DESCRIPTION OF WHAT BEFELL THE MISSIONARIES IN SINNAR


Scarcely had we set a firm foot in Sinnar, the capital city and [royal] residence of the Funj kingdom, on the first of May 1701, than we joyfully welcomed [our fellow missionaries] who were awaiting us. The two Jesuits treated us rather well during the welcome; we spoke long of the miseries we had survived, and gave the deepest thanks to Almighty God for finally leading us into the long-awaited port. Our Prefect had a house for us, and Father Granier had ordered a second for his people [the Jesuits], who were in a lodging. Toward evening various merchants, particularly those from Egypt, sought us out. For three days straight they sent us meat and other cooked foods in large wooden bowls; this was according to the custom of the country by which a man does this for a friend who comes into a strange place. Among others who put in an appearance was one Mu`allim Musa, by birth a Sicilian from a good family of Palermo, about whom I am inclined to speak further. [p. 281]

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On the third [of May 1701] Father Francesco da Salemi sent me and Father Joseph to the viceroy Shaykh `Ali, and also to Shaykh Arbab Adam. We took the latter for our patron, for one should know that all foreigners who come into this kingdom must choose as a protector one of the four highest nobles in the kingdom--Shaykh `Ali, Shaykh Arbab Adam, Shaykh Nayil or Shaykh Isma`il--who is then obligated to help him in all difficulties and distress. To [Shaykh Arbab Adam] we gave as a present a clean mirror, a pair of razors, a sugar hat, a few pieces of soap, some pepper, a handful of little nails, Muscat nuts, cinnamon bark, coffee, and some confectionary. [The shaykh] had a tanned leopard skin spread out on the floor for us, as is customary among the nobility and leading people of the kingdom in these Moorish lands. We sat upon it Turkish fashion with our feet crossed over one another and drank coffee. Our protector Shaykh Arbab Adam said that in the morning he wanted to conduct us to a royal audience, and so it came to pass.

Description of the Tygerthier


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[p. 283] On the fourth [of May 1701] at about noon we were summoned to the royal palace, a complex of buildings which one could circumambulate in about three-quarters of an hour. The whole palace and its rooms are built of clay-like mud knitted together with straw and dung. The rooms are dark and have only one entrance, but are rather high; inside is neither bench nor chair, decoration nor ornamentation, nor household furnishings, pillows, chests, nor anything else except a few mats of plaited straw on which to sit, a large earthen jar for water, and a gourd, split in the middle and hollowed out, to serve as a drinking vessel. In this palace live the four legitimate wives of the king, his concubines, about six hundred in number, and the royal children locked up tighter than the cloistered nuns of Christendom. They are not permitted to speak with their friends or blood relatives, or even to see them. They are so zealous about this that if one should fall sick--unless it be one of the four queens--they would let [the sufferer] die and decay like a dumb beast, without giving any medicine. For the most part the palace is surrounded by a thorn fence in place of a wall. The rooms, like all the other houses in this kingdom, are similar to those in the kingdom of Nubia, except that they are a little higher and larger. On the top they are completely flat, with [p. 284] very small eaves three spans above the ground which lead away from the earth or mud of which the houses are built the great torrential rains that fall for five months beginning in May or June.

At about twelve o'clock we were admitted to an audience with the king. He was sitting cross-legged on an elevated table or platform two spans above the ground, covered with a red carpet. He wore a shirt of white taffeta mixed with blue, with very tight sleeves; his loins were bound about with a red and white colored wrapper, ten ells long and four wide. His head and beard were shaven, and on his head he wore a little silk hat embroidered with various colors and with gold. A rather large gold ring hung in each ear, and similar rings, set with precious stones, were on his fingers. In his right hand he held an unsheathed Turkish sabre, and to either side lay a pair of pistols, by which he showed his grandeur. The gates to his audience chamber were of common stalks such as one ordinarily gives as fodder to camels. To me he looked like a dressed-up monkey. He asked us in Arabic whence we came and whither we wished to go, and what our business was. To this we replied that we were European Christians and wanted to go to Ethiopia, and then to return to Christendom--just to see the world and many lands. We gave him a fine large mirror, in which he immediately viewed with admiration and gusto his coal-black face. We also gave him six guilded packets of delicate soap from Bologna, a few sugar hats, some confectionary, small nails, Muscat nuts, pepper, spikenard root, razors, a few Venetian glasses and other European gew-gaws such as knives, combs, etc. He indicated his greatest pleasure at this, saying that we might remain in the kingdom if we wished, but if not, that he would not detain us. Round about him stood five or six shaykhs, and outside the room were thirty slaves who formed his bodyguard. They wore only a piece of cheap cloth that covered them from the waist to the knee; aside from that they were quite naked. Each held a lance in his hand. We soon took our leave and went home. [p. 285]


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