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Caillié left Timbuctoo on the 4th May, and in six days arrived at Aroan or Arouan, which he found rather a well-built town of 3000 inhabitants, supported solely by the passage of the caravans from Barbary, and from the salt-mines of Taudeny, which usually halt here before and after passing the desert that extends to the northwards. The environs of Aroan are of the most desolate aspect, and all its provisions are drawn from Jenne by way of Timbuctoo. The neighbourhood does not afford an herb or a shrub, and the only fuel consists of the dried dung of camels. The springs of water, which alone render it habitable, are abundant, but of bad quality. The town also carries on a considerable trade in light goods directly with Sansanding and Yamina. Walet was mentioned as a great emporium, situated to the west-south-west, in a position somewhat different from that assigned by Park; but the data in both cases are very vague, and we do not see the slightest ground for M. Jomard's conjecture that there are two Walets.
Our traveller departed from Aroan on the 19th May, in company with a caravan of 120 camels laden with the productions of Soudan. He had the prospect of crossing a desert of ten days' journey, in which there was scarcely a drop of water. “ Before us appeared a horizon without bounds, in which our eyes distinguished only an immense plain of burning sand, enveloped by a sky on fire. At this spectacle the camels raised long cries, and
Under these circumstances, we conceive that it would be premature to change, in our map, the position of Timbuctoo from that formerly fixed by Major Rennel.
the slaves mournfully lifted their eyes to heaven.” M. Caillié, however, departed in high spirits, ani. mated by the idea of being the first European who should, from the southern side, have crossed this ocean of shingle. But his tone of feeling was soon lowered when he came to experience the sufferings arising from the intense heat, the blowing of the sand, and the scanty supply of water, which was allowed to the caravan only twice a-day, leaving long intervals, during which the most tormenting thirst was endured. Some small wells, from which they had hoped for a little aid, were found dry; so that both men and animals were reduced to the last extremity, when they reached the copious springs of Telig, and relieved their thirst by repeated draughts.
During many succeeding marches, water again became scarce, and Caillié had much to suffer from the insult and neglect of his companions. El Drah, on the outer frontier of Morocco, was the first inhabited district ; but it was poor, and occupied by inhospitable tribes of Moors and Berebbers. Turning somewhat eastward, they passed through the fine country of Tafilet, covered with noble woods of date-trees, and producing a valuable breed of sheep. They then crossed with labour a rugged limb of the Atlas, and arrived at Fez, whence the adventurer found his way, though in a somewhat poor plight, to Tangier. He arrived on the 18th August, 1828, and M. Delaporte, the vice-consul, received and forwarded him to France.
The whole coast of Western Africa within the tropics, forming a wide sweep around the Gulf of Guinea, has long been occupied by a chain of European forts, erected with a view to the commerce in gold, iron, and palm oil, but, above all, in slaves; and since this last object has been finally abandoned by Great Britain, these stations have become to her of very secondary importance. The territory is in the possession of a number of petty states, many of which compose aristocratic republics, turbulent, restless, licentious, and generally rendered more depraved by their frequent intercourse with Europeans. The interior country, extending parallel to the great central chain of mountains, of which the principal branch is here called Kong, presents nothing of that desert and arid character which is stamped on so great a proportion of the African continent. The soil, copiously watered, is liable rather to an excessive luxuriance; but, where well managed, it is highly fruitful. There are found, too, in this tract, several very powerful kingdoms, better organized, and more improved than any near the coast. They have not, however, the slightest tincture of European civilization; and their manners, in several important respects, are stained with habits and practices that belong to the very lowest stage of savage life.
Of these greater states the first to which Europeans penetrated was Dahomey, which had distinguished itself early in the last century by the conquest it then achieved of the flourishing kingdom of Whidah, on the slave-coast. The Dahomans committed the most horrible ravages that were ever witnessed, -reducing their country, the most fertile and beautiful then known in Western Africa, to al. most utter desolation. As the King of Dahomey continued to hold sway over this province, Mr Norris, in 1772, undertook a journey thither to observe the character and position of this extraordinary potentate, and to make arrangements for the benefit of the English trade. He passed through a fine country, abounding in the usual tropical productions, and rising by a gentle ascent about 150 miles inland to Abomey, the capital. He arrived at an appalling season, that of the annual Customs, when the great men were assembled from every quarter of the kingdom; and he was truly astonished to see those fierce and warlike chieftains, whose very name spreads terror throughout Africa, prostrating themselves before the monarch, flat on the ground, and piling dust on their heads, in token of the most abject submission. This homage is yielded, not from fear, but from a blind and idolatrous veneration, which makes them regard their king in the light of a superior being. In his name they rush to battle, and encounter their foes with Spartan intrepidity. One of them said to Mr Norris, “I think of my king, and then I dare engage five of the enemy myself.” He added, “ My head belongs to the king, and not to myself; if he
please to send for it, I am ready to resign it; or if it be shot through in a battle, I am satisfied since it is in his service.” The main object contemplated in this national anniversary is, that the king may water the graves of his ancestors with the blood of human victims. These are numerous, consisting of prisoners taken in war, of condemned criminals, and of many seized by lawless violence. The captives are brought out in succession, with their arms pinioned ; and a fetisheer, laying his hand upon the devoted head, utters a few magic words, while another from behind, with a large scimitar, severs it from the body, when shouts of applause ascend from the surrounding multitude. At any time when the king has message to convey to one of his deceased relations, he delivers it to one of his subjects, then strikes off his head, that he may carry it to the other world; and if
any thing farther occurs to him after he has performed this ceremony, he delivers it to another messenger, whom he despatches in the same manner.
Another grand object of this periodical festival is the market for wives. All the unmarried females throughout the kingdom are esteemed the property of the sovereign, and are brought to the annual Customs, to be placed at his disposal. He selects for himself such as appear most beautiful and engaging, and retails the others at enormous prices to his chiefs and nobles. No choice on this occasion is allowed to the purchaser; in return for his twenty thousand cowries, a wife is handed out, and, even be she old and ugly, he must rest contented ; nay, some, it is said, have in mockery been presented with their own mothers. The king usually keeps his wives up to the number of three thousand,