CARAVAN, from the Arabic Caerawan, and the Per sian kervan, a trader, is the name given to a company of merchants or pilgrims, who travel through the de serts in a body, in order to be secure against the attacks of the Arabs and robbers with which they arc infested.
In the articles ARA nl A, Asi A, and CA1110, we have already given an account of sonic of the principal cara vans of Asia; and we shall therefore confine our attention at present to those of the African continent.
A very extensive and lucrative commerce has from time immemorial been carried on between Timbuctoo, the great emporium of Central Africa, and the maritime states of i\Iarocco, Tunis, Algiers, Tripoli, and Egypt, by means of akkabaahs, or accumulated caravans. These caravans consist of several hundred loaded camels, at tended by the Arabs, who let them at a low rate to the merchants, and they generally cross the great desert of Sahara between the months of September and April in clusive. The line of their march is extremely irregular, as they are obliged to turn out of their direct route to fall in N‘ ith the fertile and cultivated spots called Oases.• The caravans remain at each of the se Oases about seven days; and after b( ing supplied with water, and feeding and refreshing the camels, they proceed to another spot of the same kind.
Upon the arrival of the caravans at Akka, situated in Lower Suse, on the confines of the desert, the guides and camels are discharged, and others are hired to pro ceed to Fas, Marocco, Terodant, Tafilelt, and other places. Including the sojournments at the Oases, the caravans traverse the desert in about 130 days. Setting out from the city of Fas, and travelling 7 hours a day, at the rate of 3 i miles an hour, they arrive at \Vedinoon, 'I'atta or Akka, in 18 days, where they remain. It is from the latter place that the grand accumulated cara van proceeds. Sixteen (lays are spent in tile journey from Akka to Tagassa, and after remaining fifteen (lays to replenish their camels, they proceed to the Oasis and Well of Taudenv, which they reach in seven days. I Iere they stay 15 days, and in seven days they make the wa tering place called Arawan. After a stay of 15 days, they reach Timbuctoo on the sixth day. The time em ployed in this journey is therefore 129 days. 75 being spent in rest, and 54 in actual travelling. On some oc casions this journey is completed in the short period of 82 days.
Another caravan sets off from \Vedinoon and Sok Assa, and crossing the desert between the black moun tains of Cape Bojador and Gualata, touches at West Tagossa, and after remaining there for some time to collect salt, it proceeds to Timbuctoo. This caravan employs five or six months in its journey, as it goes as far as the White Mountains near Cape Blanco, through the desert of Mograffra Waled Abussebah, to a place called A gadeer, where it remains twenty days.
" The akkabaahs which cross the desert," says Mr Jackson, " may be compared to our fleets of merchant vessels under convoy; the stata, or convoy of the desert, being two or more Arabs, belonging to the tribe through whose territory the caravan passes ; thus in passing the territory of Woled Abussebah, they are accompanied by two Sebayhecs, a people of that country, who, on reaching the confines of the territory of Woled Deleim, receive a remuneration, and return, delivering them to the protection of two chiefs of Waled Deleim; these again conducting them to the confines of the territory of the AIograffra Arabs, to whose care they deliver you, and so on, till they reach Timbuctoo. Any assault made
against the akkabaah during this journey, is considered as an insult to the whole clan to which the (stata) convoy belongs, and for which they never fail to take ample re venge.
" Besides these grand accumulated caravans, there are others which cross the desert on any emergency, without a stata, or guard of soldiers; but this is a peril ous expedition, and they are too often plundered near the northern confines of the desert, by two notorious tribes called Dikna and Emjot. In the year 1798, an akkabaah consisting of two thousand camels loaded with Soudanic produce, together with 700 slaves, was plun dered and dispersed, and many were killed. These des perate attacks are conducted in the following manner : A whole clan picket their horses at the entrance of their tents, and send out scouts to give notice when an akka baah is likely to pass; these being mounted on the heirie, or shrubba er'reeh, quickly communicate the intelligence, and the whole clan mount their horses, taking with them a sufficient number of (niag) female camels, to supply them with food, (they living altogether on the milk of that animal ;) they place themselves somewhere in am bush near an Oasis, or watering place, from whence they issue on the arrival of the akkabaah, which they plunder of every thing., leaving the unfortunate merchants en tirely destitute." The manners and customs of the merchants, during these long and dangerous journies, arc extremely simple and natural. Prohibited by their religion from the use of intoxicating liquors, their only nourishment consists of a kw dates and a draft of water, and when their journey is only for a few weeks, a little barley meal and cold water is their only food. Animated by the hopes of reaching their native country, they often sing during their journey, and when the camels arc fatigued, or when they approach a habitation, their songs are sung in trio, all the camel drivers joining in the chorus. The camels march in time to the music, and seem for a while to forget their fatigue. The day's journey is generally terminated about four o'clock, anti alter pitching their tents, and saying their prayers, they prepare t itei r supper ; as soon as it is ready, they seat themselves round in a circle, and talk till they are overcome by sleep. At break of day they again pro ceed upon their journey.