CONFERENCE OF ARABS
by David Roberts.
The Engraving gives a conception of the manner in which the more serious affairs of the natives are conducted. A party of the Fellaheen Arabs had come armed, to demand their share of the piastres which had been paid by the Artist and his fellow-travellers for protection; a violent altercation ensued, and 150 piastres were obtained from their former extortioner, “old Abed, who pulled the money from his bosom, and dashing it on the ground, cursed them and their fathers to the lowest depths of Jehennem,” (Gehenna). 1)
To this succeeded a scene curiously contrasted in its quiet and formality. One of the Fellaheen was charged with having stolen an ass, and the three sheiks were called on to give judgment in the case.
The whole party now seated themselves on the ground, and old Abed, who had just divided spoil with such angry reluctance, “opened the court” with great gravity, by reciting a part of the introductory chapter of the Koran, and what seemed some of the Bedouin laws; all which was listened to in silence and with great attention.
While speaking, he held a drawn sword in his hand. When he concluded, the sword was taken up by another speaker, and another, and so on, none attempting to interrupt the holder of the sword. When the decision was given, the Fellaheen suddenly and quietly disappeared among the rocks.
1) Kinnear, Cairo and Petra. Roberts’s Journal.
Source: The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt, & Nubia, by David Roberts (British, 1796-1864), George Croly, William Brockedon. London: Lithographed, printed and published by Day & Son, lithographers to the Queen. Cate Street, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, 1855.