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Title: Zigzag Journeys in the Camel Country - Arabia in Picture and Story
Author: Zwemer, Amy E., Zwemer, Samuel M.
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Zigzag Journeys in the Camel Country - Arabia in Picture and Story" ***


                         A. E. and S. M. ZWEMER_

    Zigzag Journeys in the Camel Country

    Arabia in Picture and Story. 12mo, cloth      _net $1.00_

    Topsy-Turvy Land

    Arabia Pictured for Children. Decorated, cloth  _net .75_

[Illustration: The Desert Scout]

                           ZIGZAG JOURNEYS IN
                            THE CAMEL COUNTRY

                           _ARABIA IN PICTURE
                               AND STORY_

                            SAMUEL M. ZWEMER
                              AMY E. ZWEMER
                     _Authors of “Topsy Turvy Land”_


                   NEW YORK       CHICAGO      TORONTO
                        Fleming H. Revell Company
                          LONDON AND EDINBURGH

                           Copyright, 1911, by
                        FLEMING H. REVELL COMPANY

                     New York:     158 Fifth Avenue
                     Chicago:  125 North Wabash Ave.
                     Toronto: 25 Richmond Street, W.
                     London:  21 Paternoster Square
                     Edinburgh:  100 Princes Street

_To the children of missionaries all the world over_

[Illustration: PREFACE]

Here is another book of pictures and stories for the big children and
small grown-up folks who enjoyed reading “Topsy Turvy Land” and want to
know more about Arabia. A great part of this strange Camel Country is
still unknown, and there are wide deserts which only the camel and his
Arab guide have ever crossed. A few travellers and missionaries, however,
have seen something of Arabia on their zigzag journeys along the coasts
and inland. Would you like to hear the story?

The camels are waiting and the caravan is ready to start. You will
not grow weary by the way, we hope. If the desert tracks are long and
tiresome through the following chapters, just refresh yourself in the
oasis of a picture.

                                                                 S. M. Z.
                                                                 A. E. Z.


    CHAPTER                                         PAGE

        I. ZIGZAG JOURNEYS IN ARABIA                  13

       II. THE CAMEL AT HOME                          18


       IV. GOING TO MARKET TO SOW SEED                32

        V. WHERE THE QUEEN OF SHEBA LIVED             37

       VI. THE JEWS OF KHEIBAR                        43




        X. THE LANGUAGE OF THE ANGELS                 66

       XI. PEARLS AND PEARL DIVERS                    74


     XIII. ACROSS THE DESERT OF OMAN                  86

      XIV. JAIL-BIRDS                                 95

       XV. THE ACORN SCHOOL                          101

      XVI. THE STORY OF A ROLLER BANDAGE             107

     XVII. NAJMA’S LAST CHRISTMAS                    115

    XVIII. THOSE WHO HAVE NEVER HEARD                119



    THE DESERT SCOUT                       _Frontispiece_



      AMERICAN KID SHOES                              22


    THE CASTLE OF KHEIBAR                             45

      THE WELLS TO THE CITY                           46

      AMULETS WORN                                    48

    EVERY-DAY THINGS IN ARABIA                        54

    THE BLACK STONE AT MECCA                          56

    OPENING OF THE HEDJAZ RAILWAY                     58


    FIRST CHAPTER OF THE KORAN                        68

    THE EVOLUTION OF A PEARL BUTTON                   76

    PRAYER IN THE DESERT                              88

    MAP OF OMAN                                       91

    BEDOUIN WOMEN AND THEIR CHILDREN                  98

    A MECCAN BOY                                     102


    “ARABIA” (SONG)                                  125

Grateful acknowledgment is given to Mr. J. M. Coutinho, photographer at
Aden, for permission to use several full-paged photographs. And gratitude
is also expressed here for the use of other pictures taken by our
missionary friends, the Rev. J. C. Young, M. D., and Dr. Sharon J. Thoms.



Zigzag are the lines across the deserts of Arabia that mark the weary
journeys of the camel caravans for centuries. Arabia has no straight
roads. The crooked, winding paths through valley and along mountainside
or over sandy tracks are worn smooth by the shuffling feet of the
animal-with-the-long-neck. Every bit of desert thorn or green herb on
either side of the path means a step away from the straight line. The
caravan zigzags towards its destination. The ship of the desert makes
more tacks in its onward course than a sailing-boat with a contrary wind
in a narrow harbour.

The Arab, like the camel, is not in love with straight lines. An Arab
carpenter cannot draw a right angle, and the Arab mason seldom uses a
plummet. An Arab servant has great trouble in laying a table-cloth square
on the table. The old Arab temple at Mecca is called “a Cube” (Kaaba),
and yet has none of its sides and angles equal but is a zigzag building.
Streets are never parallel or at right angles, but go crisscross in all
sorts of ways except the shortest way.

And so it came to pass that when the tribes of men after the deluge
scattered from the Tower of Babel far to the south of the big Arabian
peninsula they too travelled in zigzag lines. Some went to the far east
on the Persian Gulf and began to be pearl-divers at Bahrein. Others took
their best camels all the way across the waterless desert of the interior
and settled in Oman to become the breeders of the finest dromedaries.
Others went meandering southward along the river-beds, called _wadies_,
till they came to the beautiful mountains of Yemen, green with trees and
bright with blossoms. Others loved the dry, clear, keen air of the high
plateau, and making tents of goat-hair they lived with their flocks, and
are the Bedouin tribes of to-day. Still others were driven to the west
and, because the country was barren and dreadfully hot, settled near a
spring called Zem Zem, and built the city of Mecca. The waters of the
spring were good, they said, for fever and pain, and so Mecca became a
health resort and a market-place, and finally a religions centre. Every
year the distant tribes came in great caravans to visit the city and
exchange mares, camel-foals and bits of poetry.

[Illustration: The big Camel Market in the crater at Aden where we
preached our first sermon in 1891]

The children of Ishmael and other grandchildren of “Father Abraham” also
wandered down, and before the time of David the zigzag lines of the
caravans that carried costly merchandise from Persia and India were all
over Arabia. The single-track roads were as thick as the wrinkles on an
old man’s forehead. But the great trunk lines were three: one of them
extended from Aden on the far south, which was the chief harbour, along
the whole western stretch of Arabia to Egypt. This was the road which
the Queen of Sheba took when she came to see Solomon in all his glory.
The other road extended from Babylon across the desert to Damascus,
the oldest city in the world; and the third caravan route, nearly as
important as the other two, went slant-wise from the mouth of the
Euphrates River to the old capital of the Queen of Sheba, Marib. These
three great railroads of the desert were busy day after day and month
after month and year after year for many centuries. Great cities sprang
up beside these camel tracks, and the ruins of Tadmor still show the
wonderful importance of old time Arabia.

But for one reason and another trade chose other channels, and Arabia
lost its importance. When the Wise Men came from the East to Bethlehem’s
Manger the trunk lines were still in existence, but soon after Mohammed’s
birth other parts of the world became more important, and Arabia became
less and less known except to those who live in its deserts.

It had to be rediscovered in the present century, and the story of the
rediscovery of Arabia is full of interest. This story, also, is a story
of zigzag journeys.

Some bold travellers in Europe were anxious to visit the birthplace
of Mohammed and see the holy city of Mecca, and at the risk of their
lives, men like Burckhardt, Burton and others reached Mecca and Medina,
travelling with the Arab caravans and dressed as Moslem pilgrims. In 1862
Palgrave made his celebrated journey across Arabia from west to east.
And in 1876 Doughty, one of the bravest travellers, made his long and
difficult zigzag journeys through Northwest and North Arabia, often in
danger of his life. Suffering hunger and thirst with the Bedouins, he
was driven from place to place until he finally got out of the interior

Even earlier than these well-known travellers were the journeys of
Cursten Niebuhr in Yemen. In 1763 he was sent by the King of Denmark to
explore the unknown peninsula, and set out with five companions. After
many wonderful adventures he came back, but he was the only one of the
five: the others died in Arabia through fever or on the voyage.

Except for the portion of Arabia seen by those bold travellers and by
others like them, a great part of the country is still unknown. No
missionaries have ever crossed Arabia although they have made journeys
into the interior and along the coasts. It is surprising, but it is true
that the most unknown country in the world to-day is Arabia. We have
better maps of the North Polar regions and even of the moon than we have
of Southeast Arabia and portions of the interior.

The barren desert, fear of the Bedouin, always ready to rob and waylay
the caravan, and the hatred of the Moslem for the Christian have closed
the country for many years against travellers and missionaries; but,
although so long neglected, Arabia is now becoming better known. The
coasts have been explored, and they are actually building a railway
to-day across the desert from Damascus to Mecca and another railway along
the northern borders to Bagdad. A few months ago a British traveller
crossed Arabia in a motor car. How the camels must have been surprised!

In the chapters that follow, we will take some zigzag journeys
together,—sometimes on camels, sometimes on donkey-back, or in the Arab
sailing-boats along the coast. We will not tell you what others have seen
or heard in this wonderful country of the camel, but tell our own story;
and we hope that you will learn to love the Arab, his country, and his
camel as much as we do, and make many a new zigzag track across the map
of Arabia to mark your journeys as future missionaries.



    |      _Mr. and Mrs. Camel_        |
    |                                  |
    |_At Home_      _All Over Arabia._ |
    |                                  |
    |   _B. C. 4000 — A. D. 1911._     |

Persia for goats, Egypt for crocodiles, Cashmere for sheep, Thibet for
bulldogs, India for tigers, but Arabia for the camel! To see real live
dromedaries, you must come to Arabia. For although the camel is often
met with elsewhere, no country can show him in all his beauty like that
country which is called by the Arabs themselves “Um-el-Ibl,” mother
of the camel. The Oman dromedary is the prince of all camel breeds,
and is so highly esteemed in the markets of the East as to fetch three
times the price of any other camel. And no wonder that this animal has
reached perfection in Arabia! He has been at home in its deserts and
trained by its tribes for many, many centuries. Arabia and the camel are
so closely connected that one can neither understand the Arab nor his
language without him. Without the camel, life in a large part of Arabia
would at present be impossible. Without the camel, the Arabic language
itself would lose a vast number of words and ideas and possibly also a
great many of its difficult sounds. There is not a page in the Arabic
dictionary which does not have some reference to the camel and the life
of this wonderful ship of the desert. The Arabs give him five thousand,
seven hundred and forty-four different names, but the most common name by
which he is known, not only by the Arabs but in all languages, is that of
“Jemil,” that is to say, “camel.”

When the Ishmaelites brought Joseph to Egypt, and when the Queen of Sheba
came to visit Solomon, they travelled on camels. The caravan was the
earliest trunk line across the great lands of the East, and has probably
carried more freight and more passengers than the Pennsylvania Railroad
or the largest ocean liners. Long before wagons were invented, wheat,
barley, wool and spices came across the desert on camels to Nineveh and

Have you ever seen such a desert ship? A large, bony animal, six or seven
feet high to the top of its hump, and rude and ungainly in appearance.
Its neck is long, but curved beautifully. Its ears are ridiculously
small, and the upper lip is cleft nearly to the nose, while the lower lip
hangs down, and gives the whole face the appearance of “having the blues.”

The camel has many uses. When too old to carry a burden, it is used for
food. Camel’s milk is very wholesome. Camel’s hair is used for making
both fine and coarse cloths, and the skin is used for sandals, water-bags
and thongs.

[Illustration: A Swift Dromedary and an Arab Post-rider]

The dromedary is the swift post-camel, which carries its rider on long
journeys seventy miles a day on the stretch. A caravan of ordinary camels
is like a freight train and is intended to go slowly and surely with its
heavy load of merchandise; but a company of dromedary riders is like a
limited express. The ordinary caravan travels six hours a day and about
three miles an hour, but a good dromedary can perform wonders on the
road. A merchant once rode the entire distance from El Kasim to Taif and
back, over seven hundred miles in fifteen days; and a post-rider at Maan
in North Arabia can deliver a message at Damascus, two hundred miles
away, at the end of three days. The ordinary camel is like a packhorse,
but the dromedary by careful breeding has become a race-horse. The camel
is thick-built, heavy footed, ungainly, jolting. The dromedary has more
slender limbs, finer hair, a lighter step, a wonderfully easy pace and
is more enduring of thirst. All the camels in Arabia have a single hump.
The two-humped camel, which you sometimes see in the circus, does not
come from Arabia, but from Central Asia. As for the ordinary camel, his
life is as hard as the desert soil and as barren of all comfort as the
desert is bare of grass. Surely, no animal would have more right to feel
sulky and dull. Always in hard use as a beast of burden, underfed and
overloaded in the desert land where even a thorny bush is considered a
tit-bit, and where water costs money, it is no fun at all to be a camel.

Yet to describe the camel is to describe God’s goodness to the desert
dwellers. The Arabs have a saying that the camel is the greatest of all
blessings given by Allah to mankind; and when Mohammed, the prophet,
wished to call attention to the providence and loving-kindness of God
among the Bedouins, who were not at all religious, he said, “And will
ye not look then at the camel how she is created?” With his long neck
he is able to reach far out among the desert shrubs on both sides of
his pathway and to eat as he trudges along. The skin of his month is so
thick and tough that it enables him to eat hard and thorny plants, the
only herbage of the desert. The camel’s ears are very small so that he
can close them when the desert storm begins and the sand-drifts come like
a snow-storm. But his nostrils are large for breathing and yet can be
closed up tight during the fearful simoom or hot desert winds. His eyes
are protected by heavy, overhanging lids against the direct rays of the
noon sun, and his cushioned feet are adapted for the ease of the rider
and of the animal himself. Five horny pads, one on each knee, and one
under the breast, support the animal when kneeling to receive a burden or
when he rests on the hot sand. The camel’s hump was nature’s pack-saddle
for the commerce of many lands and for many ages. The arched backbone
which supports the hump is constructed, just like the Brooklyn Bridge,
to sustain the greatest weight in proportion to the span. A strong camel
can bear one thousand pounds’ weight, although the usual load is not more
than six hundred pounds. The camel is the most useful of all domestic
animals, as you can see in the pictures. He can carry burdens or draw
water or carry the swift post or bring in fire-wood from the desert,
or grind corn. While still living he provides fuel, milk, excellent
hair for making tents, ropes, and shawls. And when dead the Arabs eat
his flesh for food, use his leather to make sandals, and the big broad
shoulder-blades are used as slates in the day-schools in many parts of
Arabia. A camel march is the standard of distance among the Arabs, and
the price of a milch camel is the standard of value among the Bedouins of
the desert. The camel is the most patient animal in existence, and yet
he often has an ugly temper and is undoubtedly stupid to a degree. He
will never attempt to throw you off his back, but if you fall off he will
never dream of stopping for you; and if turned loose in the desert, it is
a chance of a thousand to one whether he will find his way back to his
accustomed home or pasture. When the camel becomes angry, he bends back
his long, snaky neck and opens his big jaws to bite. Do you notice the
powerful jaws of the camels in the pictures? Yet with all his faults, his
ungainly gait, and his ugly appearance, you cannot help loving this ship
of the desert when once you have made a zigzag journey on camel-back
with the Arab caravans. Perched high in the air you feel as if you were
riding on a church steeple or an aeroplane and the swinging, swaying
motion after you become used to it is as good as that of a pleasure yacht
in New York Bay when the wind is blowing. Then you feel like singing with
the Arab poet:

    “Roast meat and milk; the swinging ride
    On a camel sure and tried,
    Which her master speeds amain
    O’er low dale and level plain.”

[Illustration: A caravan from Yemen bringing in hides for American kid

There are two lessons we can learn from the camel, and I think all the
boys and girls who read this chapter will like to know them. The first
is, _how to bear a burden_ and never complain. The secret of carrying
this burden you will see when the caravan prepares for the long journey.
Every camel kneels down to receive its load in the morning; every camel
kneels down to have its load taken off in the evening. And that is why
he is able to carry his burden to the end of the desert road. How much
easier the great burden of a lost world in need of the Gospel could
be carried, if we all learned to kneel morning and evening! To kneel
and have the Master’s hand lay the burden on us, and the same hand
take it off. Then we would feel the responsibility, and yet not miss
the quietness and rest of real missionary service. Will you not kneel
to-night, and to-morrow, and ask Jesus to teach you this lesson? Because,
you know, the burden of these heathen lands is _very_ heavy. There is on
all of them, on Arabia too, the burden of sin, and of suffering, and of
sorrow. What an awful burden! And yet the Bible tells us, “Bear ye one
another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

The second lesson is that of _patience_, which is the chief virtue of
the camel, the most necessary virtue for every little missionary, and
absolutely necessary for every big missionary. As the long train of
camels goes on through the narrow sand path and between the thorn-shrubs
of the wilderness, step by step, without sound and without ceasing,
tramp, tramp, tramp, I have often thought of the text: “They shall walk
and not faint.” Patient walking is better than impatient hurrying, in
mission work and everything else. Patient waiting, too, you can learn
from the camel. To wait patiently for results and not to dig up the seed
we have sown before it sprouts. The Great Husbandman has long patience
over every seed that He sows; why should not we?

    “Let us, then, be up and doing,
      With a heart for any fate,
    Still achieving, still pursuing,
      Learn to labour and to wait.”



Those who think Arabia is a sandy desert with a few nomad tents and
camels and ostriches scattered over it, have never seen Yemen. Yemen is
the most fertile and most beautiful of all the provinces of Arabia. It
means _the right hand_, and this name was given it as one of good omen
by the early Arabs. It was called by the Romans _Arabia Felix_, or Happy
Arabia, to distinguish it from _Arabia Petrea_ (Stony Arabia) and _Arabia
Deserta_ (Desert Arabia).

Those who have never gone inland from Aden cannot imagine how very
different the hill country is from the torrid coast, but a journey of
even thirty miles inland is convincing. Corn never grew more luxuriantly
in Kansas or Iowa than in some of the valleys of Yemen. If the country
had a good government and the people were Christians, it would be one of
the happiest in the world; a country where the orange, lemon, quince,
grape, mango, plum, apricot, peach and apple yield their fruit in their
season; where you can also get pomegranates, figs, dates, plantains and
mulberries; a country where wheat, barley and coffee are staple products,
and where there is a glorious profusion of wild flowers—although the
camel drivers call it grass. Here one can see the nest of the oriole
hanging from the acacia tree, and wild doves chasing each other from
the clefts of the rocks, while farther up in the highlands, wild monkeys
sport among the foliage of the trees.

It was my privilege to make two journeys through Yemen to its beautiful
capital, Sanaa. On my first journey (1891) I went by the usual road from
Hodeida on the coast, but in 1893 I chose the unbeaten tracks from Aden
directly north, in order to see some of the places not yet visited and
meet the people.

At the time of my first and also of my second journey, the Arabs were in
rebellion against the Turks. They have been fighting them now for fifteen
years, trying to secure their independence, and this year the country is
more disturbed than ever, but the Arabs have no unity, no leadership,
and, worst of all, no artillery, and so the Turkish government succeeds
in crushing the rebellion time after time, and holding this province of
Arabia in her grasp.

It was five o’clock on Monday morning, July 2d, that I set off from Aden
with my camel boy Salih, and we did not stop until we reached the village
of Wahat, nearly at noon. Starting again at seven o’clock, we followed
the Arab custom of marching the whole night with the caravan. There was
no breeze, and it was very hot. Vegetation does not begin until you enter
Wady Merga. Here we had fresh dates, and made our camp under a big acacia
tree. The road begins to rise rapidly as we follow the Wady northwards,
and at midnight we pass Suk-el-Juma, or Friday market. This part of the
road, they tell us, is dangerous, and so the Bedouins who accompany our
eighty-two camel caravan swing the lighted wicks which they use to fire
their flint-lock shotguns. Only one man in the party had a Springfield
rifle. On July 4th we fell in with some Arabs who wanted to seize me as a
spy of the British government and keep me as a prisoner until money was
paid for my release. After some difficulty we persuaded them that I was
not a British subject, and that no money would be paid even if they kept
me a prisoner for many days.

The following day we had another adventure. Climbing up the valley and
past fields of verdure, where men were plowing and women were weeding the
gardens, we suddenly stumbled upon a Turkish castle, where an unmannerly
negro official was in charge. He said no strangers were allowed beyond
the Turkish frontier, seized all my baggage, confiscated my books and
maps, and sent me under guard to Taiz, the next important town. On the
afternoon of this same day, a heavy thunderstorm burst upon us from a
clear sky, the wind became a hurricane, some of the camels stampeded,
our umbrellas turned inside out, and, worst of all, a mountain torrent,
swollen by the sudden rains and hail, carried away a donkey and part of
our baggage. Drenched to the skin, we at last forced the camels up the
slope to the house of an Arab, and were hospitably entertained, around a
big fire which he built, on Arab coffee and sweetmeats.

We were now three thousand feet above sea level, and it was very cold
at night even in July. We pressed on the next day, travelling through a
country where every one fears his neighbour. I asked my guide why he had
not prayed since we left Wahat, and his answer was, “If I pray on the
road, my heart gets soft, and I fear to shoot an Arab robber because he
may be a Moslem.” We saw many centipedes and scorpions sleeping after
their rain bath, and warming themselves on the rocks. Every turn of the
road brought us in sight of new villages, and everywhere the peasants
have done their best to cultivate the soil by irrigation, until you
can count a dozen terraces one above the other up the mountainside, in
various shades of green of the different crops. Once and again we met
caravans going down to the coast, carrying coffee or sheep-hides, as you
see in the picture. One could hear the approach of a caravan by the camel
drivers’ song. In a high, monotonous key and with endless repetition,
they would sing verses like this about their camels:

    “O Lord, keep them from all dangers that pass,
    And make their long legs pillars of brass.”

Two days later we arrived at the interesting old town of Taiz, and I
think I was the first Western traveller to visit it since the days of
Niebuhr in 1763. While waiting for the governor to investigate the
seizure of my baggage and the question of my passport, I had a good
opportunity to study the town. Taiz has a population of about seven
thousand people; two or three very old mosques with minarets, a Jewish
synagogue, and a very respectable market. Just back of the town rises a
mountain called the Bride’s Castle, from the top of which you can see
clear across to the African coast. The Turkish government takes its own
time about such a little matter as the inspection of baggage and the
granting of a passport, and it was July 26th before I left Taiz. Even
then I was not released, but sent on from the local governor to the
capital under guard of a mounted trooper, who rode a beautiful horse,
while I followed on a mule. It was no hardship, however, to get away from
Taiz, and once more to breathe the country air and climb the mountain

A long day’s journey, always climbing up the mountainside, brought us to
Ibb, where my servant was imprisoned because he had told me the names of
the villages. After some difficulty he was released, but the incident
shows how suspicious the Turks are of strangers who travel in their
country. Twelve hours farther on we came to Yerim, an unhealthy town
situated near a marsh. It was July 29th, but the high elevation and the
rain-storms brought the temperature down to fifty-two degrees, which
was a great change from the temperature at Aden which, when I left, was
105 degrees in the shade. At another village, Maaber, even at noon the
temperature was not over fifty-six degrees, and we wrapped ourselves up
as though we were on a polar expedition. In these highlands of Yemen
snow falls during the winter season, and frost is common. Just after
leaving Yerim, we passed a large boulder on the road with an impression
in it as though it were of some one’s foot. The Arabs say it is that of
Ali, the grandson of Mohammed, who came along this road, and whenever
they pass it they anoint it with oil and stop to pray.

From Yerim on to Sanaa the plateau is more level. Wide fields of barley
and wheat took the place of coffee plantations, and the funniest sight
we saw was camels hitched up for plowing. What with their long necks and
queer harness, so much too big for the job, it was an odd sight. Damar,
a large town with three mosques and houses built of stone, was our next
stopping place. From Damar to Waalan was thirty-five miles, and then to
Sanaa eighteen miles more. The roads here are splendid and are kept in
good repair for the sake of the Turkish artillery, although there are no
carriages nor horses in use.

On Thursday, August 2d, I entered Sanaa by the Yemen gate. Three years
before I entered the same city from the other side, coming from Hodeida.
Handed over to the care of a policeman, I waited for the governor to hear
my case, and after finding an old Greek friend who knew me in Aden, and
offered to go bail, I was allowed liberty, and for nineteen days was busy
seeing the city and visiting the Arabs. We shall hear more of Sanaa in
a following chapter. I forgot to say that at Yerim, while sleeping in
the coffee shop, I was robbed of all my money, and so I ended my zigzag
journey not only tired out, but a pauper; and if I had not pawned my
watch and coat, I would have been in debt to the hotel keeper. Pioneer
journeys in Topsy Turvy Land are not without difficulty.



The Arabs are a very old-fashioned people. In fact, their customs have
not changed since the time that Ishmael as a boy went with his mother
Hagar on the camels and landed somewhere in Arabia. I suppose that even
in those old times the Arabs and the Syrians kept a weekly market where
all the people from all the villages came together to barter their wares,
to shake hands and make acquaintance and go back with a larger idea of
their small world. The custom of holding weekly markets on a special day
of the week even in the smallest villages is still common in Arabia. In
fact, there are villages that take their name from a market day, and
are called “Thursday” or “Saturday” because on those days of the week
the village takes on an air of importance and doubles in population.
The Arabs, however, do not have the same names for the days of the week
that we have. Instead of naming them after idols, Thursday after Thor
and Wednesday after the old god Woden, they number the days of the week
just as in the first chapter of Genesis, and have “The First Day,” “The
Second Day,” etc. The only exception is Friday which is the sacred day
of the week and the Mohammedan Sabbath and is named “The Day of the
Congregation” because then they all go to the markets to pray and hear a

A busy market is held at “Suk el Khamis” every Thursday all the year
round, rain or shine (and it generally is shine in Arabia), out in the
open air near the ruins of an old mosque about three miles distant from
Menama village at Bahrein where the missionaries live. The two tall
minarets on the mosque can be seen from the market. It is one of the
oldest mosques in East Arabia, and was built several hundred years ago
and rebuilt several times. Now it is no longer used to pray in nor does
the call to prayer ever ring out from the minarets. The fret is that one
Moslem sect after another took possession of the building, and in the
religious disputes that arose the building itself went into decay. One
part of the mosque is now used for a goat pen. The gray square stones of
which the mosque was once built are scattered about and serve as seats
for visitors, and every traveller who visits Bahrein climbs up one of the
minarets and gets a fine view of the islands. If you can read the old
writing carved on the stones in Arabic script, you can see how often this
mosque has changed hands between the rival parties in the Moslem world
called Shiahs and Sunnis, and if you should ever visit the missionary
rooms of the Reformed Church in New York, the secretary there can show
you a gavel or mallet made from a beam of wood which was once in the roof
of this very mosque. A piece of the old beam fell to the ground and
was made into a mallet to show that the religion of Islam in Arabia is
decaying and that missionaries to Moslems need not be afraid to enter the
country of Mohammed.

Every Thursday morning the plain around this mosque is a busy scene. How
often I have ridden down to this market on a donkey or walked in the heat
of the sun and have seen a thousand or more people crowded together in
all their bright coloured garments, men and women and children, busily
engaged in trade, in play, or in quarrels over the price of an article!
One man, perhaps, brings a load of water jars from the village of Ali.
Another has a big donkey load of ropes or mats for sale, and still
another brings great baskets of melons, pomegranates, dates, limes and
vegetables. Women, covered over with their heavy black veils and looking
very mischievously through little peep holes for their eyes, crouch on
the ground before their little open-air stands where they sell cheap
jewelry and trinkets or tiny bottles of perfume and black antimony
powder, which the Arab girls use for their eyes.

The barber is also busy and plies his razor with a deft hand while he
shaves the heads and beards of those who come, charging only a few
coppers for the job. The breadmaker arrives on the scene very early, and
builds his small open oven to bake his flap-cakes. He rolls the dough
on a board, flattens it out with his fingers and then tosses it against
the sides of the hot oven where it sticks fast and bakes into a large,
light, palatable cake. Oh, how good such Arab bread is when you are
hungry, or when you sit down to an Arab guest meal and have it served
with fresh butter and honey!

More numerous and more loud than all the others who come are the
half-naked Bedouins who come to sell a drove of sheep or barter for a
couple of camels. They are all there this morning:

    “Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief;
    Doctor, lawyer, merchant, chief;
    Butcher, baker and candlestick maker.”

And if the candlestick maker, who sells more candles than candlesticks,
is present, why should the missionary, who is sent to bring the Light of
Life to men, be absent?

As often as possible therefore we visit this market-place, and sell
books and Bibles or preach to those who will listen. It is not at all an
easy place to sell or to preach, but those who come there witness fine,
splendid opportunities to meet men face to face, to get acquainted and to
renew old acquaintance with villagers who come from distant parts of the
Bahrein Island group. Here it is that many a gospel portion has exchanged
hands and many a story of the power of Christ has been sowed as good seed
in the hearts of the Arabs in the hope that God would use it to make
them think of Jesus Christ as their Saviour. If books are sold they are
often carried from here to distant villages, and it is possible to make
acquaintance here with Arabs who come from the mainland and are visiting
the islands, while one is sure to meet old friends who have not been able
to come to see you for a long time.

One merchant used to keep a dry-goods stand and was one of the few
Moslems in the early days of our work who was always glad to welcome a
missionary. When the sun was very hot the shelter of his mat-screen was
a nice shady nook to sit down in and talk with wayfarers. Right near
the tall minarets we sometimes discuss the Koran and its teachings, and
tell the Arabs how the book of Mohammed is really a finger-post pointing
them to the Gospel and to Jesus Christ, the Great Prophet Who is alive
forevermore. Will you not pray that every Thursday God will bless this
little acre, the market-place of Suk el Khamis, where we sow the seed of
God’s Own Word, waiting for the harvest?

    “Sowing the seed with an aching heart,
    Sowing the seed while the tear-drops start,
    Sowing the seed till the reapers come
    Gladly to gather the harvest home;
    Gathered in time or eternity,
    Sure, ah sure, will the harvest be.”



You have all read the story given in 1 Kings x. of the Queen of Sheba and
her visit to Solomon of whose fame she had heard in her distant kingdom
in Southwest Arabia, but the story as told in Mohammed’s Bible, the
Koran, is very different, and has many curious fables mixed up with it.
It is found in the chapter called “The Ant,” and this is how he tells it.

“We heretofore bestowed knowledge on David and Solomon: and they said,
Praise be unto God, who hath made us more excellent than many of His
faithful servants! And Solomon was David’s heir; and he said, O men, we
have been taught the speech of birds, and have had all things bestowed
on us; this is manifest excellence. And his armies were gathered
together unto Solomon, consisting of genii, and men and birds; and they
were led in distinct bands, until they came unto the valley of ants.
And an ant, seeing the hosts approaching, said, O ants, enter ye into
your habitations, lest Solomon and his army tread you under feet, and
perceive it not. And Solomon smiled, laughing at her words, and said,
O Lord, excite me that I may be thankful for Thy favour wherewith Thou
hast favoured me and my parents; and that I may do that which is right
and well-pleasing unto Thee; and introduce me, through Thy mercy, into
Paradise, among Thy servants the righteous. And he viewed the birds,
and said, What is the reason that I see not the lapwing? Is she absent?
Verily I will chastise her with a severe chastisement, or I will put
her to death, unless she bring me a just excuse. And she tarried not
long before she presented herself unto Solomon, and said, I have viewed
a country which thou hast not viewed; and I come unto thee from Saba,
with a certain piece of news. I found a woman to reign over them, who is
provided with everything requisite for a prince, and hath a magnificent
throne. I found her and her people to worship the sun, besides God.”

The Koran then goes on to tell how Solomon sent her a letter, and she
sent ambassadors to him, and finally asked one of his terrible jinn to
bring her to him, throne and all, from Southwest Arabia. He did it in
the twinkling of an eye, and after she saw Solomon and his glory she was
converted to his religion!

Although this latter story of the Queen of Sheba is evidently fabulous,
there is no doubt that the Bible story is true, because recent explorers
have visited the country of the Queen of Sheba and her old capital Marib,
a short distance east of Sanaa, and have brought back inscriptions which
tell of the ancient glory of her kingdom. In the Old Testament the
Sabaeans lived in Sheba, and their caravans brought gold and precious
stones and spices into distant lands. (See Job vi. 19; Ezek. xxvii. 22,
and Psalm lxxii. 10.)

On my first and second visit to Sanaa, the high mountain capital of
all Yemen, I was privileged to look over into the borders of the
country where the Queen of Sheba lived, and on the journey described
in Chapter III I probably travelled from the coast by the same road
which was used in the days of Solomon. It is not easy to build roads in
so mountainous a country. Everywhere one can see the ruins of the old
Himyarite civilization which flourished here from the time of Solomon
until the Christian era. Some of the roads undoubtedly have been kept in
repair ever since they were built along the mountainside by these early
engineers. Stone bridges across torrent beds, tanks for holding water,
and old castles with inscriptions in the strange language, still witness
to the strength and vigour of this old empire. The accompanying picture
is not that of the Queen of Sheba herself, but is undoubtedly that of
a princess in the Sheba country. It was found among many, many other
inscriptions and carvings in the land south of Marib, the old capital,
where the famous dyke was built which was destroyed by a flood. When
you study the picture, you will notice that the woman’s dress, with its
ornaments and without a veil, the use of a throne, the carved pillars,
and the page boys (or are they girls?) in waiting, are all so very
different from the Arabia of to-day. The picture is also interesting
when we remember how the early travellers and scientists who copied or
brought back these famous inscriptions have confirmed the history of the
Old Testament and its many references to South Arabia. One of them says:
“The Queen of Sheba proved Solomon with hard questions, all of which in
his wisdom he answered her. Now we who study the Old Testament, reversing
the process, go to the wonderland of that queen with a multitude of
inquiries, to many of which it has already given us a satisfactory reply.”

The capital of the Queen of Sheba, Marib, is largely in ruins, but
something of the glory of the old civilization still lingers at Sanaa,
which is at once one of the most beautiful and one of the most ancient
cities of Arabia, built before the time of Solomon. It lies in a wide
valley 7,250 feet above sea level. Jebel Nakum, with its marble quarries,
rises abruptly like a fortress, just east of the city. The town is
surrounded by a high wall, and has four gates. The houses are many of
them four and five stories high, built of stone, and as they have no
window-glass, they use slabs of alabaster instead. The population of the
city is about fifty thousand, of whom more than twenty thousand are Jews.

[Illustration: A picture carved in stone 2,000 years old, with its
inscription, from the land of Sheba]

My first visit to the city was in 1891, and the second in 1894. The first
time I came straight up from Hodeida through Menakha, and in four days
reached the city. The second journey was from Aden northward, leaving on
July 2d, but what with delays and accidents and imprisonment by the Turks
at Taiz, I did not reach Yemen’s capital until the 2d of August. The most
surprising thing about Sanaa is not its old ruins, nor the wonderful
fertility of the country round about, but the interesting character of
its population. Here was a large city full of Jews who came to this part
of the world, as they themselves testified, long before the destruction
of Jerusalem; Greek merchants were carrying on a brisk trade in all the
manufactured articles of Europe with the Arabs of the interior; Turkish
army officials in splendid uniform trying in vain, as they are to-day,
with their regiments of Turkish troops to put down Arab rebellions; and
then the Arabs themselves, men, women and children, strong mountaineers,
with love for liberty and heartily despising the government of which they
are unwilling subjects.

Looking northward from this city you can see the highlands of Asir and
the distant road that leads through Nejran. All this country was once
Christian, and in Sanaa itself stood the great cathedral built by the
Abyssinian king, Abraha, about the time when Mohammed was born. From
Sanaa he led his army to Mecca, hoping to take the city and convert it
to the Christian faith, but he was not successful. In the Koran chapter
of “The Elephant,” you may read how the Christians were defeated when
smallpox broke out among them. Standing on the slopes of Jebel Nakum
and looking eastward, the country of the Queen of Sheba is spread out
before you. You can imagine I was very sorry that, having been robbed
of all my money on the way, it was impossible to carry out my plan of
going from Sanaa to Marib, and from there right across Arabia to Bahrein.
Perhaps some of you who read these lines will be privileged to make this
journey. If you are, you will pass through some of the most interesting
ruins in the world, and the hardships of a camel journey will be
abundantly compensated by what you see on the road.



Nearly all of the people who live in the country of the camel are
Mohammedans, but it was not always so. Before the days of Mohammed, the
prophet, there were very many Christians in Arabia and also many Jews.
The former lived mostly in the southern part of the great peninsula,
but the Jews had large settlements not only in the country of the Queen
of Sheba—of which we have heard—but also at Mecca and Medina, which
are now the two sacred cities, and especially in the country north of
Medina, Kheibar. Some of these children of Israel came to Arabia at the
time of the captivity when they were driven from their own country by
persecution, and settled down in the rich and fertile valleys of Nejran
and on the hills of Yemen. Others came to Arabia about the time when
Jesus Christ was born.

There are Jews in Arabia still but not nearly as many as in the olden
time. Their condition, too, is very sad and they are often sorely
oppressed by the Moslems. There is no missionary working among them at
present, although they have been visited by colporteurs who brought
them the New Testament in the Hebrew language so that they might read
for themselves the story of the Saviour Jesus Christ. I once had the
pleasure of talking to a large company of Jews in the capital city of
Yemen, Sanaa, and it was very touching to realize that these Jews were
not of the number whose ancestors rejected Jesus and led Him out to be
crucified, because as they themselves told me their forefathers had left
the Holy Land many, many years before Jesus was born at Bethlehem.

But I want to tell you about the Jews of Kheibar. Northeast of the city
where Mohammed lies buried, Medina, there is a barren stretch of rocky
country and in the midst of it a valley where there are some springs
of water and where with great toil it is possible to produce some
vegetation. Here it was that thousands of Jews settled in the days before
Mohammed, tilled the soil and lived happily until the Arabian prophet
with his fierce warriors came preaching a new religion and filling the
valley with the dead bodies of those who would not accept it.

[Illustration: THE CASTLE OF KHEIBAR.]

You may read the story of this expedition of Mohammed in the history
of his life. So bloody was the battle fought between the Jews and the
Moslems that the Bedouins of that region when they see the iron rust
on the banks of the brooks still say: “Look how the earth is purging
itself of the much blood of the Jews that was spilled in the conquest
of Kheibar.” According to the stories told by the Arab writers it was
a desperate struggle. The Jews did not give Mohammed, the prophet, any
easy victory. To defend themselves against Bedouin robbers and against
assault they had built in the midst of their valley several castles
or forts, one of which was so wonderful that it has very often been
celebrated among the Arabs. It was called the Castle of Kheibar or
Kamoos. An old Jewish warrior told the people that if they would build
a fort in exact obedience to his written command it would be so strong
that no enemy could overcome them or enter the fort. And these were his
instructions: “Build the castle with eight gates and only one entrance;
the walls eightfold and square; the entrance from the fifth; the second,
the fourth; the third, the first; the fourth, the second; the fifth, the
third; the sixth and seventh and eighth unchanged.” I will not leave
you to puzzle over these strange instructions. An Arab friend of mine
who told me the story drew the castle for me and here you have it. If
you will try to find your way to the keep of the castle where the Jews
defended themselves, you will agree that it is not surprising that it
took Mohammed twenty days to storm it. When the castle was taken, the
booty divided and the captives slain in a most cruel manner, Mohammed
took Safia, the widow of the chief of Kheibar to his tent as his captive.
Zainab, the sister of the warrior who fought against Mohammed and who
herself had lost her brother, her husband and her father in the battle,
tried the next day to kill the prophet of Arabia by sending him some
mutton into which she had put poison, but her attempt at vengeance was
not successful. The Moslems say it was a miracle that their prophet

The conquest of the Jews was complete, for all the Jews that escaped
from the siege of Kheibar were obliged to turn Moslems and there never
was freedom for the Jew again in all Arabia. They are generally heavily
taxed, have no redress against abuse and repression and are looked down
upon by all the Moslem population. In the capital city of Sanaa they are
not even allowed to carry arms or to ride in the streets. They must live
in a separate part of the town and draw water from wells of their own.

[Illustration: Water carts used at Aden to bring water from the wells to
the city]

At Aden and in other parts of British Arabia the Jews are prosperous, but
everywhere else their lot is not a happy one. The total number of Jews in
Arabia is perhaps two hundred thousand. One half of them at present live
in Yemen and the rest mostly in Bagdad and Busrah.

The traveller who goes on shore at Aden on his way to India never fails
to meet the Jews. In fact, they besiege every passing steamer and are
anxious to sell their wares, ostrich eggs, ostrich feathers, coins, and
curios. You can at once tell them from their peculiar habit of wearing
two locks of hair in front of their ears. Many of the Jews in Arabia are
utterly given over to money getting and worldly pleasures, but others are
strong in their religion and look forward still for the hope of Israel.
They are always glad to purchase the Hebrew Bible and to send their
children to school.

Pray for this despised and rejected people there in Arabia and everywhere
that more may be done for their salvation and that missionaries may be
sent to work especially for these “lost sheep of the house of Israel” who
have so long been living in the tents of Ishmael! Perhaps God wants one
of you to come out and tell them the story of Jesus Christ Who must love
them more than we do as He is one of themselves.



Did you ever see a woman or a girl dressed in such a strange way as the
one in the picture? Of course you know that Moslem women wear veils, but
this veil is like a window-casing with the panes of glass knocked out.
It is made of stiff cloth, heavily embroidered, sometimes with gilt or
silver embroidery, and has a nose piece and strings to fasten around the
head. In addition to this curious veil you notice that she has three
bracelets on each arm, and you can get a glimpse of her nose jewel
hanging underneath the veil. Of course she wears earrings and anklets.
The most conspicuous part of her jewelry, however, is the amulet case
which hangs by a silver chain from around her neck, and has beautiful
bangles attached to it below. Nearly every one in Topsy Turvy Land wears
amulets. They are worn not for ornament, but for protection, and no one
would think of leaving them at home if he went on a journey.

[Illustration: A Woman of the Hill Tribes, showing veil and amulets worn]

Amulets and charms are worn not only by the Arabs themselves and to
protect their children from the evil eye, but they are put over the doors
of their houses, and hung on camels, donkeys, horses, fishing boats,
in fact, anywhere and everywhere to ward off danger and death. Only
yesterday a little boy came to our church service, whose mother is still
a Moslem, and he had hanging from his neck a whole collection of curious
things, beads, bones, sacred relics, etc., all to protect him from the
evil eye.

All sorts of things are used as amulets in Arabia, and their use is
justified by the saying of Mohammed himself: “There is no wrong in using
charms and spells so long as you do not associate anything with God.”
The most common things used as amulets are a small Koran suspended in
a silver case; words from the Koran written on paper and carried in a
leather receptacle; the names of Allah or their numerical value; the
names of Mohammed and his companions; precious stones with or without
inscriptions; beads; old coins; clay images; the teeth of wild animals;
holy earth from Mecca or Kerbela in the shape of tiny bricks, or in
small bags. When the Kaaba covering at Mecca is taken down each year and
renewed, the old cloth is cut up into small pieces and sold for charms.

The women in Mecca use an amulet of special power called “Mishkash,”
which is supposed to exercise its virtue for the increase of the family.
The “Mishkash” is really a copy of an old Venetian coin, representing the
Duke of Venice kneeling before St. Mark on the one side, and on the other
side is the image of Christ surrounded by stars. Of course the women
themselves are in total ignorance of the inscription on the coin and of
its Christian character.

According to the principles of Islam only verses from the Koran should
be used, but the door of superstition once being set ajar by Mohammed
himself, as we know from the story of his life, it is now wide open. The
chapters from the Koran which are most often selected for use as amulets
and put in the little cases shown in the picture are Surahs I, VI, XVIII,
XXXVI, XLIV, LV, LXVII, LXXVIII. There are five verses in the Koran
called the verses of protection, “Ayat-el-Hifdh,” which are the most
powerful to defend from evil. They read as follows: “The preservation of
heaven and earth is no burden unto Him;” “God is the best protector;”
“They guard him by the command of God;” “We guard him from every stoned
devil;” “A protection from every rebellious devil.” These verses are
written with great care and with a special kind of ink by those who
deal in amulets, and are then sold for a good price to Moslem women and
children. The ink used for writing amulets is saffron water, the juice of
onions, water from the sacred well of Zem Zem, and sometimes even human
blood. It is very important that the one who writes the amulet be a holy
man in the Moslem sense of that word. We are told in Arabic books on the
subject (and these books are printed by the thousands) that “The diet of
the one who prepares charms depends on the kind of names of God which he
intends to write or recite. If they are the terrible attributes of Allah,
then he must refrain from the use of meat, fish, eggs, honey and musk.
If they are His amiable attributes, he must abstain from butter, curds,
vinegar, salt and ambergris.”

A favourite kind of amulet is called the magic square, and I have drawn
one here for you. Most of the Arabs believe that there are only four
elements, earth, air, fire and water, and under these four names they
have numerical squares, as you see them, of the numbers one to sixteen,
and whichever way you add the columns up and down or across the total is
always thirty-four. Try it.

            EARTH                 WATER

    +----+----+----+----+  +----+----+----+----+
    |  8 | 11 | 14 |  1 |  | 14 |  4 |  1 | 15 |
    +----+----+----+----+  +----+----+----+----+
    | 13 |  2 |  7 | 12 |  |  7 |  9 | 12 |  6 |
    +----+----+----+----+  +----+----+----+----+
    |  3 | 16 |  9 |  6 |  | 11 |  5 |  8 | 10 |
    +----+----+----+----+  +----+----+----+----+
    | 10 |  5 |  4 | 15 |  |  2 | 16 | 13 |  3 |
    +----+----+----+----+  +----+----+----+----+

             AIR                   FIRE

    +----+----+----+----+  +----+----+----+----+
    | 15 |  1 |  4 | 14 |  |  1 | 14 | 15 |  4 |
    +----+----+----+----+  +----+----+----+----+
    | 10 |  8 |  5 | 11 |  |  8 | 11 | 10 |  5 |
    +----+----+----+----+  +----+----+----+----+
    |  6 | 12 |  9 |  7 |  | 12 |  7 |  6 |  9 |
    +----+----+----+----+  +----+----+----+----+
    |  3 | 13 | 16 |  2 |  | 13 |  2 |  3 | 16 |
    +----+----+----+----+  +----+----+----+----+

Among the Shiah Moslems, whom we meet everywhere in East Arabia, the most
common amulet is called _Nadi-Ali_. It consists generally of a lead or
silver plate with little bells at the bottom, inscribed with these words:

    “Cry aloud to Ali; he is the possessor of wonders,
    From him you will find help from trouble.
    He takes away very quickly all grief and anxiety
    By the mission of Mohammed and his own sanctity.”

There are innumerable cases where such amulets are used for the cure of
disease. The native doctors firmly believe that when every remedy fails,
the book of Allah, if properly administered, internally or externally,
will drive away pain and cure the patient.

The hospitals and book-shops and schools will doubtless in time drive out
the use of amulets in Arabia, and the march of civilization, with its
modern scientific miracles and spirit of investigation, is also a means
to that end. Nevertheless, I have known of cases where printed Arabic
gospels were bought to be used as amulets and where patients tried to rub
off ink from the printed paper used to wrap powders in at the hospital,
in order to drink the solution as a remedy.

There are other things in Arabia which, though not amulets, will strike
you as very strange. First there is the market basket, deftly woven out
of palm leaves. When this is smeared with bitumen inside, it will hold
water as well as an American pail or a bucket. The Arab broom is made of
palm leaf fibre, with a short handle, and the dish cover below it is also
made of palm fibre and rope, and is beautifully stained with colours,
and when they bring in a dish of Hassa dates to entertain guests, such a
cover is always put on to protect it from the flies.

The sewing basket and the fan and the woman’s sandals are also very
interesting. The men’s sandals, as well as the women’s sandals, have a
peg or leather thong, which goes between the big toe and the one next
to it, and by which they cling to their footgear in a way that would
surprise you. Because the women’s slippers are made of wood, you can hear
their footsteps when they are a great way off, and the clap-clap of the
women’s sandals is a familiar sound to all of us here in Arabia.

What do you think of their beautiful furniture? There are small tables
used to hold water jars or trays of food, and folding bookstands cleverly
made out of one piece of hard wood that fold up for a journey. Larger
bookstands are made of date sticks and are strong enough to support a
big volume of the Koran. The Arabs love to sit and swing back and forth
as they chant its chapters. And lastly is something that looks very much
like an amulet, but which is a traveller’s bag for bread and dates, often
fastened to the camel saddle by leather thongs. Bread or dates kept in
such a receptacle will keep moist for many, many hours in the hot, dry
climate of Arabia.

The Arabs are not skilled as the Japanese and Chinese are with tools,
nor are they much given to art of any kind, but you must admit that
such every-day things are many of them artistic and some of them really



The Ten Commandments were written on two tables of stone but these
original stones are lost; the High Priest Aaron had twelve most precious
stones in his breast plate when he went into the holy place to minister;
Jacob placed a stone for a pillow when he fled from his brother, but no
one has found this old memorial. Many other wonderful stones are held
almost sacred because of past history. Stone worship is one of the oldest
forms of idolatry. The old Druid stone in England, where the priests
offered sacrifice during their worship and where even human blood was
spilt in the name of religion, are examples.

Plymouth Rock is also a famous stone from its part in history. It marks
the place where the Pilgrim fathers landed in 1620. There have also been
precious stones which have had a remarkable history and for which much
money and often life was sacrificed, and then none of the boys can forget
the pebble which David found in the brook and which was the weapon of his
victory over great Goliath.

But the most wonderful stone in the world to-day is none of these that I
have told you of. It is the Black Stone of the old idol temple in Arabia,
now the centre of Mohammedan worship.

[Illustration: Every-day things in Arabia]

The greater number of the tribes of Arabia in Mohammed’s day, if they had
any religion at all, were little better than fetich worshippers, each
tribe having its own idol or god, which in many cases was some peculiar
tree or rock in their territory, around which they built rude shrines,
and to which they made pilgrimages. From time immemorial, however, there
was one fetich which the whole race seemed to regard as peculiarly
sacred, and that was the Kaaba, or sacred stone of Mecca. It is probable
that this stone was a shooting star, which, falling from heaven in the
presence of spectators, became ever after an object of superstitious
veneration, just as the stone of Diana of Ephesus became the centre
of worship for the Greek world. The tribe to which Mohammed belonged
had held for several generations the office of stewards to this great
national shrine, to encourage the flocking of pilgrims to the Kaaba. From
this source the wealthy families of Mecca got the great part of their
money. They admitted impartially figures of all the idols of the tribes
from one end of Arabia to the other, so that each man might feel at home
when he arrived there for his devotions.

When Mohammed had fully established his new religion he turned out all
the old deities except the Black Stone, which he himself worshipped, and
concerning which worship he left minute directions for his followers.
Such was the inconsistency of the prophet whose creed was “There is no
god but Allah.” The object of the pilgrimage as instituted by Mohammed
was to worship the Sacred Mosque and Kaaba. According to Moslem writers,
the Kaaba was built by Adam, exactly under the spot occupied by God’s
throne in heaven. It is an oblong building in the centre of the mosque,
covered with a black cloth, and in it is the sacred Black Stone which
came down from heaven snow-white, and was turned black by the sins of the

The Black Stone is located on the southeast corner of the Kaaba, about
five feet from the ground. It is probably an aerolite, black and
sprinkled with lighter patches and came down as a falling star. Many
years after Mohammed’s death it was stolen by some of the Arabs on the
Persian Gulf and carried across the desert to Katif; when it was carried
back again it fell from the camel on its long journey and was broken. Now
a silver band holds the pieces together and the whole stone is imbedded
in the wall.

[Illustration: The Black Stone at Mecca]

It is necessary for every Moslem to visit Mecca at least once during
his lifetime. When all these pilgrims arrive within a short distance of
the Holy City, they must put off their every-day clothing and put on
the pilgrim garb, which consists of two pieces of white cloth,—one tied
around the loins and the other drawn over the shoulders, under their arm,
leaving one shoulder bare. The pilgrims are allowed to wear sandals, but
not shoes. Thus clad every one goes in turn to the sacred well of Zem
Zem, washes his whole body with a pailful of the water, and then drinks
as much as he cares. Then he enters the “door of peace” and kisses the
most wonderful stone in the world, running around the Kaaba seven times
and each time when he passes the stone he strokes it with his hand or
kisses it. After this all the Moslem pilgrims say the regular prayer and

The next day, those who are seeking Paradise along the zigzag road of
Mohammed’s religion must do other things as well. They must visit the
place where Abraham is supposed to have stood, when he rebuilt the Kaaba.
Then they must run between the mountains of Safa and Milra, two little
hills near Mecca, and do other things every day until the sixth day, when
all the pilgrims surround the Kaaba as they did on the first day. On the
seventh day the sermon is preached from the great pulpit in the middle of
the building. The preacher no doubt urges all those who are present to
persevere in their religion and make converts among the nations. It is a
large gathering indeed which comes to Mecca. Between seventy and eighty
thousand people travel every year to visit the city from every part of
the Moslem world,—Europe, Asia, Africa and the islands of the sea. After
the sermon is over two more days are spent in various visits to sacred
places around Mecca and then comes the greatest day of all, which is
celebrated all over the Moslem world, namely, the day of Sacrifice.

Although Mohammedans deny the death of Christ and the need of an
atonement for sin, it is strange that this great feast should still
be a feast of sacrifice, like that of the Jews of old. Every earnest
believer takes a goat, a sheep or a camel, places it so as to face the
Kaaba and plunges a knife into its throat as he cries out—“God is great
and Mohammed is His apostle.” When the sacrifice is over the pilgrim
is allowed again to shave his beard and trim his nails and put on his
ordinary clothing, all of which was forbidden during the ten days of
pilgrimage. He is also given a certificate stating that he has finished
the pilgrimage and is now ready for Paradise, or words to that effect.

The most of the pilgrims who come back from Mecca are not any better
for going, because the city is the centre not only of diseases such as
cholera and plague, which cause the death of many, but is also the centre
of immorality and wickedness.

Although travellers have visited Mecca by pretending to be Mohammedans
and at the risk of their lives, no Christian, were he known to be so,
would be allowed to enter the sacred city. The first European to visit
Mecca was an English sailor boy, called Joseph Pitts, who was captured as
a slave in Algiers and taken to Mecca against his will. He was forced to
become a Moslem, but afterwards escaped to England and wrote a book on
what he had seen.

[Illustration: Opening of the Hedjaz Railway]

The new railroad which is now being built by the Turkish government from
Damascus to Medina and on to Mecca will soon be completed, and who can
say whether it will not open up the whole country to the Gospel? A big
American locomotive will soon be puffing steam and sounding its whistle
right near the Kaaba, over against the most wonderful stone in the world.



If one could have all the boys of the world pass by in single file and
take down their names one by one, there would be a great many who bore
the same name. Johns and Henrys and Carls and Hans there would be by the
thousands, but there would be no name which so many boys had in common, I
am sure, as the name of Mohammed. It is a very safe estimate to say that
there are living in the world to-day no less than five million boys and
men who bear that name.

Yet I wonder how many of you know who Mohammed was, where he lived and
died, and why he has such a world-wide reputation? He was a poor orphan;
his father died before he was born and his mother only a few years after,
but although he was so forlorn and lived in a very barren part of Arabia,
in one of the valleys of the city of Mecca, he had powerful relatives who
were kind to him and helped him. He was born in the year 570 A. D., about
a thousand years before Columbus discovered America. His mother’s name
was Amina, which means faithful.

There are many strange stories told about him when he was a boy. One
story is that while he was away in the desert with his foster brother,
living with the Arab tribes and growing strong by exercise and drinking
camels’ milk, one day two men dressed in white came and threw him on the
ground. They then took out his heart, by opening his breast, and squeezed
out a drop of black blood, and put the heart back again, closing up the
wound. The Arabs believe that in this way he got rid of his original sin
and was made pure. As a boy he was pleasing and industrious, and won the
name of “the faithful one.” However, at the time of Mohammed’s childhood,
morals and manners in Mecca were as bad as possible, and he did not have
many good influences to help him in the right way.

When he was about twelve years old, his uncle, Abu-Talib, took him along
on a journey to Syria, as far as Bozra, a town that is mentioned in the
Bible, and not the same as Busrah on the Persian Gulf. This journey
lasted for some months, and it was at this time that Mohammed met a
Christian monk, who, it is reported, told Abu-Talib to take good care of
the youth, for great dignity awaited him.

On this journey Mohammed for the first time came in touch with
Christianity, and was surely impressed by the national and social customs
of Christians; and being a bright boy, he was easily able to see the
difference between the habits and religion of his own nation and those of
the Christians. It was after this journey that he was anxious to reform
the dreadful idolatry and wicked ways of the Arabian people. From the
age of twelve to twenty he lived in the usual manner of the boys of his
day, tending sheep on the hillsides and valleys of Mecca, and he was
so honest and pure and fair during these years, and such a contrast to
those around him, that everybody gave him the name I told you of—Al Amin,
_i. e._, “the faithful.” During this time, too, he learned something of
what war was like, for he went with his uncles on two expeditions to
fight against another tribe. When Mohammed was twenty-five years old,
his uncle suggested that he should take charge of a caravan for a rich
lady living in Mecca, and trading products of Mecca for other things from
Syria and other parts of Arabia. On this journey Mohammed again came in
contact with Christians and Jews, and he must have noticed, too, how,
while professing to serve and love the one true God, they always seemed
to be quarrelling about their religion. Perhaps he saw the truth in both
systems and afterwards thought he could make out of them one simple creed
and unite all mankind in the worship of the only true God.

After his return from this trip, he was married to Khadijah, by whom he
had been employed as camel driver, making zigzag journeys across the
country to sell and exchange his merchandise. After his marriage he lived
happily, so we are told, until his fortieth year, when he began to have
dreams, and became persuaded that God had called him to be a prophet.
Many verses of the Koran were recited and written down. Mohammed wanted
most of all at this time that his countrymen should put away their idols
and worship only Allah, but some of them were very angry and would have
killed him, if he had not hidden.

Mohammed and Khadijah had six children, but most of them died when they
were young. His daughter Fatimah, when she was old enough, was married
to her adopted brother, Ali; her name is very much honoured and used by
Moslems everywhere.

Sometimes Mohammed would have his dreams very often, and then again he
would go a long time without a revelation. But he began to believe in
himself and told his visions to others, and they too began to believe in
him as a prophet of God. His relatives were the first ones to come out
and follow the new religion. He wanted to take the idols out of the Kaaba
at Mecca, and preached against idolatry, and for this reason the keepers
of the Kaaba were very angry and persecuted him for his preaching. When
the persecution became too bad, he then recanted or withdrew some of
his statements in regard to the idols and the true worship, and he told
them he had had a vision or revelation that they might retain their most
important gods, or rather, the favourite ones. But after a few days he
repented of this leniency, and told the Meccans he had made a mistake and
all the idols must be destroyed, and they must worship Allah only. The
people began to treat him badly and they would have killed him if he had
not fled to Medina. The persecutors followed him and nearly overtook him,
when he came to a cave and slipped inside, and one tradition says that
after the prophet (on him be prayers and peace) had gone inside, some
pigeons came and sat on the edge of the cave; also a spider quickly wove
a web across the mouth of the cave and when his pursuers came and looked
they said: “He is not in there, for see the pigeons and the spider’s
web; he cannot be inside,” and thus God preserved the life of Mohammed.
Afterwards those men turned back, and he came out of the cave and went on
to Medina. And there his religion prospered, and Mohammed saw a vision
of the power he might hold, so little by little the stern purpose of his
life—to cleanse his people from idol worship—became weaker. He gave in,
here a little and there a little, and gave to his followers many harmful
privileges, which he said were revelations from the Angel Gabriel to him.
These same privileges have degraded the nations they have governed, and
the religion of the sword and of plunder appealed to the human heart more
than spiritual things possibly could. He soon gained many thousands of
followers, and grew strong and bold, and began to organize bands to go
out and kill and destroy all who would not follow the new religion.

[Illustration: When the Arabs return from pilgrimage, they load their
baggage on the poor, patient camel]

And thus the camel driver became a great prophet. His name to-day is
called out five times a day from the minarets (_i. e._, mosque steeples)
in Central Asia, along the shores of the Mediterranean, in the heart of
Africa, in India and the islands of the sea, as well as all over Arabia
and Persia and the Turkish Empire. And if you wish to help bring back
these nations to Jesus Christ and away from Mohammed, you must be up
with the muezzin before the dawn, and pray and call others to prayer
and work in earnest, so that the children of this generation may have
a chance to learn about our Saviour and theirs, and of all the helpful
things He has taught us.

    “Hark! ’Tis the muezzin’s cry;
      Pray, children, pray;
    Moslems in darkness lie,
      Pray, children, pray.
    Thousands in bondage die;
    O hear, while moments fly,
    Yours is a calling high:
      Pray, children, pray.”



The Arabs are a proud and noble race. They are proud of their liberty and
of their free open-air desert customs. They are proud of their religion
and of their prophet. They are proud of their history and of their
patriarchal descent. But most of all, they are proud of their language,
one of the oldest and most wonderful forms of human speech. Mohammed
himself in his Koran, which you know is the Moslem Bible, speaks of the
Arab tongue as “the language of the angels.” He and the Arabs believed
that Adam and Eve spake Arabic in Paradise, and that the language of
revelation in which God spoke to His prophets, Abraham, Moses and
Solomon, was none other than the language of the desert, the speech of
the Arabs.

One of the most learned Arabs who lived about three hundred years after
Mohammed said: “The wisdom of God hath come down upon three things:—the
brain of the Franks, the hand of the Chinese and the tongue of the
Arabs.” What this Arab philosopher meant was that while the people of
Europe are distinguished for their power of invention and discovery, the
Chinese are distinguished as artists and artisans, but the Arabs are all
of them born orators and poets. The people of Europe, he meant to say,
have brain power, the people of the Orient skill in handicraft, but the
Arabs, eloquence. If you will read the Book of Job, which was doubtless
written in Arabia and describes early Arabian life, or read the latter
chapters of Mohammed’s Koran, or better still some of the Arabian poetry,
you will appreciate the truth of this wonderful statement.

The first thing that is remarkable about the language of the Arabs is
its wide-spread use. Like English it has spilled itself all over the map
of the world, far beyond its original limits, and like English it was
carried by commerce and by conquest, by merchants and by missionaries.


Some time ago an American typewriter firm in advertising a machine with
Arabic characters made the statement that the Arabic alphabet is used by
more people than any other alphabet in the world. Some one thought that
this was an exaggeration, and asked a professor of languages, “How big
a lie is that?” He answered: “It is true.” The total population of all
the countries whose inhabitants use the Arabic “A B C”—if they use any
at all—is larger than the number of those who use the Latin alphabet or
the Chinese character. The Arabic Koran is read by the Moslem boys in the
day-schools not only of Arabia, but of Turkey, of Afghanistan, Persia,
Java, Sumatra, the whole of North Africa and throughout Central Asia.
In the Philippine Islands there are three hundred thousand Mohammedans
whose only alphabet came from Arabia, and as far west as the mosques of
Morocco the Arabic tongue has travelled and become the language of law
and commerce and religion.

When the early Arabs in their conquests crossed the strait between Africa
and Spain and conquered that country they left many words behind. And
therefore many of the place names in Spain to-day are Arabic. Gibraltar,
for example, is the corrupted form of Jebel Tarik, which means the
mountain of Tarik, the Arab general who first crossed the straits with
his soldiers. And Quadiliquiver, one of the rivers of Spain, should be
spelled Wady El Kebir, or the Big River.

Even the English language has a number of words that came as Arab guests
to the feast of reason and have been adopted into our family and put
into our dictionary. When you speak of _algebra_, _ciphers_, _zero_,
_alchemy_, _alcove_, _minaret_, _alcohol_, _coffee_, _sofa_, _amber_,
_artichokes_, _gazelles_ or _magazine_ you are using good Arabic words
which nearly every Arab would understand. To use these words, however,
is quite a different thing from speaking “the language of the angels”
correctly. It is easier to borrow a carpenter’s jack-knife than to
acquire his skill in building a house. Many languages have borrowed
from the Arabs and the Arabs have borrowed from them in return, but no
language is richer than the Arabic in its number of words.

Would you like to know how the boys and girls talk in Arabia? If you have
read “Topsy Turvy Land” you will remember how they write their words
backward and begin to read at what we call the end of the book. Their
talk as well as their writing seems to us at first very topsy turvy. Of
course, I need not tell you how much they talk, for in that respect they
are just like the boys and girls in America. As they speak a language,
however, very different from English, I am sure you would like to hear
a little about it. Arabic is one of the oldest and most beautiful
languages, and also one of the hardest to learn. It has so many words
that their name for a dictionary is “Kamoos,” which means “an ocean.”
They have five hundred different names for a lion and two hundred words
for serpent. It is said that there are one thousand different terms in
Arabic for _sword_, and eighty different words for _honey_.

Like English the Arabic language has grammar with many rules (and more
exceptions) and the boys dislike it just as much as some of you do. They
have a severe struggle with the alphabet because each letter has three
different forms, as it is used in the beginning, the middle or the end of
a word; and then there are but fifteen conjugations and twenty different
ways of forming the plural, not to speak of all the moods and tenses and
the irregular verbs.

Some people think that Arabic is the most difficult language in the
world. Keith Falconer, the first missionary to Arabia, said, “Arabic
grammars should be strongly bound because learners are so often found to
dash them frantically on the ground.” Another missionary said that he
would rather cross Africa from Alexandria to the Cape of Good Hope than
undertake a second time to master the Arabic speech.

I shall never forget my early struggles with the language, nor the place
where I sat down to learn my lesson with Dr. Cornelius Van Dyke. He was a
master of Arabic and with Dr. Eli Smith translated the whole Bible into
the Arabic speech. Here it was in the shade of his beautiful veranda at
Beirut, Syria, that I began to learn the irregular verb. It takes a long
time for grown-up people to learn a new language, but it does not seem
hard for the Arab boys and girls.

Beside the proper talk of grown-up people there is baby talk in Arabia
which mothers teach the little brown toddlers before they walk out of the
mat-huts and the black, camel-hair tents into the wide world. Yes, and
there are also slang words which the camel drivers and the donkey boys
use with and on each other.

The baby talk is much like English. Father is _baba_; dog is _wowwow_;
pretty is _noonoo_; stop is _tootoo_; chicken is _kookoo_, and when baby
falls they say _baff_!

The language of these little angels and the grown-up ones in Arabia
is very poetical. The Arabs, because they live in the desert and look
up into the big, blue sky and far out to the horizon where the mirage
paints desert pictures every day, are full of imagination and live in an
atmosphere of poetry. They love jingling words and proverbs and pretty
sayings and figures of speech.

A mosquito has only a sting in New Jersey. In Arabia they call him _aboo
fas_, which means “father-of-an-ax”! In America a tramp is a tramp, but
the Arabs call him a _son-of-the-road_. And what could be prettier than
their name for echo, _bint-el-jebel_, “daughter of the mountain”? Why,
there is a whole fairy story in that one word! And if you go down the
columns of the Arabic dictionary you can find many a story locked up in
some word and only waiting to be opened.

In North Arabia when they say, “How-do-you-do,” the proper expression is,
“What is the colour of your condition?” This may be philosophical, but
it does not make good sense in English. Strawberries are called _French
mulberries_, and the name given to potatoes when first brought to Bahrein
was _aliyeywellam_; why this name was given, I cannot tell. Where could
you find a better name for wine than the Arab _um-el-khabaith_, “mother
of vices”? No wonder all the Arab children are staunch prohibitionists.
And you will know more about the nights in Arabia when I tell you that
the common name for jackal is “_son-of-howling_”!

“The language of the angels” is not altogether lovely and beautiful;
alas, it bears the marks of a false religion all over it like scratches
on marble or ink-stains on a beautiful piece of handwriting. Mohammed’s
life and Mohammed’s teaching were not like the life and teaching of Jesus
Christ, and so the Arabic language abounds in words that are not pure
and not lovely. The missionaries in Egypt and in Syria have done much
to purify and elevate the language of the Arabs by giving them Christian
books and papers and above all the Holy Bible in their own tongue. The
Arab children in the mission schools now sing Christian hymns and many of
the stories that you love to read, such as “Ben Hur” and “Black Beauty”
and “Robinson Crusoe,” have been translated into Arabic. At the Beirut
press alone about twenty-five million pages of Christian books are
printed every year.

When the Bible takes the place of the Koran, the Arab speech with all
its beauty and strength will become more than ever “the language of the



Nearly all the British India steamers in their zigzag journeys up the
Persian Gulf, calling first at the Arabian coast and then at the Persian
coast, stop at the pearl islands of Bahrein. Half-way up the Gulf and
thirty miles from the mainland of Arabia, this group of islands has been
famous for centuries as the most valuable pearl fishery in the world. For
at least two thousand years the Arabs have been diving in these waters
and bringing up the costly shells. Before the days of Christ, and even
before the time of Solomon, pearls from Bahrein were shipped to the
Western world, and it is probable that the dress and the conversation of
the men and the boys of to-day is about the same as it was a thousand
years ago. The boats are probably of the same pattern, with very little

Bahrein is an Arabic word which means the _two seas_, and this name
was given to the islands because the Arabs fancied that here two seas
met, the fresh water and the salt water mingling together. The islands
have very little rainfall—during the summer none at all—and yet they
are famous for their fresh-water springs, which find their source on
the mainland of Arabia or Persia, and the water not only bubbles out in
pools and wells on shore, but below the tide level there are fresh-water
springs several miles out at sea. You would be interested to see the
Arabs go out in their boats, place a bamboo over the opening in the rock
and then collect fresh water above sea level in their great leather skins.

Bahrein is historically most interesting, because here the old Chaldeans
and Phœnicians made their home. Some of the mounds on the island are
older than the ruins of Babylon, and it is said that the Phœnicians
worshipped the fish-god who, it is supposed, carried Noah’s ark over the

The pearl fisheries at Bahrein employ about 3,500 boats, large and small.
The boats measure from one to fifty tons. The smaller boats carry from
three to fifteen men and work near the shore; the large boats, employing
from fifteen to thirty men, fish all over the Gulf. It is a pretty sight
to see the fleet sailing out of the harbour, the large sails, set to
the wind, gleaming white in the sun, the blue waters underneath and the
bluer sky overhead. Have you ever seen a diving outfit? It looks rather
ungainly to me. The Arab divers do not use anything so elaborate as do
the divers in America. White overalls to cover their dark skin (because
they say sharks do not care for white people), a _fatam_, or clothes-pin
on the nose, and leather thimbles for scratching up the shells, and a
basket to hold the catch, with a rope attached to a girdle to draw them
up with—this is the complete outfit. When prayers have been said and a
_Bismillah_, down he goes, quickly fills the basket, and with a tug on
the rope, he is hauled up, his basket is emptied while he takes a short
breathing spell, then down again; and so on from sunrise to sunset.

The divers pass through many dangers in bringing the pearls from the
bottom of the ocean to the surface. Sharks are the most terrifying,
and during the pearl season a number of divers lose their lives, or
are maimed; a leg or an arm has to be amputated because the cruel,
sharp, powerful mouth of the shark caught the fisherman while he was
seeking goodly pearls for us. A large number of them are afflicted with
rheumatism as a consequence of their calling. In the boat, besides the
men who are doing the work, is a man who is a substitute for them in
prayer. The divers are too busy to observe the stated hours of prayer, so
this man will repeat the prayers in place of each man. He is the Levite,
and performs the religious ceremonies for every other man and boy. He
must be occupied all the time on the boats where there is a crew of
thirty men, and he must say the prayers five times a day for each man.

[Illustration: The Evolution of a Pearl Button]

The Arabs say that pearls come from a raindrop which fell while the
oyster had its mouth open; each drop of rain thus caught is a prize
for the diver. “Heaven born and cradled in the deep blue sea,” it is
the purest of gems and, in their eyes, the most precious. When the
pearl oysters are brought up, they are left on deck over night, and
next morning are opened by means of a curved knife six inches long.
Until a few years ago, all the shells were thrown back into the sea as
useless, but now they are brought to shore by the ton and deposited
in some merchant’s yard. He employs natives to scrape off the outside
roughness, and then they are packed in wooden crates and exported in
large quantities.

On shore the pearls are classified according to weight, size, shape,
colour and brilliancy. You would think the pearl merchants a strange
kind of people. They carry the most valuable pearls around with them
everywhere, tied up in turkey-red twill. They have no safes nor banks, so
the only safe way they can think of is to carry them around and run the
risk of being knocked down and robbed; but since the Indian government
has made Bahrein a protectorate, such robberies are rare.

The pearl merchants are called _tawawis_, which means those who handle
the brass sieve, or _tas_. When the pearls are brought on shore, they are
classified according to size first of all, and to do this, each merchant
has a nest of beautiful sieves fitting one into the other. The smallest
has holes as big as the end of a pencil, and they go down gradually in
size until the largest sieve, which is about six inches across, has holes
as fine as mustard seeds. Any day during the pearl season you may see the
Arab merchants sitting cross-legged in their houses, sifting pearls, and
when they are classified and piled up in little heaps, white and shining
in the bright sunlight on the red cloth that covers the floor, it is a
sight worth seeing.

The total value of the pearl harvest each year is at least a million
dollars, but most of the profit goes into the hands of the dealers. The
divers work for wages, and many of them are heavily in debt. In spite of
the dangers they incur, the divers love their work, because pearl diving
always has in it the element of gambling. One may work a whole day and
find only pearls of small value, and then perhaps bring up a fortune in
an hour. The most beautiful pearl I ever saw was found in the waters at
Bahrein some ten years ago, and was sold for ten thousand dollars. It
must have been to such a fortunate pearl diver that Browning referred in
his verses:

    “There are two moments in a diver’s life:
    One when, a beggar, he prepares to plunge,
    Then when, a prince, he rises with his prize.”

The time for pearl diving is from May until the end of September. During
the winter months the cold weather interferes with the work, and the men
live inshore. Then it is that they come in crowds to our hospital, and
we have the joy of preaching to them from the parable of the Pearl of
great price, and no audience appreciates a sermon on that text as much
as the men who know what it costs to bring up the pearls. You remember
the parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a merchant
seeking goodly pearls, and having found one pearl of great price, he went
and sold all that he had and bought it.” When we tell the Arabs that the
Pearl of great price was the kingdom of God, peace and righteousness
and joy, which Jesus Christ purchased for us at the cost of His own life
and now offers freely to all who will believe in Him, they understand
something of the message.

Will you not pray for the pearl divers of Bahrein that many of them may
find the Pearl of great price, and that their humble homes,—mat-huts
along the shore of the great sea—may be made glad by the joy of a
Christian civilization and the knowledge of our Saviour? It is not hard
to love them for their own sake, and I well remember many a happy hour
spent with them in their boats or sitting on the beach, talking over
their work. Sir Edwin Arnold referred to them in these lines:

    “Dear as the wet diver to the eyes
    Of his pale wife, who waits and weeps on shore,
    By sands of Bahrein in the Persian Gulf;
    Plunging all day in the blue waves; at night,
    Having made up his toll of precious pearls,
    Rejoins her in their hut upon the shore.”



It was on Saturday morning, February 9, 1901, that Elias, our colporteur,
and I started for a journey along the eastern coast of Arabia, and, as
we hoped, inland. Our expectations of a long camel journey and the sight
of villages not yet marked on the map between the coast and Muscat were
disappointed. But the result was a journey of 440 miles and more along
the coast to the rocky cape that guards the narrow entrance to the Gulf.
Our experiences were so interesting that I will relate some of them to

Did you ever read the droll story, “Three Men in a Boat”? Well, we
were eleven men in a boat, not to speak of a fine Arab horse and a
yelping greyhound, presents from the Ruler of Bahrein to the Ruler of
Abu Thabi. Our boat was of the usual native style without any cabin
or even an awning, and measured twenty feet across the beam and fifty
from bowsprit to poop. The noble quadruped had the largest share of
the scanty space midships; the dog was confined to the forecastle lest
prayers be impossible; for the Mohammedans believe that the dog is an
unclean animal, and that it is impossible to pray in any place where
a dog has walked or sat without first washing it. The two first-class
passengers and their boxes were on the left side of the poop; the crew
slept, smoked, washed themselves, and ate their dried fish and rice
anywhere; and the captain with a priest and a merchant squatted at our
right. I will not weary your patience to relate how many days after we
intended to start the sail was hoisted and we were off. One never expects
a native sailing craft to leave until the three days of grace (and
grumbling impatience) are twice over. But good Abdullah bin Kambar was
not altogether to blame; two of his sailors ran away, and he had to look
them up and urge them on board. With a fair, brisk wind filling the huge
sail we were all happy to start and forgot the delays and our dried bread
baked three days too early.

Our boat was bound for Abu Thabi, the first important town on the coast
south. The wind continued favourable, and on Monday we were sailing
between two islands, mere rocks and uninhabited except by a few fishermen
during the season. A little further towards the mainland is the large
island of Dalma, and there was a long dispute between the captain and
the mate as to which island we were passing. When the words waxed warm
between them my chart decided the dispute. This island is an old centre
for the pearl-fishers, and every season there is a large gathering here
of merchants and divers; a sort of market-place on the highway of the sea.

The weariness of five days and nights in the boat was relieved in many
ways. There was opportunity to read and plenty of interruption.

We had our meals to cook and tried to fish with a line and hook; once the
captain hit a wild duck with his rusty gun, but although all helped to
lower the boat and they pursued the wounded bird, she escaped. One day we
saw a large shark, and that afternoon there were some good fish stories.
At night the black slave Abdullah sat at the wheel and told stories as
only a Negro-Arab can tell them; stories of the new Arabian Nights, and
of how an Arab sharper stole a favourite horse by putting the bridle on
his own neck and having his mate run off with the horse! Several times it
was our turn to lead the conversation, and we had a splendid opportunity
to give “line upon line and precept upon precept.” One can judge at once
of the ignorance and open-heartedness of the Arab sailors by the remark
they commonly make after they have had a missionary or colporteur for
passenger: “We had no idea that Christians were such decent folk and even
prayed to Allah.”

At three o’clock on Thursday afternoon we were in sight of Abu Thabi, or
“father-of-the-gazelle.” It was my first visit to this town, although
Elias had been there before. We found the ruler kind, friendly and very
intelligent. We were assigned to a large room in one of his houses,
and during our stay of four days there was abundance of food sent to
us from the ruler’s table, and all our wants were supplied from his
beneficence,—huge dishes piled with rice, steeped with gravy and crowned
with several pounds of prime roast mutton, the whole surrounded with
dates and bread loaves, on a large circular mat, and washed down with
perfumed water. We were never hungry.

When the dwellers in the mat-huts heard of the arrival of foreigners
with a medicine chest and books our room was filled with the curious or
the ailing from early dawn until after sunset. That is the only drawback
to their kindness; the Arab idea of hospitality does not include the
blessing of privacy for their guest. One is never left alone, and if you
seek solitude they set you down as a magician, or delver into the hidden
things of nature which are forbidden to all true believers. So we had
to forego meditation, reading, and even the change of clothing until
nightfall, after our long sea journey.

It was a queer crowd that collected in the court and filled our little
room; a long row of Arabs sitting on the mats all around the four sides
of the court. Most of them were Oman Arabs, but there was one priest from
Mecca who had more to say than all the rest. He was a wanderer who wore
a spotless white turban and a sneering smile. His present residence, he
said, was on the Island of Kais, in the Gulf, and he lived as do all of
his kind by teaching school and copying charms for the ignorant. We had
some discussions and more quiet talks together after the crowd left. It
was sad to hear from him what dense ignorance there is regarding our
religion. The news of Queen Victoria’s death had just reached there and
the sage from Mecca told fabulous stories of how and why Christians were
ruled by women! Our sales of Scripture were not large, but there was a
demand for other books. One poor but learned man brought a manuscript
copy of Al Hariri (the Arabian Shakespeare) in exchange for other books.

We left Abu Thabi by sailing-boat for Debai, eighty miles up the coast in
a straight line. The wind compelled us to go zigzag.

This place has become the metropolis of Western Oman, and in population,
progress, commerce and architecture far surpasses all the other towns.
Between Abu Thabi and Debai the coast is desert and neither date-tree nor
hut is seen; so flat is the country that a hill two hundred feet high
(the only landmark for sailors) is called “the High Mountain.”

We did not tarry long at Debai, although we had a pleasant morning at
the house of the ruler and met some Arabs from the interior. One of them
said he was willing for a proper consideration to take me all the way
across Arabia to Jiddah, the port of Mecca. In the afternoon we started
selling Scriptures on the outskirts of the town and in a very short time
the crowd collected. Women came with copper coins and bright boys brought
their savings to purchase Gospels—in the language of our trade, “the true
story of the Living Prophet Jesus.” After we left Debai on donkeys two
boys who were late ran after us and overtook us a mile from the town;
they brought money and paid for three more books. The captain of our
boat took us to his house for breakfast on our arrival, and showed us
some poetry his wife had written. She talked with us and seemed versed in
the Koran; we left her a Gospel.

From Debai to Sharkeh we rode on asses, and as our two chests were heavy
they were put, one each, on the backs of two other asses; the distance is
about ten miles. At Sharkeh we met old friends and were glad that even
after a previous visit we were welcomed. An Arab merchant showed us much
kindness and offered us a shop with a prophet’s chamber above it for
rent. Since this visit our missionaries often come here. From Sharkeh we
crossed over to Lingah, and thence back to Bahrein by the mail steamer,
but Elias went on visiting Ajman and the villages beyond all the way to
Ras-el-Jebel, which means “the top of the mountain.” The Arabic version
of the seventy-second Psalm gives the promise in this way: “There shall
be an handful of corn in the earth on Ras-el-Jebel; the fruit thereof
shall shake like Lebanon.”



Oman is a little peninsula that sticks out eastward from the big
peninsula of Arabia, and it might almost be called an island. On three
sides are the waters of the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf, and on the
west is the great sea of sand which the Arabs call the “empty abode,”
and which has never been crossed by any traveller as far as we know. The
Arabs themselves are afraid to venture beyond the limits of the oases
that touch its borders, and on all the maps of Arabia this desert is
marked “blank and unexplored.” Because the people of Oman for centuries
past lived on such an island with the sea on one side and the desert on
the other, they are quite distinct from the other Arabs. The language
they speak has a peculiar accent, and their religion, although they are
Mohammedans, is in many respects different from that of the other parts
of Arabia.

I want to tell you of two journeys taken across this province. Many
others have been made since, and our medical missionaries can now visit
all the villages in the mountains back of the coast. On May 9, 1900, a
colporteur and I put our two chests of books and medicines on board a
small sailing-boat, and at four o’clock the wind was favourable to leave
Bahrein harbour. We intended to visit the pirate coast, and thence, if
the way proved open, to cross the horn of Oman to Muscat, overland.

The captain and crew of our boat were all strict Moslems, and made no
secret of the fact that formerly they were slave-traders. Crossing by
zigzag lines to the Persian coast to avoid shoals and catch the wind,
we reached Bistana and then sailed across the Gulf direct for Sharkeh.
Half-way across is the little island of Abu Musa, with a small Arab
population, but splendid pasturage, good milk and water. The chief export
is red oxide, of which there are two hills with a boundless supply.
Steamers occasionally call here for this cheap, marketable ballast; we
left our witness in the shape of Arabic Gospels.

On May 14th we reached Sharkeh, the chief town on the pirate coast.
Formerly this entire region was noted for the savage ferocity of its
inhabitants. Thanks to English commerce and gunboats, these fanatic
people have become tamed; most of them have given up piracy and turned to
pearl-diving for a livelihood; their black tents and rude rock dwellings
are making room for the three or four important towns of Sharkeh, Debai,
Abu Thabi, and Ras el Kheima. We found the Arabs rather hospitable, and
quite willing to hear our message. The mat-hut, set apart for our use, we
for seven days made dispensary and reception-room. Here over two hundred
Arabs came to get medicines, buy books, or discuss the reason of our
errand. Many were the quiet talks during those days with all sorts and
conditions of Arabs. There was often no rest until long after sunset; and
no sooner had the muezzin called to daylight prayer than the visitors
began to walk in again. They were a pleasant lot of people, and more
sociable than the Arabs of Yemen, while less dignified than those from

We heard on every side that travelling in the interior of Oman was safe,
so, after bargaining with camel-drivers, we secured two companions
and five camels to take us to Sohar for the sum of twenty _rials_ or
Arabian dollars. At 9 P. M. on May 20th we left, and after a short rest
at midnight to water the camels, marched until nine o’clock the next
day. By going as much as possible by starlight to avoid the heat, and
resting during the day under some scraggy acacia tree or in the shadow
of a Bedouin fort, we completed the distance of ninety odd miles in a
little over four days. A large part of the way we took was desert, with
no villages or even nomad booths; the more usual route by Wady Hom being
a little unsafe, we followed Wady Hitta.

[Illustration: Prayer in the desert]

Sometimes our caravan would pass a camel’s skeleton bleached by the
torrid sun. When a camel grows footsore or breaks down, there is no
alternative: the poor beast is left to die in the wilderness. The second
day we passed villages and cultivated fields; that night we spread our
blankets on the soft sand, surrounded by thousands of sheep and goats,
driven in by Bedouin lasses from their mountain pastures. Even among
these shepherds we found readers, and the colporteur sold books wherever
the camels halted long enough to strike a bargain. It was late on
Wednesday, May 23d, that we entered the narrow pass of Hitta. Our guides
preceded, mounted, but with rifles loaded and cocked; then followed
the baggage camel, to which mine was “towed,” and in similar fashion
my companion on the milch camel followed by its two colts. We were not
troubled with the heat at night, but during the day it was intense, and
it was refreshing to come to an oasis (common in this part of Oman)
where water burst from a big spring, and trees and flowers grew in
luxury. In the mountainous parts of Oman the roads run almost invariably
along sandy watercourses or deep, rocky ravines. Tamarisks, oleanders,
euphorbias, and acacias are the most common trees and shrubs. Where the
country appears almost barren, we were surprised to find a considerable
population of shepherds and goatherds. Their dwellings are mere oval
shanties constructed of boulders or rocks. In the fertile valleys the
population always centres in villages, and scarcely ever is a dwelling
found at any distance from this common centre.

Just at the top of the pass of Hitta is the village ’Ajeeb rightly named
“wonderful.” The view down the mountains over the fertile stretch of
coast called the Batinah and out over the boundless Indian Ocean was
grand. We descended to the sea, and the turbulent mountain stream, so
cold to our bare feet as we waded it in the early dawn, dwindled to a
brook, and at last ebbed away along the beach a tiny stream of fresh
water. These perennial streams are the secret of a coast fertile for
nearly a hundred and fifty miles.

At Shinas, on the sea, we spent a hot day. The mosque was our pulpit
and salesroom. One graybeard took us to his hut after noonday prayer to
offer us simple hospitality. He spoke with fervour of my brother, Peter
J. Zwemer, who came to his village three years previous. From Shinas our
camels took us to Sohar. At the large village of El Wa we were unable
to stop, as the camel-men were afraid of smallpox, which was prevalent
there. Every one we passed on the way was friendly to a remarkable
degree. The women brought fresh milk and fruit to us ere we dismounted,
and the boys, instead of mocking the strange foreigners, _salaamed_,
delighted to hear that in spite of our appearance we spoke Arabic.
Not one copper did we spend for food and lodging; it is the land of
large-hearted hospitality. To help a sick child or give quinine to some
ague-tormented Arab was to them a large return for their kindness to a

My second journey across the northern horn of Oman was made in May, 1901,
with the same travelling companion; and sailing from Bahrein to Abu Thabi
we went straight east to the coast of Oman and then along its shores all
the way to Muscat by camel. It was the longest camel journey that ever I
made, and when I reached Muscat I was convinced that the camel is not
only the ship, but the hardship of the desert.

[Illustration: “_The Missionary Review of the World_” Map of Oman]

The town of Abu Thabi from which we started is situated on a sort of
island formed by the back-water of its harbour. A chasm about two hundred
yards wide, and even at low water, four or five feet deep protects the
town against desert invasion, and a fort has been built close to this
water barrier. After our camels had waded through the water breast deep
and nearly soaked our luggage, we began the desert journey. For three
hours the road was as level as a table and equally barren; then we
passed some outcropping rocks called the devil’s castle. All that day
and the next we rode through sandy deserts with scarcely any vegetation,
resting at noon under the shade of a blanket roped over our two boxes.
It was hot indeed, and the water in our water skins had taken on a bad
taste after the long and jerky ride. We had dates and made some soup from
condensed vegetables, but the Bedouins of our party caught big lizards
and made a boiled mess of them, with rice. They were displeased that we
did not share their meal.

On Sunday we arrived at an Arab encampment and rested. They made a feast
for us of fresh milk, and at night killed a fat kid, and made cakes baked
on hot ashes. At nine o’clock that night we left our Bedouin friends, and
rode on until past midnight, always due east by the stars. It was very
cold at night in the desert. These extremes of temperature are trying,
but not unhealthy. The following day we came across a poor nomad girl who
was lost in the desert and nearly dying of thirst. She had been seeking
for a strayed camel, and had then missed all traces of the road herself.
For two days she had been alone in the desert, and had almost given up
hope. Our guide gave her some water and dates and showed her the nearest
way to the encampment. All this stretch of country as far as Bereimy is a
wide wilderness of sand for miles and miles in every direction; not level
sand, but sand in big folds and billows a hundred feet high, that change
with every storm.

It was a delightful change to reach the oasis of Bereimy with its seven
villages, joined by streams of fresh water, and date plantations, as
well as high mango trees and gardens of vegetables. Beyond this oasis
the mountain road passed numerous villages to Obri and Dank. We took the
shorter road through Wady-el-Jazi, direct to Sohar. The Arabs in this
part of the world are perpetually at war with each other. Everybody gets
up armed and goes to bed with a rifle by his side. Even little boys carry
a dagger in their belts, and old men will part with anything rather than
their shotguns. We met with no mishap by the way, however, and reached
Sohar safely, but we did not go to Muscat by sea because there was no
wind. Instead we encouraged each other to stick to our rough camel
saddles for four days more, which made the entire distance from Abu Thabi
to Muscat nearly three hundred miles.

The whole country is most interesting. In spite of continual warfare, the
peasants seem to find time to cultivate every fertile spot, and raise
all sorts of crops. We saw barley, wheat, sesame, vegetables and even
tobacco. In one village we rested on the wide threshing floor where the
old-fashioned instrument with sharp teeth, of which the Bible speaks,
lay idle. The Oman plow is much better than those in North Arabia. There
they plow with a crooked stick, whose sharp prong is strong enough to
break up the sandy loam, but in this mountain region the peasants make a
real coulter of iron and fit it to a heavy frame, braced to an upright
handle of three bars set at right angles. The dress of the men and women
is quite distinct from that in other parts of Arabia, and their houses
are built like castles. Nearly every well is protected by a fort, and
villages only a mile or two apart often carry on war with each other
for many, many years. This is the chief obstacle to travel in the hill
country of Oman.

Before you forget our journey across this part of Arabia, I want you to
think of an Arab praying in the desert. One of the names the Arabs give
to the desert is the “Garden of Allah,” because they say there is nothing
but God; no other life, or sound or scene to distract one’s attention;
only the great blue vault above, without a cloud, and the wide stretch of
sand and rock all around the horizon. No wonder that the desert has been
God’s training school for many of His prophets and teachers. Think of
Moses, and Elijah and Paul and Christ.



Did you ever hear of missionaries who were jail-birds? Well, that has
been my experience. This is how it was.

The day after Christmas about ten years ago it was decided that we
make a tour to the mainland of Arabia from the island of Bahrein, our
station. The picnic basket was packed with fresh bread and canned meats
and good things, and we also took along extra clothing, a box of books
and some medicines for the people. Our Arab servant had a hard time of
it to secure a boat that would take us over because the people were
still suspicious of Christians and were not at all anxious to have them
begin work in new places. After a boat had been secured whose captain
was willing for a good consideration to allow Christians to travel with
him we still waited. When one travels by native boat in Arabia there is
always delay; it may be a couple of hours or it may be a few days. Time
and tide and the Arab temper are equally unreliable in the Persian Gulf.
It is no use fussing and getting impatient. That only makes the Arab more

At four o’clock a small boat came as close to the shore as the water
would allow, and then we rode out on donkeys through the surf to the
tossing boat, and in this small “jolly-boat” we were taken to the native
ship where we settled on the poop-deck with all our belongings. The deck
of this little sailing craft did not measure more than six feet by four,
and so we had to sit close or we would fall overboard. The man at the
tiller can manage on three or four square inches of room, and his bare
toes cling to the edge of the boat just like a monkey on the bough of a
tree. The sail was hoisted and away we went for about three hours. Then
the wind dropped and we were becalmed almost in sight of shore until
the next morning. After prayers at daybreak the sail was again hoisted,
and the awkward paddle oars which the Arabs use were taken out to help
increase the speed. Finally, after a severe struggle we arrived at our

The pretty little town of Darain stood out clearly in the bright
sunlight, and we were glad that at last we were to reach the mainland
of Arabia. I was the first Christian woman that had ever landed on this
part of the coast. There was a ride through the shallow water of about a
quarter of a mile, and our Arab host was kind enough to send out a choice
of vehicles for my use,—a chair, a horse and a donkey. I chose the donkey
as the safest and mounted and splashed through the surf to the land. The
rest of our party followed. We were then conducted to the guest chamber
in the tower,—a large airy room with about twenty window frames and no
windows, only shutters; so that when the wind blew the dust from the
desert, the wooden shutters were fastened, and the light and air had to
be shut out also. Our host was very cordial and laid no special restraint
upon us, although he too was suspicious that we had come to begin
missionary work in earnest in his village,—a thing which he would not
allow. He treated us royally and with genuine Arab hospitality, but yet
his suspicion was evident because he kept us away from another guest of
his, the Turkish governor of Katif, as he did not wish him to know that
he had friends among the Christians. After three days of entertainment
we went on board our boat again on the way to Katif. We landed there in
a few hours but found ourselves in a real “hornet’s nest.” Our very best
and most winning smiles could not melt the harshness of the custom-house
officials. They said our passports were not properly made out, and the
motion was soon made and carried that we should be returned whence we
came at once.

Fortunately, there was no boat ready to take us back, and it was not
our intention to be turned back without at least attempting to dispose
of some of the Gospels which we had brought with us and to win the
confidence of some of the people. We were not despondent because even in
this inhospitable place there was a man who was anxious to receive us and
who invited us to come and stay at his home. We were so happy for a few
brief hours. The man’s wife prepared a guest meal and received us very
courteously. They gave us a well-furnished room and we were delighted
to see that this Moslem was already a Bible reader, for in one of the
alcoves of the room was a well-thumbed New Testament.

But no sooner did we begin to unpack our things than a gruff voice
from below called for us to come down immediately and bring all our
belongings. A lank-looking individual, who said he was a police agent,
compelled us to follow him, and so we went through narrow, dirty alleys
and smelling streets, and were finally conducted into the courtyard of
a large tumble-down house, the steps all crumbling and indescribably
filthy. After struggling up the steep, irregular stairway, we were shown
into a small room in a part of the house quite by itself, which opened
out on to a small roof. It had no windows and only one dingy door.

[Illustration: Bedouin Women and their Children]

A smoky lamp without a chimney was brought in which lit up the darkness
but also showed the dirt. Many generations of men and insects had lived
there, and marked up every space on the walls. When we protested and said
we preferred to stay elsewhere, we were told to remain; that we were
prisoners, and that we were not permitted to go to any other place. While
my husband was led off to the governor by himself I waited. It took him
over an hour to try to persuade the great official to allow us liberty,
but it was all to no purpose. We must remain in these lodgings which he
had provided. There were soldiers on each landing, he told us, and they
were warned to protect us and not to let us pass out. So we settled down
to the inevitable. The kind Arab from Darain was also in Katif, and
later on in the evening he brought the jail-birds some quilts and rags
to make them a little more comfortable. We did our best to rest, but it
was almost impossible, and we were glad to see the first streak of dawn.
Determined not to stay in the house any longer, we prepared a meal from
our lunch basket, packed our few belongings and started to find our way
to the street. The ragged individuals called soldiers murmured as we
passed but did not stop us and we were out in the road and some distance
from the governor’s house when our servant whom we had not seen until now
came after us and said we must not go; that the governor wanted us and
wanted us at once.

I began to protest, but was finally persuaded to return and to my
great surprise was conducted into a room gorgeously furnished where a
nice-looking meal was being set on a small table. The governor arose
and received us very politely, inquiring after our health and comfort.
We swallowed our wrath and told him in the best Arabic possible that we
were quite well and hoped his lordship was also. He then invited us to
breakfast and would not accept a refusal. We wondered what would happen
next. After we had explained our errand and stated our desire to sell
books to the people and talk to them about religion, he said he would
permit us to stay with the custom-house officer, but that we must not
distribute or sell a single book and that a soldier must go with us
wherever we went. It was his belief that the people might do us harm
unless we were well guarded, and that as they had never before seen
Christians it was entirely unsafe for us to distribute books or sell
them among Mohammedans as fanatical as those in this part of Arabia.
Thanking him for his kindness and accepting his apologies for keeping us
as jail-birds during the night, we left his rooms and started walking
through the streets. A soldier guard followed us, but when we refused
to pay them for their service as guards and guides, they turned their
backs and went away. And so in this land of misrule and intolerance, this
uttermost province of the Turkish Empire, we were once more free.



To the American schoolboy a Moslem school and school-books would appear
the dullest things possible. Yet the Arab boys do enjoy school for there
is always something to distract the attention, especially if the teacher
is a shopkeeper. While a customer bargains, or the water carrier passes,
or the coffee-house man brings the daily “cup of cheer,” or, in the case
of a woman teacher, callers come, all eyes and ears are open not towards
the lesson but the conversation and the sights.

The earliest and _only_ text-book is the Koran or portions of it cheaply
lithographed on common paper. There are no pictures in their primers, for
a Moslem tradition says that Mohammed cursed all who would paint or draw
men and animals. There is neither singing nor prayer when school opens.
Mohammed said, “Singing or hearing songs causeth hypocrisy to grow in the
heart even as rain causeth corn to grow in the field.” The school has no
special building, but may be in the corner of a mosque or in the yard
of the teacher; or part of his shop (if he is a merchant) will form the
schoolhouse. There is no furniture except mats and folding bookstands.
These look like tiny sawbucks. The schoolmaster sits amongst his boys
on the floor, and they all drone out their lessons together. There are
no grades, neither is there order in the schoolroom. One lad may be at
the alphabet; another one as far as counting numbers; a third child may
be spelling out the first chapter of the Koran, while others are reading
from the middle of the book at the top of their voices. The education of
a boy should begin at the age of four years, four months and four days.
On that day he is taught to say the Bismillah, or opening chapter of the
Koran. Soon after that he may be sent to one of the day-schools to learn
the alphabet.

When a boy has finished the reading of the whole of the Koran for the
first time and has learned the rudiments of writing, he graduates from
the primary school. On this occasion he has a rare holiday. Dressed in
fine clothes, perhaps mounted on horseback, he visits the neighbours,
receives gifts and sweetmeats and brings a handsome present to his tutor.
If he does not intend to become a doctor of divinity or of herbs, this
is the end of his school-days, and the lad is put to learning a trade or
helping his parents.

[Illustration: A Meccan Boy]

As to moral training, tradition commands pious Moslems to teach the
boy of seven to say his five daily prayers; at the age of ten, if he
omits them they are to admonish him by blows. Boys are taught early
the proprieties of conversation and behaviour according to Oriental
etiquette. They are also taught the ceremonial washings and the correct
postures for devotions. But purity of conversation and truth are seldom
taught by precept, and never by example.

Writing is taught on a wooden slate or in copy-books made by the
teachers. Slates and slate pencils are practically unknown, and the
youngest child begins with a reed pen and ink. Caligraphy is not only a
science, but the chief fine art in that part of the world which abhors
painting, statuary and music. To write a beautiful Arabic hand is the
height of youthful scholarly ambition.

A country that has only such schools cannot progress; and so the
missionaries open schools with a broader course of study and with better
training for the mind and heart.

The first Christian school in East Arabia was opened in 1899 on the
veranda of the old mission house overlooking the sea. The little children
of Ameen who was in prison for his faith were living with their mother
in our house, and they needed to be taught; two of the rescued slave
boys from Muscat, who had come to help in the housework, had some spare
hours in the morning, and it was better for them to study than to sit
around doing nothing, for Satan finds an awful amount of mischief for
idle hands to do in Bahrein, and so the little school was started for the
children in the house. We gave it the name of the “Acorn School” in faith
that as “tall oaks from little acorns grow,” so some day education in
Arabia would be what it is now in America. We had lessons for two hours
each morning, marching, singing, etc., for the little ones, baby Bessie
lying on the couch nearby while the children were being taught; others
wished to join, but neither accommodations nor strength would allow us to
enlarge our borders at that time.

After some months an Arabic teacher was assigned to the station to teach
a new missionary the language, and about that time we moved into a larger
house. Then our numbers increased, and one of those early pupils was a
young Jewish girl; another was a Jewish boy, who remained about three
years, and was always a docile and clever pupil in English and Arabic;
he has a complete Bible in Arabic, which they read in his home. The girl
was a great help to us in every way—first in school, and later in the
hospital; she is quite a changed girl and a superior one, and we trust
the day will come when she will openly confess Christ and follow Him.
Some grown-up lads were among those first scholars, and they came to
learn English. One of the older boys was such an apt pupil that he was
taken on the staff of the English Political Agent as interpreter for the
Persians; another advanced so far that he is able to buy and sell for the
wholesale business, and for this reason is a great help to his father, a
merchant in Bahrein. These boys have learned much of the truth along with
their English, and neither of them now believe that the sun sets in a
pool of black mud!

The reflex influence of the school is felt even in their homes, changing
some of the habits and language. Some of those early scholars have
gone to the Eternal Home. Quite a number of the missionaries and native
helpers have helped from time to time in this school, for when one left,
another would take up the work. The last few years the girls have been
doing needlework and learning how to make their own clothes neatly.

There are a great number of Christians and Jews, but the greater number
in good weather are Moslems, and in the cool season the little room is
overcrowded, and one teacher is very busy trying to keep all employed.
The school is still in the initial stage, but it has proved its right to
exist, and when we look into the brightening faces of those who gather to
be taught, and listen to the Scripture portions repeated and the hymns
spiritedly sung, we can only say: “What hath God wrought!” To outsiders
the school may seem a small thing, but to us, who have watched its slow
growth, it is encouraging. The teaching has always in view the honour of
Christ in a land where His title, “Son of God,” is disputed.

If you could see our new school building you would know how much better
off the children are who come to the Christian school than those who
still attend the native schools. The rooms and the seats, and windows
through which glorious sunshine and light shine, the blackboards and
maps and pictures all help to educate through “eye gate.” The boys and
girls are graded and separated, for coeducation is not yet a good thing
in Arabia. When I taught in the school I used to surprise the girls
occasionally by bringing to school some little treat of fruit, dates
or candy; and I wish you could have heard their hearty “Thank you” and
listened to them as they left the yard and went over the desert to their
houses, singing at the top of their voices in Arabic Christian hymns
which they had learned in school. They thought it would please me and
impress us with their goodness. And it was good to hear these girls and
sometimes small boys singing “My Faith Looks up to Thee,” “Jesus Loves
Me, This I Know,” etc. And even if they did not understand the deep
meaning nor enter into it, it gave them pleasure to sing the bright
tunes. And while they sang, they were out of mischief at least. It was so
new for these Moslem girls to have any one to care anything about them.



The day was very hot, and I was very tired. The flies were buzzing thick
around me and it was impossible for me to keep awake over the book which
slipped from my fingers and fell on the floor. I stretched myself for
one of those delightful noonday naps which, in spite of the heat and the
flies, revive the life of the missionary and make him ready for the work
of the afternoon, and as I slept, I dreamed a dream.

I was walking up towards the mission hospital, when what should I see
coming down the steps but a roller bandage, walking along as happy as
could be, and after exchanging the usual Arab greeting of “Salaam,” he
told me this story:

“I suppose you have never heard of me before, and I am sure you never
will unless I introduce myself and unroll the story of my short but
interesting life.

“A little, round, fat body like me may have a long story to tell; for
when I lie at full length I measure four yards without stretching the
truth one bit.

“It is only six months ago, as far as I remember, that I was part of a
fine new piece of white muslin in the store window of a merchant, and
had no name or place or mission of my own in this big world. One day
the salesman reached out and took the piece of muslin down. It was sent
with a lot of other purchases to the home of a lady (I think her name was
Phœbe or Dorcas) greatly interested in foreign missions.

“The next thing I knew, the willing hands and deft fingers of a band of
little folks tore me from my seven sisters and rolled me up so snug and
tight that none would imagine I was only a strip of cloth. And then, when
a bright new pin was stuck on my breast, really I began to feel quite
important. The following day I was put into a pasteboard box with three
dozen other roller bandages, and I remember hearing a short prayer, just
as they tied down the cover, that God would bless us on our errand of
mercy to dark Arabia.


“Time would fail me to tell of the days we spent in the basement of the
building of the Board of Foreign Missions, waiting to be put in our
corner of a big box, and of all the interesting things I learned from
those who spoke about the heathen and Mohammedans while they were packing
supplies for the various mission fields. You know I never knew there were
so many doctors and nurses, and so many hospitals and dispensaries—not to
speak of schools and other things under the care of our Board.

“Finally, the box that was to be my prison house for two long months was
tumbled into a dray and taken to the North River pier. There they lifted
us into the dark hold of a ship; the sailors fastened down the hatches;
the whistle blew, and we were off for the long voyage.

“Being a roller bandage from my earliest youth, I did not at all mind the
motion of the vessel; but some of the dolls and picture cards were all

“When we reached Bombay we were transferred with a great deal of
unnecessary noise to another ship bound for the Persian Gulf. I remember
that I was curious to know at which port of the Gulf I would disembark.
One of the biggest roller bandages said _he_ knew, for he had heard the
New York lady tell the children that these bandages were for the Mason
Memorial Hospital at Bahrein, Arabia. All were not agreed.

“A many-tailed bandage said he thought we were going to Busrah to help in
the dispensary there, but a T bandage, which has three ends to it and is
shaped like a big letter T, contradicted him, and there came near being
a quarrel. The little bandages, however, with one accord smoothed it over
by saying: ‘Wait and you will see.’

“The big roller bandage was right. When the British India steamer entered
Bahrein harbour with a large cargo of rice and tea and Manchester goods,
the missionary boxes got mixed up with the rest, and were put over the
ship’s side into native boats.

“Such a hubbub and shouting! I knew we were among Arabs and in the land
of Ishmael, although I could not understand one word of their strange

“From the cargo boat we were carried on the back of a donkey through the
surf to the custom-house, and thence once again to the hospital. I cannot
say I enjoyed the donkey ride. The boy who drove the beast had an awkward
way of turning sharp corners in the narrow streets, and then the big
packing case would bump hard against a stone wall, and give us an awful

“It was a relief to hear the voices of our new friends. Soon the box was
opened, and we saw daylight once more. The sheets and blankets were put
to immediate use in the general ward; the dolls put away for Christmas;
while we were taken to the operating-room, and put behind glass doors on
a shelf. Even though I was not an eye bandage, I could easily see that
we were occupying the best room in the entire hospital, and I distinctly
heard one of the ladies say: ‘These bandages _are_ fine.’

“You can imagine that we kept our eyes and ears open after such a
welcome. Well, it was rather monotonous, after all. Every day, nearly,
the doctor had some sort of eye patient on the table, and consequently
the eye bandages put on airs of great importance. We waited impatiently.

“One day a nurse came in suddenly and seized me by my throat and took me
without ceremony to the general ward, a big room with twelve beds in it.

“On the stretcher, in the middle of the floor, lay an Arab, looking very
untidy and weak, and in great pain. I heard his story. His name was Ahmed
bin Haroon, and he was a poor fisherman from the distant village of
Zillag. Zillag is one of those little struggling hamlets on the Island
of Bahrein to which the missionaries occasionally make zigzag journeys,
visiting the people to carry them Gospels or to invite the sick to the
hospital. The day before, very early in the morning, while he was mending
his nets and collecting his fish, a robber came, stabbed him twice in his
abdomen, and taking the fish, ran away.

“The poor man had two nasty cuts, deep and dangerous, and I heard them
say while cleaning the wounds that he would probably not live. Though he
looked so ignorant and dirty, I really felt sorry for the poor fellow,
and wondered if I could be of much help. After the doctor put on the
dressings, my turn came. In fact, I had more turns than I have ever had
since, all in the space of five minutes. Round and round that Arab they
wound me close. But to see the look of gratitude on his face when, in a
clean shirt and on a nice spring bed, with me for company, he opened his
eyes—well, it was worth the long journey, I can tell you. Over our bed
there was a chart with No. 109, and the man’s name on it. There were also
curious zigzag lines drawn every morning and evening across the chart.
The doctor put these lines there, for I saw him do it, after inserting a
fever thermometer in the patient’s mouth. I soon learned to know whether
the line would go up or down by counting the heart-beats of my companion.
Of course, being so close together, we learned to like each other, and I
one day explained to him how the people away off in America had sent me
as their little missionary for his comfort. On the opposite side of the
ward there is a picture of Christ healing a blind man, which we used to
look at.

“They prayed for No. 109 and read a little to him, but I am sure he
understood what _I_ told him much better. You see, until he got hurt
he was very suspicious of Christians and believed all sorts of foolish
things about them. Now he talked with the other patients and watched what
was done for him, and felt me near him; it was a new life for him. His
condition became more hopeful every day; I knew it by the way he began
to enjoy his soup. Not that I was with him all the time myself. No; the
other roller bandages had their turn, and I heard the rest of the story
from them. Ahmed bin Haroon was discharged nearly cured on the first day
of the Moslem fast month. He came back after for a visit, and is going
about his work—the same fisherman. Only there is no telling how much he
may think of what he saw and heard while he mends his nets at Zillag.
And the missionaries are sure of a warm welcome in that village ever

“The day I was taken off duty and said good-bye to my patient I met such
a lot of bandages down-stairs in the surgery; there seemed no end of
them! Of course, most of them were common, from the Bahrein bazaar, and
unbleached, but they had good stories to tell, nevertheless. I heard it
stated on good authority that over a thousand yards of bandages were used
up in one month. And when I saw the number of men, women and children
with ulcers and abscesses, sitting on the veranda that day, I did not
doubt the fact. Only I wish I could have told it to that salesman in New
York and to the kind lady. Then there would have been more of us; for I
am sure it is no trouble for the boys and girls to make rollers of us.

“My end was near. In spite of all that I had done for the hospital,
the sweeper carried me out in a bucket, and then, without ceremony or
apology, the whole pile of us were set on fire, and we went up in a
chariot like Elijah.”

He ended his story, and as I looked at him, I was just about to say:
“How did you ever get back here out of the bucket and the fire to come
and tell me your story?” but when I began to speak, the bandage speedily
disappeared, and so did the hospital, and I awoke from my dream. The
hospital records, however, show how the story of the bandage is true in
every particular.

    “Oh, what can little hands do
      To please the King of Heaven?
    The little hands some work may try
      To help the poor in misery:
    Such grace to mine be given.”




Our little Arab friend, Najma, was born a long distance from the place
where last Christmas was spent. Bagdad is the city, you remember, where
Sinbad the sailor lived, and in this very city on the old river Tibris
Najma was born. Her father and mother were both good Moslems and she was
their first-born child, and yet not very welcome, because all Moslems
like to have boy babies and not girls. They gave her the name of Fatima
after the daughter of Mohammed, their prophet. When she was afterwards
baptized into the Christian faith with her mother the name Najma was
given her which means a “star.” Her father suffered much persecution for
changing his religion, and when he was sent into exile far away from his
home, she with her mother and brothers came down the river to Busrah
and down the Persian Gulf to Bahrein. It was a long zigzag journey for
them by flat-bottom river boat and ocean steamer, and then in the little
harbour boat, tacking with the wind to shore.

Until the family came to us they did not know what Christmas meant, and
of course had never celebrated it. When her third Christmas came, and it
was her last, it was still a fresh and joyful occasion to her, therefore,
as it was to all of us in that lonely island and amongst our little
group of converts. Not only was it the last Christmas to Najma but for
others in that company gathered to celebrate the birthday of our Saviour.
Two other little voices that sang so sweetly

    “Where do all the daisies go?
    I know, I know!
    Underneath the snow they creep,
    Drop their heads and go to sleep.
    In the spring-time up they peep.
    That is where they go,”

were silent before the next Christmas came around. And then the mother of
Najma who looked so strong and sat in the corner, interested so deeply in
all the recitations and songs, with two others of that little company had
gone Home before the end of the new year.

[Illustration: A Bedouin Girl playing peek-a-boo on a camel]

It was Najma’s last Christmas, however, that I was going to tell about.
We had been busy all morning decorating the little chapel in the hospital
and getting the simple gifts all in order for the afternoon celebration.
Najma had not been well for a few days, suffering with those attacks of
fever that are so common in the Persian Gulf. When Christmas came we
thought she would not be well enough to attend, but she begged so hard
and was so sure that she would be all right that we sent around a donkey
to her home; and when her mother had put on all her new garments, so
bright and pretty, she rode to the hospital. Although she was weak, when
she came with the other children she brightened up considerably and took
a keen interest in everything, even helping to sing the Christmas carols.
When the others had said their pieces, she insisted on saying hers and
repeated beautifully the whole fifty-first Psalm. Then she waited until
the refreshments were served—that most important part of a Christmas
celebration—and afterwards wishing everybody a Happy Christmas she was
placed on the back of the donkey and went home.

I wish you could have seen our Christmas tree on that occasion. It
consisted of a number of palm branches tied together and the gifts were
hung from the spikes of the branches,—presents old and new for all who
came. Most people would have been surprised at the absence of dolls, but
in Arabia these have to be given out sparingly and judiciously because
some of the Moslems are too much afraid of idol worship to appreciate
dolls in their homes. Therefore, we gave the children writing pads and
pencils, books and toys, beads and new dresses, small bags of rice for
the poorer scholars,—something for everybody. How joyfully each received
his or her gift!

Najma gathered up all the little things given to her and kept them close
by her side all the next day and took a great deal of pleasure in them;
but in the evening of that day we were suddenly called out to see her and
found her dying from heart failure following that week of fever. It was a
surprise and a shock to us all. In spite of her faults those who knew her
best could not help loving her. With tremendous difficulty she learned
to read the Gospel and was very proud of her attainment as it is only one
girl in a thousand among the Arabs who can read. To lose such a bright
little Arab girl seemed very sad at that time, but God makes no mistakes,
and we are so glad that this little girl had such a bright Christmas as
her last on earth. Think of the children who are in the hospital to-day,
many of them for the first time in contact with Christians, and that
some of them have never yet had their first Christmas in Arabia. There
are many, many little girls in this neglected country who would enjoy a
Christmas so much if only they knew as Najma did about the Babe born in
a manger for their sakes. It is nineteen hundred years ago that He came
to the world as its Saviour and yet there are so many countries where the
boys and girls have not yet heard of His coming.

If we would win the whole, round world for Jesus we must tell His story
all around the earth and give everybody a chance to read the story of His
life. Do you remember those beautiful verses of Father Tabb in regard to
the First Christmas?

    “A little Boy of Heavenly birth
    And far from Home to-day,
    Comes down to find His ball, the earth,
    Which sin has cast away.
    Come, comrades, let us one and all
    Join in to get Him back His ball.”



If all Arabia is to hear the story of the Gospel, there are many zigzag
journeys yet to be made. The country is much larger than most people
imagine, and a great part of it is still unexplored. Fortunately the
unexplored sections of the great peninsula are nearly all uninhabited
as far as we know, but no one has been there to see or investigate. If
you were to travel from New York to Chicago and back on a camel, the
distance would be about as great as to cross Arabia once in its broadest
direction. Topsy Turvy Land is three times as large as the state of
Texas, the largest state in the Union. It is nearly as large as all
British India, excluding Burma, and if you spread Arabia out on the map
of Europe, without tucking in the corners, you could cover the whole of
France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Servia,
Roumania, and Bulgaria.

The population of this great stretch of country with its table-lands
and deserts, its villages and encampments, is perhaps eight million;
and just as Arabia, with its four thousand miles of coast, has only
three lighthouses for ships that pass in the night, so the light of the
Gospel is shining in only a very few places along the coast, and hardly
at all in the interior. At Aden, and Muscat, and Bahrein, and Kuweit
and Busrah, as well as along the rivers as far as Bagdad, there are
lighthouses of the Gospel. Although only like little candles burning
in the night, they can be seen from a long distance. Patients come for
hundreds of miles to the hospitals, and when they go away, carry the
gospel message for hundreds of miles back to their villages. And yet what
are these few stations for so large a territory, and what can less than
forty missionaries do among so many people?

When the great Missionary Conference met at Edinburgh in 1910 and the
report was made on How to Carry the Gospel to all the non-Christian
World, it stated that “Of the eight million inhabitants of Arabia, it is
entirely safe to say that fully six million are without any missionary
agency.” One can travel from Bahrein across the mainland for 1,150 miles
without meeting a missionary or a mission station, all the way to Aden.
On the entire Red Sea Coast, as well as the south coast between Aden and
Muscat, there is no mission work. Of the six provinces of Arabia, only
three are occupied by mission stations. No one has ever preached the
Gospel at Mecca, where Mohammed was born, or at Medina, where he lies
buried, and although some ninety thousand pilgrims from every part of the
Moslem world pass through Jiddah every year on their way to Mecca, this
important city is still waiting for an ambassador of Jesus Christ.

Perhaps the most neglected class in this great neglected country are
the Bedouins, or nomads. Like Ishmael of old, “their hand is against
every man, and every man’s hand is against them.” Hated alike by the
town dwellers and the Turks, they are the roving gypsies of the Orient,
and yet they are so numerous and so closely bound together by tribal
ties that sometimes one can see their black tents spread out in vast
encampments like a city of tabernacles in the wilderness.

It is a strange life these children of Ishmael lead, a life full of its
joys and sorrows and desert hardships. Under the shadow of a black tent,
or the shade of an acacia bush, or perhaps behind a camel, the Arab baby
first sees the daylight. As soon as it is born, its mother gives it a
sand-bath, and the father gives it a name. For the rest, it is allowed
to grow up much as it pleases. Trained from birth in the hard school of
fatigue and hunger and danger, the Bedouin children grow up saucy and
impudent, but with cunning and a knowledge of all the ways of the desert
and the life of the caravans.

The Bedouin children have no books nor toys. They play with dead locusts
or dried-up camel’s bones; they make whistles out of desert grass, and
love to use the sling as David did, with pebbles from the brook when
he killed the giant. The girls help in the hard work of drawing water,
making butter and driving the camels to and from pasture. Although they
cannot read, and have no picture books, they all of them study without
ceasing the great picture book of nature, and their little dark eyes,
whether watching the sheep at pasture, or counting the stars in the
blue abyss from their perch on the lofty camel saddle in the midnight
journeyings, are never at rest.

In some parts of Arabia, Bedouin women when they travel ride on a camel
saddle called a _howdij_, which protects them from the gaze of strangers.
Sometimes they play peek-a-boo, as the camel trudges along. In many
respects their life is most unhappy. Doughty and other travellers believe
that over one-half of the nomad population seldom know the blessing
of a full meal. When they hear from the lips of Western travellers of
countries where there is bread and clothing and peace, and water in
great abundance, they are surprised, and contrast the condition of other
nations with their lives of misery. One of them, after listening to
Doughty’s description, threw his hands up, and uttered this prayer, “Have
mercy, O Allah, upon Thy creature whom Thou createdst! Pity the sighing
of the poor, the hungry, the naked. Have mercy, have mercy upon them, O
Allah!” Who can help saying “Amen” to the nomad’s prayer? We cannot judge
them harshly when we remember that they have never had a fair chance,
and that for centuries warfare and plunder have been their daily life.
I remember with much interest a Sunday I spent in the black tents of
Kedar, with a crowd of nomads sitting around. They were most hospitable,
and brought in great wooden bowls of fresh milk, with butter floating in
it, dried dates and bread baked on the coals; then, when our appetites
were satisfied, they listened, oh, so eagerly, as I told them for the
first time the old, old story of Jesus Christ’s birth, and death and
resurrection. Some of them were so ignorant that they had never heard of
a cross, and I remember taking two twigs from the ground and showing them
how our Saviour was crucified for our sins, according to the Scriptures.
No one has visited that tribe in Oman since my journey eight years ago.
How long must they and others wait for Christian teachers? Shall the
Bedouin babies have a better chance than their mothers had?

The kingdoms and governments of this world have frontiers which are
guarded and must not be crossed without permission, but the kingdom of
Jesus Christ has no frontier. It has never been kept within bounds.
It has a message for the whole race, and the very fact that there are
millions of people in the heart of Arabia who have never heard, becomes
the strongest of reasons why we must carry that message to them.
Difficulties and dangers should not hold us back. They did not hold back
Jesus Christ when He made the long journey to our lost world. He depends
on us to finish His work. As it is written:

    “They shall see to whom no tidings of Him came,
    And they who have not heard shall understand.”

       *       *       *       *       *

    “O Zion, haste, thy mission high fulfilling,
    To tell to all the world that God is Light;
    That He who made all nations is not willing
    One soul should perish, lost in shades of night.

    “Publish glad tidings;
    Tidings of peace;
    Tidings of Jesus,
    Redemption and release.”



[Musical score]

  A-ra-bi-a! A-ra-bi-a! For thee our pray’rs as-cend,
    That soon the ful-ness of God’s love, And light on thee de-scend.
  From O-man’s cliffs to Ye-man’s strand, Thy truth from sea to sea.
    Make known to ev-’ry A-rab band, O Lord! and make them free.

  Go! her-alds of the gos-pel, go! Urged by your Mas-ter’s love,
    Let ev-’ry A-rab cap-tive know; He lives—the God of love.
  His truth proclaim, His man-dates name, Sal-va-tion’s offering bring;
    Till ev-’ry soul shall learn His fame, And crown the Saviour-King.

  Go! her-alds of your Sa-viour, send The mes-sage far and near,
    Till ev-’ry Moslem heart shall bend In ho-ly, reverend fear.
  Speed! mes-sen-gers of peace, speed on! God’s promised truth make known;
    Chil-dren of Ishmael, Ha-gar’s son, Go! claim them as God’s own.

  A-ra-bi-a! A-ra-bi-a! Up-on thy dark-est night,
    The Sun of Righteousness as-cends; He comes to give thee light.
  Be-fore Him shall the cres-cent wane. Him ev-’ry king shall bless;
    The wild-er-ness shall praise His name, The isles His love con-fess.

Transcriber’s Note: A PDF scoresheet and MIDI file of the music are
available with the HTML version of this e-text at LibraryBlog.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Zigzag Journeys in the Camel Country - Arabia in Picture and Story" ***

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