Voyage To The Cape of Spices: Murcanyo to Ras Hafun

After leaving Alula, following his meeting with Sultan Yusuf Ali Kenadid, Georges Révoil returns to Murcanyo to arrange a meeting with Boqor Osman Mahamuud in Hafun.

The Return To Murcanyo

bender meraya, bandar murcaayo, revoil, 1878

It takes Révoil and the crew of the Adonis a few hours to return to Murcaayo, but not before passing the carcass of an abandoned English coal-miners ship at Ras Filuk. The northeast coast is notorious for shipwrecks.

Upon their return to Murcaayo, Governor Samatar summons Révoil and the crew.

As soon as our boat touches the shore, we are surrounded and led to one of the fortresses…we reach the upper room by a narrow staircase. Sementar is waiting for us there with his beautiful clothes: his outfit is about the same as that of Yousuf Ali.

He asks us what news we bring of Alloula. We reply that, we simply brought our passengers back without worrying about the disagreements that exist between him and Yousouf. But Sementar, satisfied with a smile, seems to welcome this response with some incredulity.

We take leave of the Governor to go walk to the fountain, accompanied by Abdallah and a few Somalis. We are going through a large enough range of field dotted with thorny shrubs, then press into a wood of acacia mimosas full of species of birds of varied colours.  On the way, we draw off a few turtledoves and come to the fountain without noticing the length of the road.

The sun will disappear on the horizon and Meraya is off in front of us on a red sky, whose reflections gilding its forts and huts. We contemplate with a religious admiration this splendid spectacle when our attention is diverted by the cries of the children who are in pursuit of a serpent (genus etherurus). We join them when they have just killed him. This reptile is about 25 centimeters long, very pointed and of a pink color. The Somalis seemed to be very afraid of them; they say the bite is fatal.

It is almost night when we reach our boat. The men are all at the mosque. Women pray kneeling down on mats in front of their boxes. Only Abdallah accompanies us to the beach and we leave him by telling him to remind Sementar of the promise he made to us to come on board the next day.

On February 4, 1878, Révoil and the Adonis crew have a meeting with Governor Samatar where he grants them the freedom to hunt and browse Murcanyo and its surrounding area.

We hasten to make use of these rights. Our companions move quietly towards the mountain, I separated myself from them and sink into the acacia wood. I am escorted by a nephew of the Governor, Mohamoud Addi, who is adorned with his finest clothes. He has a piece of white cloth tied at the waist with red tassels and carries a shield and his spear; his long hair floating, scattered over his shoulders.

The Journey To Ras Hafun

On February 5 Governor Samatar goes on board the Adonis for a meeting. Révoil wishes to be granted permission to travel to Ras Hafun to see Boqor Osman Mahamuud and to establish a business relationship between the French and the Sultanate of Migiurtinia.

Sementar takes his place on the poop deck, stretching as a Pasha in a large armchair, and between in conversation with us, reasoning with a lot of sagacity. He informs us that mail has already gone to warn Sultan Osman Mahmoud and asks us if we will want consent to stay six days to await his arrival. Our time is short; therefore it is impossible to accede to the Governor’s desires. We conclude by accepting from him letters and two messengers who will lead us to Ras Haffoun, the nearest port of the Sultan’s residence.

Our interview finished. We separate from Sementar, not without giving us an appointment for the next day in order to establish definitively the basis of a strong and fruitful commercial agreement.

6 February. – We return on board to prepare our last interview with the Governor before leaving Meraya. In the afternoon, Sementar Osman receives us with his people, in the square, and then we make him acknowledge not verbally but in writing, the terms in which we intend to define our future relations.

In the middle of the interview he asks permission to go and pray. He returns after a few moments, fully adhering to our terms and conditions..Abdul will be responsible for the drafting of this type of treaty and will come back to him the next day.

7 February. – Upon reflection, we prefer to bring to Sementar the text of our agreement ourselves. We bring to Sementar the text of our agreement… Finally, Sementar gives us a letter for Sultan Mahmoud, giving it to a messenger named Yousouf ben Mohamed.

The letter:

We give the text of this letter as a specimen of the style officially employed by the high dignitaries of the Somalis:

Letter from the Governor of Meraya to the Grand Sultan Osman Mahmoud

El Hadji Sementar Osman, Governor of Meraya to Osman Mahmoud, Sultan of the Somalis from Bender Ziyada to Ras el Quel, residing in Nobir, his capital.

Praise to God alone, the great lord, to the respected and beloved Sultan Osman Mahmoud, to Nour Osman and all the personages of the State. May God preserve your life, I greet you and wish you the good grace and blessing of God. We are writing to you from Bender Meraya. Everything at home is fine. We tell you that they have just arrived here, the French gentlemen.

We ask that you be useful to them and to respect them; if these gentlemen wish to enter into relations with you, we urge you to do so. These gentlemen will be able to bring you everything you need every year. Then, when these gentlemen leave, I beg of you to recommend them to all the countries where they wish to go.

He who prays to God continually for you.

El Hadji Sementar Osman, Mohamed Chiroa.

El Hadji Edriss Mahmoud.

The Adonis crew, along with messenger Yusuf bin Mohamed, head to Ras Hafun. A day and half later, on February 8th, they make it to the south bay of Ras Hafun. Révoil notes that Hafun is a temporary settlement which is occupied for six months of the year.

ras hafun, revoil, 1878

8 February. –  From our arrival, a boat leaves the shore and docks the board. He informs us that the Sultan has left Haffoun, and is two and half days’ walk, by way of land in the interior. We decide to send Yousouf carrying a message from us, promising our guide a good reward if he quickly returns.

Letter from the staff of the expedition:

“To the great Sultan Mahmoud;

May the blessing of Almighty God be upon your majesty throughout your life and eternity. We arrived from Meraya where we have entered into friendly relations with your people. We have obtained from Governor Sementar Osman a guide to lead us close to you. We come beg you to please grant us a hearing to present our tributes and to restore to you the honors due to you. If you agree to grant us this favor, send us an escort and the means of a place to reside near your residence.

May the Blessing of God abide with you. “

It takes the messenger 5 days to return. He arrives carrying a letter from Boqor Osman Mahamuud and is escorted by the Governor of a neighboring town ( Samatar Ougarien). Georges Révoil is informed that Boqor Osman will arrive in 3 days, accompanied by his Ministers Nour Osman and Cher Markab Osman.

Révoil decides to make use of his time by surveying Hafun and its surrounding areas. While doing so, he is confronted by a group of horsemen.

ras hafun, warriors, cavalry, revoil, 1878

February 14th. – After helping me, my companions leave. I deploy my small equipment and operate when I turn abruptly to noise of the gallop of five horsemen.. In a second, they are by my side, and one of them, presenting me with the iron of his spear to the height of my chest, turns sharply to the right pronouncing in a solemn voice the “Naharek Tayib”” Hello to you.”

My friends who followed this charge believe me lost and eagerly come running.

I can not answer any of their questions nor understand what they say.  I utter the words: ​​”Sultan, Sultan”. They answer with a head nod, a sign of affirmative which accompanies these words: “In cha Alla, i idjik. (If it pleases God, he will come.)

The arrival of these five characters made me miss my photographic operation and this is not without annoyance that I am forced to pack and to get back on board.

On February 15, riders arrive to Ras Hafun with news from the interior of the country. Boqor Osman was unable to leave the capital of Noobir.

The older man speaks. He informed us that the Sultan will not come, that he was not able to resolve the dispute that detains him at Nobir; but that he sends his first two ministers. They will arrive in the night or the next day. If we want, however, after conferring with these envoys, to leave with them, we can rent camels and organize a caravan.

Passing in the middle of the town, the women, seated in front of their doors, weave mats, and children practice with their spears.

16 February. – At seven o’clock in the morning, we hear some horsemen.

Almost at the same time, the red flag is hoisted on the lodge of the Governor.

It was decided that Morellet and I will go ashore with the interpreter to see if there is any news. Yousouf comes to meet us. We learn from him that the two ministers of the Sultan, Nour Osman and Cher Markab Osman have arrived.  Yousouf leads us to a group where we recognize their colorful clothes, more rich than the others.

They are the brothers of Sementar Osman of Meraya. Nour holds the reigns of government until the maturity of Sultan Mahmoud, aged only of 17 years. They have a tired face and a fierce air. Next to them is a third dignitary, said to be their secretary.

All the Somalis around us are armed, only the Governor has but one long stick.

We ask Nour for news of the Sultan. He apologized for not being able to come, repeating that they are charged by him to deal with the affairs.

We invite him to come and see us on board as did his brother, Sementar. He apologizes for saying that he would be disturbed by his prayers and receive us tomorrow before sunrise.

17 February. – We head towards the house where we await the ministers who arrive soon surrounded by their armed subjects. After the customary greetings, we take our place and begin our meetings on the products of the country, on export, on the expectations of annual harvests.

For the future, we make a gift of two guns to the ministers and we leave the interpreter with them to strive to dispel their apprehensions, which was easy. They blame the Governor who has misled and blamed his conduct.

They advise us to continue with our relations with Meraya, assuring us that they will soon attract the confidence of neighboring cities.

We separate from them after handing them over the letter for the Sultan.

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