Innlegg merkte med ‘An Arabian Diary’

In a continuation of my post from yesterday, Travelling with loaded rifles, here is a new entry from Clayton’s diary. It is five days later, 15th of October 1925, and he is well settled in Ibn Saud’s camp that is situated right outside Mecca. Every evening he, his aide (George Antonius) and their personal bodyguard provided by Ibn Saud, takes a walk outside the camp to see the sunset. Here is Clayton’s description of the daily walk and their escort:

We usually start shortly before sunset, so as to get to some hill before the sun goes down. We then get a very delightful view, as the bare hills begin to take on a soft-purple light, and every night there is to the east over Mecca a great bank of cloud which reflects the setting sunlight and becomes a great welter of rosy flame. At the actual moment when the sun sets we always have to stop in order to allow our escort to say his prayers, which he does with great devotion and a lack of self-consciousness which Christians might well copy. He is a Sudanese slave, by the name Idris, who has been made specially responsible for our safety and who never leave us. He is always armed, sometimes with an Enfield rifle, sometimes with a curved sword in a heavily silver-mounted scabbard, sometimes with a heavy mace studded with nails, and occasionally with all three. He is a capital fellow. When I call «Ya Idris,» he always replies «Ay wallah» (Yes, by God). Then I tell him to do something or ask for something, to which he always replies by one of three ejaculations: «Inshallah» (God willing) or «Marhabba» (Everything is open to you) or «Ma yekhalif» (There is no objection).

– From An Arabian Diary by Gilbert Clayton

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On the 10th of October 1925 Gilbert Clayton was travelling to Ibn Saud’s camp outside of the besieged city of Jeddah in present-day Saudi Arabia. The road to the camp at Bahra was not an easy ride and in his diary Clayton describes the road itself like this:

Hereafter, the road became very bad – indeed it was practically non-existent – and we ploughed laboriously through deep sand, over boulders and stones, and through low but tenacious bush.

Clayton travelled by car through what then was a war front between Ibn Saud and the Hashemite King Ali, the son of the more famous Sharif Hussein (This was the Nejd-Hejaz war of 1924-1925). Clayton’s mission was to negotiate two agreements with Ibn Saud concerning the southern frontiers of the British mandates of Transjordan and Iraq. This was, however, not his main worry during the bumpy car ride through the desert, that belonged to the loaded rifles in the front seat:

I was not sorry to get out of the car, as our escort had insisted on placing their loaded rifles beside the chauffeur, and I therefore found myself most of the time gazing into the muzzles of no less than five loaded rifles which might have been exploded by any of the numerous and hearty bumps which our car indulged in.

– From An Arabian Diary by Gilbert Clayton (edited and introduced by Robert O. Collins) [1969]