Though highly becoming, and picturesque as the Roman toga, the Somali Tobe is by no means the most decorous of dresses: women in the towns often prefer the Arab costume, a short-sleeved robe extending to the knee, and a Futah or loin-cloth underneath. As regards the word Tobe, it signifies, in Arabic, a garment generally: the Somal call it "Maro," and the half Tobe a "Shukkah."
As soon as I had finished, they told me, by the person who spoke Arabic and interpreted to them what I said, that it was one of the most wonderful stories they had ever heard, and that I must go along with them, and tell it to their king myself; it being too extraordinary to be related by any other than the person to whom the events had happened.
The knowledge of Arabic was prohibited, even the sounds characteristically belonging to this language were avoided.
But Burton had quarrelled with Badger about something or other; so when they approached the Sultan, Burton began addressing him, not in Arabic, but in the Zanzibar patois.
I could never discover that the Malays had any original written characters peculiar to themselves before they acquired those now in use; but it is possible that such might have been lost, a fate that may hereafter attend the Batta, Rejang, and others of Sumatra, on which the Arabic daily makes encroachments.
The voice of the tale-teller was that of Ibrahim, and the story was this: that the citadel at Cairo was to be seized, that the streets of Alexandria were to be swept free of Europeans, that every English official between Cairo and Kordofan was to be slain. Mahommed Ibrahim, the spy, who knew English as well as Donovan Pasha knew Arabic, was this very night to kill Fielding Bey with his own hand!
Charles the Twelfth of Sweden had a design to have introduced a numeration by squares, instead of by decimation, which might have served the purposes of philosophy better than the present mode, which is said to be of Arabic invention. The alphabet is yet in a very imperfect state; perhaps seventeen letters could express all the simple sounds in the European languages.
The Arabs, however, of the eastern side of Mount Atlas, at Tafilelt, and Draa, pronounce their Moggrebyn tongue with much less harshness than their western neighbours. But I must acknowledge, that of all Arabic dialects, none appeared to me so disagreeable and so adulterated as that of the young Christian fops of Cairo and Aleppo.
A silence followed, in the midst of which I heard Quick saying to Joshua in his very worst Arabic: "Now does your Royal Highness think that we Gentiles are cowards, although it is true those Fung are as good men as we any day?" Joshua declined argument, and I turned to watch Oliver, who had covered his face with his hands, and seemed to be weeping. "What is it, O friend, what is it?"
She appeared at first rather shocked at the thought of having a Christian so near her; but when I had, by means of a negro boy who spoke the Mandingo and Arabic tongues, answered a great many questions which her curiosity suggested respecting the country of the Christians, she seemed more at ease, and presented me with a bowl of milk, which I considered as a very favourable omen.