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COMMERCE OF THE MEDIAL EAST.
By John Locke, A.B., F.S.S.; Dublin.
(Read 1912 FEBRUARY, 1857.)
It is singular and unaccountable how greatly we have neglected the commercial advantages of the countries surrounding the Persian Gulf, which I have designated the Medial East, while trade with the extreme East, even with ultra-Gangetic Empires, has been so zealously promoted. An enterprising traveller has just succeeded in crossing Central Africa, approximating the limit of preceding adventurers, who had started from its Western and Northern shores ; and ample returns, though long deferred, may be expected from the seed thus casually sown on a rich soil, where man, like the products of the land wherein he dwells, is a weed in the total absence of all civilized culture. But how little know we of the more contiguous and accessible interior of the Arabian Peninsula, whose twelve millions of people are in urgent need of those distinctive manufactures within our power to import. Sweepiog daily around the coast in our ocean steamers, we touch only at one point. There, intrenched in impreg. nable position upon the salient angle of the peninsula, we have made, nerertheless, no systematic arrangements to penetrate the rich districts of Yemen, lying on our very bounds, and establish intimate alliance with its population, still “men of stature," as the Sabeans of old, and excelling all the other tribes in the fruitfulness of their soil and organization of their industry. What small comparative benefits, in a commercial point of view, have we reaped from the grateful amity of the two Powers, whose influence is paramount throughout Arabia and on the shores of the Persian GulfTurkey, to secure whose independence we have lavished so much blood and treasure, and Muscat, whose munificent chief * has frequently reminded us that he does not forget the favours conferred, when British aid confirmed
• He presented to our sailor King, William IV., a seventy-four, completely furpished, and armed with guns of the bighest finish.
him on his throne, and swept from the sea the Jowasmi pirates, who menaced the ascendancy, if not, indeed, the very existence of his singular maritime empire. This, (including the fertile plains of the Batna) extends shoreward, with occasional spots of territory, to Cape Delgado, in South Africa, an interval of more than 3,000 miles. The Island of Ormuz, (three centuries ago the almost fabulously wealthy emporium of the Portuguese), and its opposite port of Bender-Abassi (Gombroon), acknowledge his sway. His capital is Muscat, the wealthiest city of Arabia, with the exception, perhaps, of Jidda, on the eastern coast, the principal entrepot for African merchandise and exchange ; but he usually resides in Zanzibar, which, under his sagacious rule, has become one of the most fertile islands in the world, and is the principal source of revenue of this distinguished merchant prince.
Now, the most important preliminary to full development of commerce with the medial east is selection of the route best adapted for mercantile communication and imperial convenience, combining shortness of interval with the greatest economy in cost and time of construction. The proposed ship canal across the Isthmus of Suez, even if there did not exist the apparently insurmountable difficulties of exposed portage and shoal water at both termini, yet neither shortens the present route, nor affords facility for opening a single new market. The route within the water-shed of the Orontes and Euphrates, by rail, canal, and navigable river to Busra, which has originated from the genius and travelled experience of Chesney, is now fairly before the public; and if the ancient harbour of Seleucia be improved, or reconstructed conformably with the requirements of modern navigation, the section as far as the great caravan station of Aleppo will undoubtedly form a convenient outlet for eastern traffic, as well as for the products of the valley of the Upper Euphrates, and of those populous districts (chiefly Christian) situate on the southern slopes of the Taurus and Caucasus; and thus far will compensate amply the enterprise of its promoters. But the Orontes is at least ninety miles out of the direct geographical course between Malta and Busra ; and the singularly tortuous line of the Euphrates through the Mesopotamian plains is just the very longest that could well be traced from sea to sea. It is suggested also, that in a
* A considerable detour, however, will be necessary, in order to touch at the populous towns and villages.See Map of Aleppo Portion.
or the products of s districts (chiefly nd Caucasus; and moters. But the Pographical course tuous line of the e very longest that ted also, that in 8
touch at the populous