrur (Appendix to Denham and Clapperton's Travels, No. xii.), again
confounding the Berbers and the Somal. Afrikus, according to that author,
was a king of Yemen who expelled the Berbers from Syria!
(7) The learned Somal invariably spell their national name with an initial
Sin, and disregard the derivation from Saumal ([Arabic]), which would
allude to the hardihood of the wild people. An intelligent modern
traveller derives "Somali" from the Abyssinian "Soumahe" or heathens, and
asserts that it corresponds with the Arabic word Kafir or unbeliever, the
name by which Edrisi, the Arabian geographer, knew and described the
inhabitants of the Affah (Afar) coast, to the east of the Straits of Bab
el Mandeb. Such derivation is, however, unadvisable.
(8) According to others he was the son of Abdullah. The written
genealogies of the Somal were, it is said, stolen by the Sherifs of Yemen,
who feared to leave with the wild people documents that prove the nobility
of their descent.
(9)The salient doubt suggested by this genealogy is the barbarous nature
of the names. A noble Arab would not call his children Gerhajis, Awal, and
(10)Lieut. Cruttenden applies the term Edoor (Aydur) to the descendants
of Ishak, the children of Gerhajis, Awal, and Jailah. His informants and
mine differ, therefore, toto coelo. According to some, Dirr was the
father of Aydur; others make Dirr (it has been written Tir and Durr) to
have been the name of the Galla family into which Shaykh Ishak married.
(1) Some travellers make Jabarti or Ghiberti to signify "slaves" from the
Abyssinian Guebra; others "Strong in the Faith" (El Islam). Bruce applies
it to the Moslems of Abyssinia: it is still used, though rarely, by the
Somal, who in these times generally designate by it the Sawahili or Negro
(12)The same scandalous story is told of the venerable patron saint of
Aden, the Sherif Haydrus.
(13) Darud bin Ismail's tomb is near the Yubbay Tug in the windward
mountains; an account of it will be found in Lieut. Speke's diary.
(14)The two rivers Shebayli and Juba.
(15)Curious to any this mixture does not destroy the hair; it would soon
render a European bald. Some of the Somal have applied it to their beards;
the result has been the breaking and falling off of the filaments.
(16)Few Somal except the citizens smoke, on account of the expense, all,
however, use the Takhzinah or quid.
(17) The best description of the dress is that of Fenelon: "Leurs habits
sont aises a faire, car en ce doux climat on ne porte qu'une piece
d'etoffe fine et legere, qui n'est point taillee, et que chacun met a
longs plis autour de son corps pour la modestie; lui donnant la forme
(18)Equivalent to reading out the Church Catechism at an English wedding.
(19) Certain months of the lunar year. In 1854, the third Rajalo,
corresponding with Rabia the Second, began on the 21st of December.
(20)The word literally means, "lighting of fire." It corresponds with the
Nayruz of Yemen, a palpable derivation, as the word itself proves, from
the old Guebre conquerors. In Arabia New Year's Day is called Ras el
Sanah, and is not celebrated by any peculiar solemnities. The ancient
religion of the Afar coast was Sabaeism, probably derived from the Berbers
or shepherds,—according to Bruce the first faith of the East, and the
only religion of Eastern Africa. The Somal still retain a tradition that
the "Furs," or ancient Guebres, once ruled the land.
(21) Their names also are generally derived from their Pagan ancestors: a
list of the most common may be interesting to ethnologists. Men are called
Rirash, Igah, Beuh, Fahi, Samattar, Farih, Madar, Raghe, Dubayr, Irik,
Diddar, Awalah, and Alyan. Women's names are Aybla, Ayyo, Aurala, Ambar,
Zahabo, Ashkaro, Alka, Asoba, Gelo, Gobe, Mayran and Samaweda.
(22)It is proved by the facility with which they pick up languages,
Western us well as Eastern, by mere ear and memory.
(23) So the old Muscovites, we are told, always began married life with a
(24) I would not advise polygamy amongst highly civilised races, where the
sexes are nearly equal, and where reproduction becomes a minor duty.
Monogamy is the growth of civilisation: a plurality of wives is the
natural condition of man in thinly populated countries, where he who has
the largest family is the greatest benefactor of his kind.
(25) The old French term "la petite oie" explains it better. Some trace of
the custom may be found in the Kafir's Slambuka or Schlabonka, for a
description of which I must refer to the traveller Delegorgue.
(26) The Somal ignore the Kafir custom during lactation.
(27) The citizens have learned the Asiatic art of bargaining under a
cloth. Both parties sit opposite each other, holding hands: if the little
finger for instance be clasped, it means 6, 60, or 600 dollars, according
to the value of the article for sale; if the ring finger, 7, 70, or 700,
and so on.
(28) So, according to M. Krapf, the Suaheli of Eastern Africa wastes his
morning hours in running from house to house, to his friends or superiors,
ku amkia (as he calls it), to make his morning salutations. A worse than
Asiatic idleness is the curse of this part of the world.
(29)Diwan el Jabr, for instance, is a civil court, opposed to the
Mahkamah or the Kazi's tribunal.
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