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Updated June 2012

T. E. Lawrence, report 21 October 1917


GEOGRAPHICAL NOTES
[Arab Bulletin, 21 October 1917]

Wadi Sirhan.

Major Lawrence has supplied some new information about this important wadi, which affords the main channel of communication between the Hauran, Jauf and North-Central-Arabia. Kaf (pronounced Djaf), at its head, is grouped popularly with Wishwasha, Nebkh, Ithra and Jerjer, as el-Geraia or Geraiat el-Milh, on the ground of common possession of vast saltworks which seem to have escaped mention by European travellers. Major Lawrence found the wadi alive with snakes, of which some half dozen varieties, ranging from nine to three feet in length are poisonous. His party lost three men from snake-bites. It is particularly dangerous to water after dark, as the wells and pools are then full of snakes swimming about. In the daytime they are to be found in every bush. There and in the country to the south many ostriches were seen, but none was caught. Major Lawrence and three others breakfasted off one of their eggs, boiled over a fire of gelignite sticks (!): it was about a month old. They obtained a good deal of oryx meat and saw several of these heavy-headed antelopes, very suggestive of oxen. The Huweitat had a fine baby oryx in their tents. After the war it ought to be arranged that this interesting species be represented by live specimens in London.

Maps of North-West Arabia.

Major Lawrence, as a result of his journeys in north-western Arabia, reports that all existing maps leave much to be desired. The Arab Bureau Maan sheet (1:500,000) he found to be not bad as a sketch of the general lie of the country; but the railway, he feels sure, is shown too far to the East, a mistake which leads to the underestimating of all distances from it in an inland direction. * The Royal Geographical Society's 1:2,000,000 sheet he condemns for all the Wadi Sirhan and Jauf region, especially in its placing and spelling of localities. Miss Bell's traverse from Kaf to Seba Byar, the most important of the Wuld Ali watering places, he found to be good but too slight. Between Maan and Akaba he condemns all our maps, British, German and Turkish alike; e.g., an important watershed between the Hisma (he doubts the general application of this name to all the large plateau area usually so-called, and thinks it is to be used only of a single wadi) and Wadi Ithm, some eight miles south-west of Guweira, is nowhere properly marked. It is certainly very desirable to run a route-survey up Wadi Ithm, and to get the position of the railway fixed at several points between Maan and Medina. Major Lawrence's own route-sketches are not yet to hand.

*[The position of the Hejaz Railway was subsequently found by surveyors to have been placed too far to the east on the maps (Arab Bulletin, 23 July 1918, p. 264).]

Source: SD 141-142
Checked: mv/
Last revised: 1 August 2006


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