In the Postscript of “The Attack on Berbera,” the H. E. I. Company’s Schooner “Mahi,” Lieut. King, I. N., entered the harbor of Berbera to prepare for the “Somaliland Expedition.” The expedition consisted of 42 people, including a dozen recruits from various races, armed with sabers and flint muskets. The chiefs appeared dissatisfied with the confinement of one member, Mohammed Sammattar, the Abban. The expedition aimed to witness the Berbera fair and expected instruments and other necessaries by mid-April mail from Europe. On April 19th, the Balyuz attacked the expedition, and Lieut. Speke escaped. The group continued to plunder, but Lieut. Speke was killed by a sharp blow of a war-club. The group mourned the loss of Lieut. Stroyan and decided to commit him to the deep after two days of searching for survivors.
First Footsteps In East Africa
Or, An Exploration Of Harar
By Richard Burton
The First Footsteps in East Africa is a seminal work of Africa recording Burton’s first expedition into Somaliland. His purpose was to explore the forbidden Moslem city of Harar, “a city whose walls no European had ever penetrated,” as well as to gather information about the headwaters of the Nile. He traveled in the same disguise that took him to Mecca, as Haji Mirza Abdullah, an Arab merchant.
It was on this expedition that Burton was first joined by John Speke, at the suggestion of James Outram. Speke originally abetted Burton’s plans in Somaliland, but differences quickly arose between the two, and Speke over the years became Burton’s great nemesis, taking credit for discovering the Nile and deprecating Burton’s efforts in every sphere.
On this journey, despite the success of the primary objective, Lieut. Stroyan died and Burton received the famous spear wound to his face during an attack by Somalis while encamped on the beach at Berbera.
Burton’s intellectual influence is far-reaching. His amazing grasp of languages and culture anticipates the globalism of the future. His geographical discoveries not only made him an interesting historical figure but also allowed for future exploration. The detail with which he wrote and his willingness to examine intimate aspects of daily life were precursors to modern ethnography.
And his understanding and willingness to immerse himself in cultures that are still little understood by those in Western nation-states is enlightening on many levels. He was the first European to enter Mecca, first to explore Somaliland, and first to discover the great lakes of Central Africa.
A prolific writer, he published 43 volumes on exploration and travel, two volumes of poetry, over a hundred articles, and 143 pages of autobiography. He translated sixteen volumes of The Arabian Nights, six volumes of Portuguese literature, two volumes of Latin poetry, and four volumes of folklore (Neapolitan, African, and Hindu). His occupations included; soldier, writer, explorer, foreign emissary, translator and linguist, sword fighter, ethnographer, and archaeologist.
AN IMPORTANT BURTON PRINTING and a very important edition of this primary text, created by Isabel Burton in honor of her husband’s expansive work and extended oeuvre. Ms Burton had hoped to continue on with the project, publishing many more of Burton’s writings, but the seven volumes which she did publish were the only ones ever printed.
This is a fine set of the scarce Memorial issue of one of Burton’s most important books. Not only did the printing include the full text of the original, but also the original illustrations.
|CHAPTER I||Departure from Aden|
|CHAPTER II||Life in Zeila|
|CHAPTER III||Excursions near Zeila|
|CHAPTER IV||The Somal, their Origin and Peculiarities|
|CHAPTER V||From Zeila to the Hills|
|CHAPTER VI||From the Zeila Hills to the Marar Prairie|
|CHAPTER VII||From the Marar Prairie to Harar|
|CHAPTER VIII||Ten Days at Harar|
|CHAPTER IX||A Ride to Berberah|
|CHAPTER X||Berberah and its Environs|
|POSTSCRIPT||[The Attack on Berberah]|
|APPENDIX I||DIARY AND OBSERVATIONS MADE BY LIEUTENANT SPEKE|
|APPENDIX II||GRAMMATICAL OUTLINE AND VOCABULARY HARARI LANGUAGE|
|APPENDIX III||METEOROLOGICAL OBSERVATIONS IN THE COLD SEASON OF 1854-5|
|APPENDIX V||A CONDENSED ACCOUNT OF AN ATTEMPT TO REACH HARAR FROM ANKOBAR|
The Attack on Berbera
On Saturday, April 7th 1855, the H. E. I. Company’s Schooner “Mahi,” Lieut. King, I. N., commanding, entered the harbor of Berbera, where her guns roared forth a parting salute to the “Somaliland Expedition.”
The Emporium of East Africa was at the time of my landing, in a state of confusion. But a day before, the great Harar caravan, numbering 3000 souls, and as many cattle, had entered for the purpose of laying in the usual eight months’ supplies, and purchase, barter, and exchange were transacted in most hurried and unbusiness-like manner. All day, and during the greater part of night, the town rang with the voices of buyer and seller: to specify no other articles of traffic, 500 slaves of both sexes were in the market. Long lines of laden and unladen camels were to be seen pacing the glaring yellow shore; rumors of plundering parties at times brought swarms of spear-men, bounding and yelling like wild beasts, from the town; already small parties of travelers had broken ground for their return journey; and the foul heap of mat hovels, to which this celebrated mart had been reduced, was steadily shrinking in dimensions.
Our little party consisted of forty-two souls. At Aden I had applied officially for some well-trained Somali policemen, but as an increase of that establishment had been urged upon the home authorities, my request was refused. We were fain to content ourselves with a dozen recruits of various races, Egyptian, Nubian, Arab and Negro, whom we armed with sabres and flint muskets. The other members of the expedition were our private servants, and about a score of Somal under our rival protectors Jami Hasan and Burhale Nuh. The Ras or Captain of the Kafilah was one Mahmud of the Mijjarthayn, better known at Aden as El Balyuz or the Envoy: he had the reputation of being a shrewd manager, thoroughly acquainted with the habits and customs, as well as the geography, of Somaliland.
Our camp was pitched near the site of the proposed Agency, upon a rocky ridge within musket-shot of the southern extremity of the creek, and about three quarters of a mile distant from the town. This position had been selected for the benefit of the “Mahi’s” guns. Political exigencies required the “Mahi” to relieve the “Elphinstone,” then blockading the seaboard of our old Arab foe, the Fazli chief; she was unable to remain upon the coast, and superintend our departure, a measure which I had strongly urged. Our tents were pitched in one line: Lieut. Stroyan’s was on the extreme right, about a dozen paces distant was the “Rowtie” occupied by Lieut. Herne and myself, and at a similar distance on the left of the camp was that in which Lieut. Speke slept. The baggage was placed between the two latter, the camels were tethered in front upon a sandy bed beneath the ridge our camping-ground, and in rear stood the horses and mules. During daytime, all were on the alert: at night two sentries were posted, regularly relieved, and visited at times by the Ras and ourselves.
I had little reason to complain of my reception at Berbera. The chiefs appeared dissatisfied with the confinement of one Mohammed Sammattar, the Abban who accompanied Lieut. Speke to the Eastern country: they listened, however, with respectful attention to a letter in which the Political Resident at Aden enjoined them to treat us with consideration and hospitality.
There had been petty disputes with Burhale Nuh, and the elders of the Eesa Musa tribe, touching the hire of horse-keepers and camel-drivers: such events, however, are not worthy to excite attention in Africa. My friend at Harar, the Shaykh Jami, had repeatedly called upon us, ate bread and salt, recommended us to his fellow countrymen, and used my intervention in persuading avaricious ship-owners to transport, gratis, pauper pilgrims to Arabia. The people, after seeing the deaths of a few elephants, gradually lowered their loud boasts and brawling claims: they assisted us in digging a well, offered their services as guides and camel-drivers, and in some cases insisted upon encamping near us for protection. Briefly, we saw no grounds of apprehension. During thirty years, not an Englishman of the many that had visited it had been molested at Berbera, and apparently there was as little to fear in it as within the fortifications of Aden.
Under these favorable circumstances, we might have set out at once towards the interior. Our camels, fifty-six in number, had been purchased, and the Ogadayn Caravan was desirous of our escort. But we wished to witness the close of the Berbera fair, and we expected instruments and other necessaries by the mid-April mail from Europe.
About 8 P.M., on the 9th April, a shower, accompanied by thunder and lightning, came up from the southern hills, where rain had been falling for some days, and gave notice that the Gugi or Somali monsoon had begun. This was the signal for the Bedouins to migrate to the Plateau above the hills. Throughout the town the mats were stripped from their frameworks of stick and pole, the camels were laden, and thousands of travelers lined the roads. The next day Berbera was almost deserted except by the pilgrims who intended to take ship, and by merchants, who, fearful of plundering parties, awaited the first favorable hour for setting sail. Our protectors, Jami and Burhale, receiving permission to accompany their families and flocks, left us in charge of their sons and relations. On the 15th April the last vessel sailed out of the creek, and our little party remained in undisputed possession of the place.
Three days afterwards, about noon, an Aynterad craft en route from Aden entered the solitary harbor freighted with about a dozen Somal desirous of accompanying us towards Ogadayn, the southern region. She would have sailed that evening; fortunately, however, I had ordered our people to feast her commander and crew with rice and the irresistible dates.
At sunset on the same day we were startled by a discharge of musketry behind the tents: the cause proved to be three horsemen, over whose heads our guard had fired in case they might be a foraging party. I reprimanded our people sharply for this act of folly, ordering them in future to reserve their fire, and when necessary to shoot into, not above, a crowd. After this we proceeded to catechize the strangers, suspecting them to be scouts, the usual forerunners of a Somali raid: the reply was so plausible that even the Balyuz, with all his acuteness, was deceived. The Bedouins had forged a report that their ancient enemy the Hajj Sharmarkay was awaiting with four ships at the neighboring port, Siyaro, the opportunity of seizing Berbera whilst deserted, and of re-erecting his forts there for the third time. Our visitors swore by the divorce-oath,—the most solemn which the religious know,—that a vessel entering the creek at such unusual season, they had been sent to ascertain whether it had been freighted with materials for building, and concluded by laughingly asking if we feared danger from the tribe of our own protectors. Believing them, we posted as usual two sentries for the night, and retired to rest in our wonted security.
Between 2 and 3 A.M. of the 19th April I was suddenly aroused by the Balyuz, who cried aloud that the enemy was upon us. Hearing a rush of men like a stormy wind, I sprang up, called for my sabre, and sent Lieut. Herne to ascertain the force of the foray. Armed with a “Colt,” he went to the rear and left of the camp, the direction of danger, collected some of the guard,—others having already disappeared,—and fired two shots into the assailants. Then finding himself alone, he turned hastily towards the tent; in so doing he was tripped up by the ropes, and as he arose, a Somali appeared in the act of striking at him with a club. Lieut. Herne fired, floored the man, and rejoining me, declared that the enemy was in great force and the guard nowhere. Meanwhile, I had aroused Lieuts. Stroyan and Speke, who were sleeping in the extreme right and left tents. The former, it is presumed, arose to defend himself, but, as the sequel shows, we never saw him alive. Lieut. Speke, awakened by the report of firearms, but supposing it the normal false alarm,—a warning to plunderers,—he remained where he was: presently hearing clubs rattling upon his tent, and feet shuffling around, he ran to my Rowtie, which we prepared to defend as long as possible.
The enemy swarmed like hornets with shouts and screams intending to terrify, and proving that overwhelming odds were against us: it was by no means easy to avoid in the shades of night the jobbing of javelins, and the long heavy daggers thrown at our legs from under and through the opening of the tent. We three remained together: Lieut. Herne knelt by my right, on my left was Lieut. Speke guarding the entrance, I stood in the center, having nothing but a sabre. The revolvers were used by my companions with deadly effect: unfortunately, there was but one pair. When the fire was exhausted, Lieut. Herne went to search for his powder-horn, and that failing, to find some spears usually tied to the tent-pole. Whilst thus engaged, he saw a man breaking into the rear of our Rowtie, and came back to inform me of the circumstance.
At this time, about five minutes after the beginning of the affray, the tent had been almost beaten down, an Arab custom with which we were all familiar, and had we been entangled in its folds, we should have been speared with unpleasant facility. I gave the word for escape, and sallied out, closely followed by Lieut. Herne, with Lieut. Speke in the rear. The prospect was not agreeable. About twenty men were kneeling and crouching at the tent entrance, whilst many dusk figures stood further off, or ran about shouting the war-cry, or with shouts and blows drove away our camels. Among the enemy were many of our friends and attendants: the coast being open to them, they naturally ran away, firing a few useless shots and receiving a modicum of flesh wounds.
After breaking through the mob at the tent entrance, imagining that I saw the form of Lieut. Stroyan lying upon the sand, I cut my way towards it amongst a dozen Somal, whose war-clubs worked without mercy, whilst the Balyuz, who was violently pushing me out of the fray, rendered the strokes of my sabre uncertain. This individual was cool and collected: though incapacitated by a sore right-thumb from using the spear, he did not shun danger, and passed unhurt through the midst of the enemy: his efforts, however, only illustrated the venerable adage, “defend me from my friends.” I turned to cut him down: he cried out in alarm; the well-known voice caused an instant’s hesitation: at that moment a spearman stepped forward, left his javelin in my mouth, and retired before he could be punished. Escaping as by a miracle, I sought some support: many of our Somal and servants lurking in the darkness offered to advance, but “tailed off” to a man as we approached the foe. Presently the Balyuz reappeared, and led me towards the place where he believed my three comrades had taken refuge. I followed him, sending the only man that showed presence of mind, one Golab of the Yusuf tribe, to bring back the Aynterad craft from the Spit into the center of the harbor. Again losing the Balyuz in the darkness, I spent the interval before dawn wandering in search of my comrades, and lying down when overpowered with faintness and pain: as the day broke, with my remaining strength I reached the head of the creek, was carried into the vessel, and persuaded the crew to arm themselves and visit the scene of our disasters.
Meanwhile, Lieut. Herne, who had closely followed me, fell back, using the butt-end of his discharged sixshooter upon the hard heads around him: in so doing he came upon a dozen men, who though they loudly vociferated, “Kill the Franks who are killing the Somal!” allowed him to pass uninjured.
He then sought his comrades in the empty huts of the town, and at early dawn was joined by the Balyuz, who was similarly employed. When day broke he sent a Negro to stop the native craft, which was apparently sailing out of the harbor, and in due time came on board. With the exception of sundry stiff blows with the war-club, Lieut. Herne had the fortune to escape unhurt.
On the other hand, Lieut. Speke’s escape was in every way wonderful. Sallying from the tent he leveled his “Dean and Adams” close to an assailant’s breast. The pistol refused to revolve. A sharp blow of a war-club upon the chest felled our comrade, who was in the rear and unseen. When he fell, two or three men sprang upon him, pinioned his hands behind, felt him for concealed weapons,—an operation to which he submitted in some alarm,—and led him towards the rear, as he supposed to be slaughtered. There, Lieut. Speke, who could scarcely breathe from the pain of the blow, asked a captor to tie his hands before, instead of behind, and begged a drop of water to relieve his excruciating thirst. The savage defended him against a number of the Somal who came up threatening and brandishing their spears, he brought a cloth for the wounded man to lie upon, and lost no time in procuring a draught of water.
Lieut. Speke remained upon the ground till dawn. During the interval, he witnessed the war-dance of the savages—a scene striking in the extreme. The tallest and largest warriors marched in a ring round the tents and booty, singing, with the deepest and most solemn tones, the song of thanksgiving. At a little distance, the grey uncertain light disclosed four or five men, lying desperately hurt, whilst their kinsmen kneaded their limbs, poured water upon their wounds, and placed lumps of dates in their stiffening hands. As day broke, the division of plunder caused angry passions to rise. The dead and dying were abandoned. One party made a rush upon the cattle, and with shouts and yells drove them off towards the wild, some loaded themselves with goods, others fought over pieces of cloth, which they tore with hand and dagger, whilst the disappointed, vociferating with rage, struck at one another and brandished their spears. More than once during these scenes, a panic seized them; they moved off in a body to some distance; and there is little doubt that had our guard struck one blow, we might still have won the day.
Lieut. Speke’s captor went to seek his own portion of the spoil, when a Somal came up and asked in Hindostani, what business the Frank had in their country and added that he would kill him if a Christian, but spare the life of a brother Moslem. The wounded man replied that he was going to Zanzibar, that he was still a Nazarene, and therefore that the work had better be done at once:—the savage laughed and passed on. He was succeeded by a second, who, equally compassionate, whirled a sword round his head, twice pretended to strike, but returned to the plunder without doing damage. Presently came another manner of assailant. Lieut. Speke, who had extricated his hands, caught the spear leveled at his breast, but received at the same moment a blow from a club which, paralyzing his arm, caused him to lose his hold. In defending his heart from a succession of thrusts, he received severe wounds on the back of his hand, his right shoulder, and his left thigh. Pausing a little, the wretch crossed to the other side and suddenly passed his spear clean through the right leg of the wounded man: the latter “smelling death,” then leapt up, and taking advantage of his assailant’s terror, rushed headlong towards the sea. Looking behind, he avoided the javelin hurled at his back, and had the good fortune to run, without further accident, the gauntlet of a score of missiles. When pursuit was discontinued, he sat down faint from loss of blood upon a sandhill. Recovering strength by a few minutes’ rest, he staggered on to the town, where some old women directed him to us. Then, pursuing his way, he fell in with the party sent to seek him, and by their aid reached the craft, having walked and run at least three miles after receiving eleven wounds, two of which had pierced his thighs. A touching lesson how difficult it is to kill a man in sound health!
When the three survivors had reached the craft, Yusuf, the captain, armed his men with muskets and spears, landed them near the camp, and ascertained that the enemy, expecting a fresh attack, had fled, carrying away our cloth, tobacco, swords, and other weapons. The corpse of Lieut. Stroyan was then brought on board. Our lamented comrade was already stark and cold. A spear had traversed his heart, another had pierced his abdomen, and a frightful gash, apparently of a sword, had opened the upper part of his forehead: the body had been bruised with war-clubs, and the thighs showed marks of violence after death. This was the severest affliction that befell us. We had lived together like brothers: Lieut. Stroyan was a universal favorite, and his sterling qualities of manly courage, physical endurance, and steady perseverance had augured for him a bright career, thus prematurely cut off. Truly melancholy to us was the contrast between the evening when he sat with us full of life and spirits, and the morning when we saw amongst us a livid corpse.
We had hoped to preserve the remains of our friend for interment at Aden. But so rapid were the effects of exposure that we were compelled most reluctantly, on the morning of April 20th, to commit them to the deep, Lieut. Herne reading the funeral service.
Then, with heavy hearts, we set sail for the near Arabian shore and, after a tedious two days, carried to our friends the news of unexpected disaster.
 The Fair-season of 1864-56 began on the 16th November, and may be said to have broken up on the 15th April.
The principal caravans which visit Berbera are from Harar the Western, and Ogadayn, the Southern region: they collect the produce of the numerous intermediate tribes of the Somal. The former has been described in the preceding pages. The following remarks upon the subject of the Ogadayn caravan are the result of Lieuts. Stroyan and Herne’s observations at Berbera.
“Large caravans from Ogadayn descend to the coast at the beginning and the end of the Fair-season. They bring slaves from the Arusa country, cattle in great quantities, gums of sorts, clarified butter, ivory, ostrich feathers, and rhinoceros horns to be made into handles for weapons. These are bartered for coarse cotton cloth of three kinds, for English and American sheeting in pieces of seventy-five, sixty-six, sixty-two, and forty-eight yards, black and indigo-dyed calicos in lengths of sixteen yards, nets or fillets worn by the married women, iron and steel in small bars, lead and zinc, beads of various kinds, especially white porcelain and speckled glass, dates and rice.”
The Ayyal Ahmed and Ayyal Yunis classes of the Habr Awal Somal have constituted themselves Abbans or brokers to the Ogadayn Caravans, and the rapacity of the patron has produced a due development of roguery in the client. The principal trader of this coast is the Banyan from Aden find Cutch, facetiously termed by the Somal their “Milch-cows.” The African cheats by mismeasuring the bad cotton cloth, and the Indian by falsely weighing the coffee, ivory, ostrich feathers and other valuable articles which he receives in return. Dollars and even rupees are now preferred to the double breadth of eight cubits which constitutes the well-known “Tobe.”
 A Sepoy’s tent, pent-house shaped, supported by a single transverse and two upright poles and open at one of the long ends.
 Since returning, I have been informed, however, by the celebrated Abyssinian traveler M. Antoine d’Abbadie, that in no part of the wild countries which he visited was his life so much perilled as at Berbera.
 Lieut. Speke had landed at Karam harbor on the 24th of March, in company with the Ras, in order to purchase camels. For the Ayyun or best description he paid seven dollars and a half; the Gel Ad (white camels) cost on an average four. In five days he had collected twenty-six, the number required, and he then marched overland from Karam to Berbera.
I had taken the precaution of detaching Lieut. Speke to Karam in lively remembrance of my detention for want of carriage at Zayla, and in consequence of a report raised by the Somal of Aden that a sufficient number of camels was not procurable at Berbera. This proved false. Lieuts. Stroyan and Herne found no difficulty whatever in purchasing animals at the moderate price of five dollars and three quarters a head: for the same sum they could have bought any reasonable number. Future travelers, however, would do well not to rely solely upon Berbera for a supply of this necessary, especially at seasons when the place is not crowded with caravans.
 The Elders of the Habr Awal, I have since been informed, falsely asserted that they repeatedly urged us, with warnings of danger, to leave Berbera at the end of the fair, but that we positively refused compliance for other reasons. The facts of the case are those stated in the text.
 They prefer traveling during the monsoon on account of the abundance of water.
 The framework is allowed to remain for use next Fair-season.
 The attacking party, it appears, was 350 strong; 12 of the Mikahil, 15 of the Habr Gerhajis, and the rest Eesa Musa. One Ao Ali wore, it is said, the ostrich feather for the murder of Lieut. Stroyan.
 Mohammed, his Indian servant, stated that rising at my summons he had rushed to his tent, armed himself with a revolver, and fired six times upon his assassins. Unhappily, however, Mohammed did not see his master fall, and as he was foremost amongst the fugitives, scant importance attaches to his evidence.
 At this season native craft quitting Berbera make for the Spit late in the evening, cast anchor there, and set sail with the land breeze before dawn. Our lives hung upon a thread. Had the vessel departed, as she intended, the night before the attack, nothing could have saved us from destruction.
 The Somal place dates in the hands of the fallen to ascertain the extent of injury: he who cannot eat that delicacy is justly decided to be in articulo.
 In less than a month after receiving such injuries, Lieut. Speke was on his way to England: he has never felt the least inconvenience from the wounds, which closed up like cuts in Indian-rubber.
 They had despised the heavy sacks of grain, the books, broken boxes, injured instruments, and a variety of articles which they did not understand. We spent that day at Berbera, bringing off our property, and firing guns to recall six servants who were missing. They did not appear, having lost no time in starting for Karam and Aynterad, whence they made their way in safety to Aden. On the evening of the 19th of April, unable to remove the heavier effects, and anxious to return with the least possible delay, I ordered them to be set on fire.
Appendix will follow
About Richard Francis Burton
Sir Richard Francis Burton (19 March 1821 – 20 October 1890) was a British explorer, writer, orientalist scholar, and soldier. He was famed for his travels and explorations in Asia, Africa, and the Americas, as well as his extraordinary knowledge of languages and cultures. According to one count, he spoke twenty-nine languages.
Burton’s best-known achievements include a well-documented journey to Mecca in disguise, at a time when non-Muslims were forbidden access on pain of death; an unexpurgated translation of One Thousand and One Nights (commonly called The Arabian Nights in English after early translations of Antoine Galland’s French version); the publication of the Kama Sutra in English; a translation of The Perfumed Garden, the “Arab Kama Sutra”; and a journey with John Hanning Speke as the first Europeans to visit the Great Lakes of Africa in search of the source of the Nile.
His works and letters extensively criticized the colonial policies of the British Empire, even to the detriment of his career. Although he aborted his university studies, he became a prolific and erudite author and wrote numerous books and scholarly articles about subjects including human behavior, travel, falconry, fencing, sexual practices, and ethnography. A characteristic feature of his books is the copious footnotes and appendices containing remarkable observations and information. William Henry Wilkins wrote: “So far as I can gather from all I have learned, the chief value of Burton’s version of The Scented Garden lay not so much in his translation of the text, though that, of course, was admirably done, as in the copious notes and explanations which he had gathered together for the purpose of annotating the book. He had made this subject a study of years. For the notes of the book alone, he had been collecting material for thirty years, though his actual translation of it only took him eighteen months.”
Burton was a captain in the army of the East India Company, serving in India, and later briefly in the Crimean War. Following this, he was engaged by the Royal Geographical Society to explore the east coast of Africa, where he led an expedition guided by locals and was the first European known to have seen Lake Tanganyika. In later life, he served as British consul in Fernando Pó (now Bioko, Equatorial Guinea), Santos in Brazil, Damascus (now Syria), and finally in Trieste (now Italy). He was a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and was awarded a knighthood in 1886.
In May 1854, Burton traveled to Aden in preparation for his Richard Burton Expedition, supported by the Royal Geographical Society. Other members included G.E. Herne, William Stroyan, and John Hanning Speke. Burton undertook the expedition to Harar, Speke investigated the Wady Nogal, while Herne and Stroyan stayed on at Berbera. According to Burton, “A tradition exists that with the entrance of the first [white] Christian Harar will fall.” With Burton’s entry, the “Guardian Spell” was broken.
This Somaliland Expedition lasted from 29 October 1854 to 9 February 1855, with much of the time spent in the port of Zeila, where Burton was a guest of the town’s Governor al-Haji Sharmakay bin Ali Salih. Burton, “assuming the disguise of an Arab merchant” called Hajji Mirza Abdullah, awaited word that the road to Harar was safe. On 29 December, Burton met with Gerard Adan in the village of Sagharrah, when Burton openly proclaimed himself an English officer with a letter for the Amīr of Harar. On 3 January 1855, Burton made it to Harar and was graciously met by the Amir. Burton stayed in the city for ten days, officially a guest of the Amir but in reality his prisoner. The journey back was plagued by lack of supplies, and Burton wrote that he would have died of thirst had he not seen desert birds and realized they would be near water. Burton made it back to Berbera on 31 January 1855.
Following this adventure, Burton prepared to set out in search of the source of the Nile, accompanied by Lieutenant Speke, Lieutenant G. E. Herne, and Lieutenant William Stroyan, and a number of Africans employed as bearers and expedition guides. The schooner HCS Mahi delivered them to Berbera on 7 April 1855. While the expedition was camped near Berbera, his party was attacked by a group of Somali waranle (“warriors”) belonging to the Isaaq clan. The officers estimated the number of attackers at 200. In the ensuing fight, Stroyan was killed and Speke was captured and wounded in eleven places before he managed to escape. Burton was impaled with a javelin, the point entering one cheek and exiting the other. This wound left a notable scar that can be easily seen in portraits and photographs. He was forced to make his escape with the weapon still transfixing his head. It was no surprise then that he found the Somalis to be a “fierce and turbulent race”. However, the failure of this expedition was viewed harshly by the authorities, and a two-year investigation was set up to determine to what extent Burton was culpable for this disaster. While he was largely cleared of any blame, this did not help his career. He describes the harrowing attack in this edition of First Footsteps in East Africa (1856).
After recovering from his wounds in London, Burton traveled to Constantinople during the Crimean War, seeking a commission. He received one from General W.F. Beatson, as the chief of staff for “Beatson’s Horse”, popularly called the Bashi-bazouks, and based in Gallipoli. Burton returned after an incident which disgraced Beatson, and implicated Burton as the instigator of a “mutiny”, damaging his reputation. More
- The UNIQUE Case For The International Recognition Of Somaliland
- The World Can Learn From How Somaliland Overcame Militias
- Somaliland: The Little Country That Could By David Shinn
- Somaliland Declaration On The Origin Of African Borders
- Masuuliyiinta Xidh-Xidhan Iyo Dareemada Dhagarta Xambaarsan Ee Laga Soo Werinayo Dhinaca Madaxtooyada
- Somaliland Is A Beacon Of Democracy In An Unstable Region