Bright water-courses, springing up in the depths of these ravines, sustain the streaks of half-buried verdure. We rose early to commence the ascent. It is not difficult unless the camels are very heavily laden; but we did not reach the Castle of Gharian until three in the afternoon.
On either hand the steep declivities of the hills presented a wall-like surface, here and there battered into breaches, from out of which burst little tufts of green, revealing the presence of springs. There are 200 troops stationed at the castle under Colonel Saleh, to whom we paid an official visit; as also to the Kaïd of Gharian.
Nevertheless, the villages of Misratah are choked full of very poor destitute people, and during the past year, in the midst of comparative abundance, many of them lived almost entirely on herbs. These wretched creatures congregate in Misratah from all the neighbouring districts, the Gharian and Gibel mountains, the village of Touarghah, and other places.
But finding himself surrounded continually with suspicious agents and cut-throat spies, who might in a moment compass his assassination, whilst the Arabs en route were ripe for revolt, the wary Sheikh at once raised the standard of rebellion, and took possession, successively, of the town of Benioleed, the mountainous district of Gharian, the Syrtis, and the province of Fezzan, all which he held nine years with the style and power of a Sultan.
Swallows were skimming over the shrubs, and birds of prey hovered about, now lying-to, as it were, overhead, with beak and talons visible, now circling upwards until they became mere specks. Lizards and beetles abounded as usual; but the only plagues of the place were the flies, which had followed the camels from Gharian, and even from Tripoli.
The Sebâah, a freebooting tribe of Tunisian Arabs on the frontier, who some two months ago plundered a Ghadames caravan near Gharian, have been made to render up an account of the spoil. The Pasha of Tripoli wrote to the Bey of Tunis, and the Bey has undertaken to make them surrender their booty. The value is only about 1000 dollars, and forty camels.
Starting afterwards about nine, we soon left the Castle of Gharian behind, and continued our course in a direction about south-west, amongst olive-woods and groves of fig-trees. The country was varied enough in appearance as we proceeded. Great masses of rock and cultivated slopes alternated. The vegetation seemed all fresh, and sometimes vigorous. Few birds, except wild pigeons, appeared.
We were kept idle a whole day by the rain; but starting on the second, turned off sharp in the afternoon towards the mountains, and encamped at length in a pretty place fronting the great ascent of Gharian. The appearance of the chain here differs in no important particular from that of any other part of the Tripoline Atlas.
All this part of Northern Africa may be compared to an archipelago, with seas of various breadths dividing the islands. Three days took us from Tripoli to Gharian, and three more to Mizdah. We were now advancing across the preliminary desert stretching in front of the great plateau of the Hamadah, which defends, like a wall of desolation, the approaches of Fezzan from the north.
Start from the Masheeah Painful Parting Chaouch's Tent A Family Quarrel Wady Majeeneen A Rainy Day Moknee's Wives Two mad Fellows Great Ascent of Gharian Tedious Day's Work The Castle View over the Country Garrison Troglodytes Turkish Tax-gathering Quarrelsome Servants Proceed over the lofty Plain Underground Villages Kaleebah The Batoum Geology A Slave Caravan Cheerful Blacks Rows Oasis of Mizdah Double Village Intestine Discords Interview with the Sheikh Omer A Pocket Province A Dream of Good Omen Quarrels on Quarrels Character of Fezzanees A Leopard abroad.