WITH THE SEVEN CHURCHES OF ASIA MINOR.
HALT OF CARAVANIERS AT A SERAI.
The interior of the Turkish empire is constantly traversed by large bodies of men,
who proceed together for protection; and their object is either commerce or devotion.
We have already given some account of the first—the second remains to be noticed.
In the sixteenth year of Mahomet's mission, he ordained that every believer should
engage in a pilgrimage, to visit the place of the Caaba, or sacred house of Abraham,
which was taken up to heaven at the flood, but its model was left for true believers at
Mecca. 'This ordinance was rigidly observed by his followers. The caliphs set the
example; and all Mussulmans hold it an indispensable obligation at this day, when it is
possible for them to perform it. Even women are not exempt. If they have no husband
or brother, under whose protection they could leave the harem, they are bound to marry,
for the express purpose of obtaining one to perform this duty. The only person in the
empire exempt is the Sultan; and he only because the pilgrimage would occupy a longer
period than he could be legally absent from the capital. He is bound, however, to send
a substitute, called Surre Emmini, who always accompanies the caravan of pilgrims, and
represents the sovereign. Thus it is that every year above one hundred thousand
persons, of all ages and conditions, set out from various points, and traverse Europe,
Asia, and Africa, to fulfil this indispensable duty.
The great European caravan assembles at Constantinople in the month of Regib,
which, according to the Turkish calendar, falls at every season of the year. They
cross the Bosphorus, and unite on the great plain of Scutari, from whence they take
their departure. They exhibit a strange display of folly and fanaticism. Among the
various groups are seen, at one place jugglers and buffoons exhibiting their light and
often indecent mummery; in another, molhas and dervishes exhorting to piety, and
tearing their limbs with disgusting lacerations: but the most conspicuous object is the
sacred camel; this carries the mahhfil, or seat from which the Prophet preached and
dispensed justice in his journeys. The race is religiously kept up in the stables of the
seraglio; and some believe the camel of the mahhfil, at this day, is the actual animal on
which the Prophet rode, and kept alive by a miracle, to perform this annual journey to
his holy city.
Our illustration represents a group of a caravan of the faithful, proceeding from the
northern to the southern extremity of the empire, to perform this pilgrimage. The
venerable Moslem, who is ambitious of becoming a hadgee, is attended by his guards,
distinguished by their fantastic dress, their glittering golden-hafted hanjars, stuck in
their shawl-girdles, beside their silver-mounted pistols, and the grave turban replaced by
a many-tasselled cap. Their accommodation is the stable of a khan, which their camel
equally shares: and their refreshment is coffee, black, thick, and bitter, served by the
khangee in small characteristic cups.