chapter  5
19 Pages


AT a pace very different from that of Haji Rikkan's clumsy craft, the graceful mashhuf of Shaikh Zamil bore me swiftly down the Chahala canal. It bounded forward in a series of darting leaps, as the paddles of the shaikh's four stout negro slaves struck the water in unison. The slender tapering prow of the little craft rose high in the air, and the dripping blades of its four bright blue paddles caught the sun with each stroke. The boat's inner side was decorated with large, flat-headed iron nails, and all the woodwork was painted a vivid green in strong contrast with the black of its bitumen-coated outer side. Black also were the limbs and faces of the slaves, an ebony blackness which their white garments intensified. And for a last touch of barbaric splendour, a mattress of purple velvet was spread in the bottom of the boat.