Blood and Sand







Historical era

Early 19th century


Love and Death in Arabia

Blood and Sand is a novel for adults published by Hodder & Stoughton in 1987. It is based on the career of Thomas Keith, a Scottish rifleman who was captured by the Ottomans, converted to Islam, and became the governor of Mecca. The author's note asserts that "Almost all the characters in Blood and Sand are historical and almost everything that happens in the book actually happened". The book is dedicated to "Michael Starforth, who gave me the story of Thomas Keith in the first place and has been unstinting with his help and advice ever since."


Part 1: Egypt Edit

Private Thomas Keith, marksman, swordsman, and armourer, of the Grenadier company, 2nd Battalion, 78th Highlanders, part of the British expedition to Ottoman Egypt for reasons that are not particularly clear to privates, is knocked unconscious at the British defeat at El Hamed of 21 April 1807 (1). While Thomas recovers from a shot to the thigh, Colonel D'Esurier, a French gunner, informs him that he and the company medical orderly Donald MacLeod have been kept back from the British prisoners transported to Cairo because they have been bought from their Albanian captors to serve the Turkish general Ahmed "Bonaparte" Agha until peace is signed and the prisoners repatriated. Since all but 11 of Thomas's company are dead, he feels no great loyalty to his regiment and decides to accept the opportunity (2).

A month later Thomas, still lame, is sent upriver to join the Bedouin irregular cavalry training at Aswan. Colonel D'Esurier advises him to study a French translation of the Koran in order to understand the Muslim troops he is to serve with (3). Thomas trains as a cavalry officer under the mentorship of Captain Zeid ibn Hussein, who teaches him Arabic speech and customs, but though he adapts quickly and is respected for soldiership by his comrades, he continues to feel isolated by the fact that he is not a Muslim (4). Attracted by the faith and wrestling with the possibility of conversion, Thomas reaches an epiphany about the oneness of God and nature one evening in the desert. He shortly receives the news that the British prisoners are about to be repatriated and that he has been called into the service of the Viceroy's son, but tells Zeid that whatever happens, he wishes to take instruction in Islam (5).

Thomas tells Colonel D'Esurier that he means to stay in Egypt. While Zeid briefs Ibrahim Pasha, the Viceroy's elder son, on the disposition of the Mamelukes and desert tribes of Upper Egypt, Thomas is meets Tussun Bey, his impetuous younger son, with whom he forms an instant and intense friendship, though he feels honour-bound to tell him that he was a captive and bought by Ahmed Agha (6). He is reassigned to Cairo as training officer to the two regiments of undisciplined and poorly-equipped Turkish cavalry under Tussun's command, but is upset to find himself intangibly in debt to Tussun for buying him, or his freedom, from Ahmed Agha. He is also ceremonially received into the faith (including circumcision) and given the name Ibrahim Bey (7).

Tussun introduces Thomas to his mother Lady Amina, the Vicereine, and his wilful teenage sister Nayli, who takes an interest in Thomas (8). Thomas petitions the Viceroy to join the Sudan expedition against the southern Mamelukes along with Tussun and Zeid and is insulted by Aziz Bey, a Mameluke rival. Thomas challenges him to a duel of honour, and seeing that Aziz means to kill him, narrowly manages to kill Aziz, in front of much of the Viceroy's court (9). A visiting Turkish minister demands his execution and the Viceroy accedes for political reasons, but Ibrahim Pasha and the Vicereine intervene (10). Lady Amina blackmails Abbas Pasha with a seditious letter, and at his request the Viceroy pardons Thomas (11). Tussun's marriage to the daughter of a Cairo sheikh is arranged, and at the wedding Thomas becomes aware of the enmity of another Mameluke, Sulieman ibn Mansoor, and his freedman Mubarak (12). Left behind by the Sudan expedition, Thomas reunites with his friends Donald MacLeod, now a convert and a rising surgeon in Cairo, and their protégé Medhet, who is deeply disappointed to learn that he and Thomas will not be off to the wars together. Thomas wilingly meets the advances of the bored and frustrated Lady Nayli, until he realises she is most interested in seeing how far she can manipulate him (13). Resentful that he remains loyal to Tussun, Nayli advises another lover, Sulieman ibn Mansoor, to get Tussun drunk and enraged against his friend, then follow his impulsive order to assassinate Thomas. Warned by Tussun's servant, a deeply-betrayed Thomas decides to fight it out rather than escape (14). Thomas kills eight of the ten assassins, forgives the remorseful Tussun, and finds that Tussun's offense has cleared away Thomas's longstanding sense of endebtedness and constraint towards him. The Vicereine warns the unfortunate Nayli to prepare for her wedding to a dull, much older man – though her parents have turned a blind eye to her sex life, future assassination attempts or affairs will make her liable to honour-killing (15).

Two and a half years later, the Mamelukes of Cairo are massacred at a banquet hosted by the Viceroy on the eve of his long-projected Arabian expedition to reconquer the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina from the puritan Wahabis (16).

Part 2: Arabia Edit

Under the command of Tussun, Thomas leads two regiments of cavalry on the march from Suez to Yembo. Grand Shariff Ghalid of Mecca will not commit himself to the Viceroy's side until they have won a victory against Saud ibn Saud and the Wahabis, so the commanders decide to march on heavily-garrisoned Medina (17). The route lies through the territory of the Beni Harb and Beni Jehaine tribal confederacies, both of which are reluctant to openly join the Egyptian force. A meeting with the sheikhs of the Jehaine elicits only a promise of limited, noncombatant support (18). At the Jedaida, a critical pass which must be taken from the Harb before Wahabi reinforcements can arrive, the expedition attempts to trigger the Harb ambush, only to find a large Wahabi force waiting for them. The infantry are routed and the Bedouin cavalry destroyed. Zeid is killed (19).

The Grand Shariff swings in support of the Wahabis, but the Jehaine keep their word to hold off attack. By the next campaign season, Thomas buys an alliance with the Beni Harb, and the expedition under Ahmed Agha's command lays siege to Medina, mining the city wall (20). The Wahabi garrison of the citadel surrenders three weeks later and are promised safe passage out of the city, but the populace attacks them and the expedition troops allowed to loot the city in the guise of making arrests (21). Disgusted, Thomas goes out to intervene where he can and rescues a young woman from a group of soldiers. Anoud's hand is mutilated and her father is dead in the looting, and Thomas promises to protect her (22). Tussun arrives and sacks Ahmed Agha for the political blunder of dishonouring the Holy City and publicly breaking their word to the Wahabis. The Grand Shariff declares his support for the Turkish forces and the Wahabis are reduced to a guerrilla force in the Hijaz. Thomas and Anoud agree to marry for her protection (23). Though still near-strangers, the wedding night is eventually so great a success that Tussun is briefly jealous of Thomas's newly divided affections (24).

The Viceroy lands with reinforcements and enters weeks of negotiations with Grand Shariff Ghalid. Tussun is summoned to join them in Mecca and, while hawking with Thomas, explains bitterly that he has been his father's instrument for arresting the Grand Shariff, who cannot be relied upon as they advance against the Wahabis. They agree that it was necessary, but unlikely to be popular in the Hijaz (25). Their treatment of the Grand Shariff loses them the support of the populace, and Thomas and Tussun's attack on the Wahabi stronghold of Terraba is held up by guerrilla activity that saps the morale of their men, worsened by a heavy repulse and the Sheikha Ghalia's fearsome reputation for witchcraft. They reluctantly make the decision to kill their wounded, spike their guns, and withdraw (26). They are attacked and routed before dawn, reforming into a straggling retreat towards a mountain pass and tribal boundary. One of their captured guns is brought up to cut off the pass, and Thomas leads his dismounted cavalry to retake it and turn it on the tribesmen while the infantry column escapes through the defile (27).

Three months later, having reached Teif with heavy losses and a great military reputation, Thomas sends for Anoud after nearly a year's separation. In late spring, he introduces her to Tussun, who brings the news that Saud ibn Saud, prince of the Wahabis, has died of fever (28). That autumn, before the campaign season reopens, the Viceroy sponsors a full resurgence of the lucrative Haj pilgrimage to Mecca suppressed for a decade by the Wahabis. On the final day, he appoints Thomas Amir of Medina and Anoud announces that she is pregnant (29).

Thomas and Tussun lead a feint into the Kassim mountains in the northeast while the Viceroy attacks in the south, carrying Kulukh and Terraba (30). In May, Muhammed Ali returns abruptly to Egypt to fend off a Turkish fleet, leaving Tussun unsupervised to attempt an under-supplied advance into the Najd. Thomas, left to hold Medina, cannot dissuade him (31). News arrives that Tussun is besieging El Rass, then an urgent summons to Thomas, as Abdullah ibn Saud has brought up reinforcements. Thomas rides out with the small cavalry force that can be spared from Medina (32). In Tussun's camp, scouts catch wind of the Wahabi cavalry moving to intercept Thomas's approach, and Tussun's cavalry ride out to support him (33). Thomas's force suddenly find themselves facing overwhelming numbers of Wahabi cavalry. They prepare for death, planning to reduce the Wahabi force by as many as possible, and kill about three times their number in their final charge before dying to a man. Anoud, waking from a nightmare, falls down the stair and breaks her neck, taking her unborn child with her. Tussun's relief force arrives just too late (34).

The Afterword notes that Tussun and Abdullah ibn Saud made peace and Tussun withdrew from the Kassim. In autumn, the war against the Wahabis was renewed under the command of Ibrahim Pasha, while Tussun returned to Egypt. He died of plague a year later.


Blood and Sand opens on the evening of April 20th, 1807 and ends in 1815, dates given in the first chapter and the afterword.

  • 1745-6: Thomas's grandfather and great-grandfather join the rebellion of Bonnie Prince Charlie (1)
  • Late 1740s-60s: Grandfather serves in the French army for "upwards of twenty exiled years" (1)
  • 1787: Thomas is born (1)
  • 1788: Ibrahim Pasha is born (5)
  • 1791 (approx): Lady Nayli is born (8)
  • 1792: Tussun Bey is born (6)
  • 1793: Medhet is born (2)
  • 1798: Abbas Pasha writes an incriminating letter (11)

1804: Thomas is 17 (1)

  • Thomas is indentured as a gunsmith's apprentice (29)
  • Grandfather dies (1)
  • 2 months later: Thomas's fathers sells Broomrigg
  • Next day: Thomas runs away to join the army
  • Haj caravans from Damascus to Mecca cease under Wahabi influence (29)


  • 4 July 1806: Battle of Maida (1), the 78th Highlanders' baptism of fire
  • Ibrahim Pasha returns to Egypt from hostage at the Sultan's court (10), and marries (12)1807 (1): Thomas is 20
  • March: the British take Alexandria and fail to take Rosetta
  • April 10: 2nd Battalion et al. detached to El Hamed
  • April 20: the El Hamed detachment prepares for battle
  • April 21: the British are defeated at El Hamed and Thomas is taken prisoner
  • A couple of days after regaining consciousness: Colonel D'Esurier speaks with Thomas (2)
  • A month later: Donald MacLeod left at Cairo and Thomas sent to Aswan (3)
  • Next day: Thomas meets Colonel D'Esurier and is given a Koran
  • A month and more out from Cairo: Thomas joins the Bedouin at Aswan (4)


  • Six months later (6): peace negotiated between British & Egypt; Thomas summoned to El Jizzan (5)
  • January, 4 days later (6): Thomas meets Colonel D'Esurier for the third time
  • The next day: Thomas meets Tussun
  • The next day: Thomas and Tussun go hawking (6)
  • Several weeks later: they arrive in Cairo (7)
  • Late April: Thomas meets the Vicereine and Nayli (8)
  • The next day: Thomas petitions the Viceroy and challenges Aziz Bey (9)
  • The next evening: Thomas kills Aziz and is arrested (9); Lady Amina blackmails Abbas Pasha (10, 11)
  • Next morning: Thomas is pardoned (11)
  • Sometime in spring: Tussun's 3-day wedding (12)


  • End of winter: the Sudan campaign ends and Tussun returns (14)
  • That night: assassination attempt on Thomas
  • The next evening: Nayli is checkmated (15)
  • "Soon after": Nayli is married; Thomas is given a cavalry command in the south (16)

1811, "Two and a half years later"

  • Early summer?: Thomas and Zeid return to Cairo from more than a year in the south
  • Late summer: the Cairo Mamelukes are massacred [historically 1 March 1811]
  • A month later: the Arabian expedition's scheduled departure for Port Suez (16)
  • 23 days from Port Suez: the Egyptian infantry lands and captures Yembo (17)
  • 33 days from Suez: the cavalry marches into Yembo and Tussun sends to Mecca
  • More than a fortnight later: the Grand Shariff is noncommittal
  • The next day: the army council decides on Medina (17)
  • A few days later: the meet the Beni Jehaine at Yembo el Nakhl, and give a cavalry display (18)
  • The next day: the Beni Jehaine reserve judgement (18)
  • 4 days before the battle of Jedaida: Abdullah ibn Saud arrives at El Rass (19)
  • 3 days later: the Egyptian forces invest Jedaida village
  • Next day: the battle of Jedaida


  • Late summer, eight months after Jedaida: the expedition prepares for another campaign season (20)
  • Two months later: the expedition besieges Medina
  • After 3 days of tunnelling: the wall is breached by mine and the outer city taken (21)
  • 3 weeks later: the citadel surrenders
  • The next morning, at dawn: the Wahabis march out and are attacked
  • That night: the city is looted (21); Thomas meets Anoud (22)
  • The next morning: Thomas offers to protect Anoud (22)
  • Noon: Tussun enters the city and sacks Ahmed Agha (23)
  • 3 evenings later: Thomas and Anoud agree to marry


  • April: Thomas and Anoud marry (23)
  • 2 days later: Thomas departs for Mecca and Tussun for Jiddah (24)
  • Summer: Muhammed Ali lands at Jiddah, and meets with the Grand Shariff of Mecca (25)
  • Autumn, 2 months later: Tussun enters Mecca in secret
  • The next morning: Tussun re-enters and secretly arrests the Grand Shariff
  • That afternoon: Tussun goes hawking with Thomas and explains the arrest
  • A month later: Tussun and Thomas are sent against Terraba (26)
  • roughly 3 weeks later: the Egyptian force arrives at Terraba after a fighting advance
  • 1st day of siege: repulsed with heavy losses
  • That evening: they prepare to pull out
  • The next day: Pre-dawn: camp attacked and put to flight (27)
  • That afternoon: Thomas takes and holds the spur commanding the pass


  • Spring, 3 months after Terraba: Anoud rejoins Thomas. Quinfunduh is captured. (28)
  • Late spring: Anoud meets Tussun. Saud ibn Saud dies.
  • A month after the capture of Quinfunduh: it is retaken by the Wahabis (29)
  • Summer: Thomas patrols the trade roads, Tussun holds Jiddah and Yembo
  • Autumn: the Viceroy celebrates the Haj in Mecca
  • Last day of the Haj: Thomas is appointed Amir of Medina. Anoud tells Thomas she is pregnant
  • 6 days later: Thomas rides for Medina (29)
  • A fortnight after arriving: Tussun arrives for a feint against the north east
  • 3 days later: Thomas and Tussun depart for the Kassim
  • 3 weeks later: news of the capture of Kulukh


  • Early May: news of Bonaparte's escape from Elba. The Turkish fleet sails for Alexandria (31)
  • A few days later: Tussun enters Medina en route to El Rass
  • 7 days later: Tussun marches for the Kassim
  • 13 days later: news of Tussun's siege of El Rass arrives (32)
  • Mid-June, a fortnight later: Tussun's summons arrives and Thomas rides out (32)
  • 3 days after Abdullah ibn Saud's arrival at El Rass: Thomas approaches (33)
    • 7:02 a.m.: Thomas parleys with Abdullah ibn Saud
    • 7:32 a.m.: the Ottoman charge
    • Anoud and her child die in a fall
  • 3 days later: Tussun and ibn Saud make terms (Afterword)
  • Autumn: Ibrahim Pasha commands a new expeditionary force, Tussun returns to Egypt


  • September: Tussun dies aged 24


Thomas Keith (1),

  • "almost as long-limbed but of a much slighter build, was as dark as the other was fair, with an almost Spanish darkness inherited from a Highland foremother, though he himself was from Edinburgh; a bony-faced young man with harsh angles at cheek and jaw, a wide mouth that was surprisingly mobile despite the un-boyish straightness of the lips; light grey eyes, level-set, and black-fringed with lashes that would have been the envy of any girl." (1)
  • "an extremely personable young soldier who speaks French, knows how to bear pain like a gentleman, and is the best swordsman and shot in his regiment.” (2)
  • "I am not a gentleman even if I can bear pain like one — though I think my grandfather would have claimed to be.” (2)
  • "He had never felt a strong bond with the regiment, though he had kept faith and given them the best that was in him in exchange for his pay." (2)
  • “Do they not say among your people, that the man with a long fourth finger has the gift for other men’s tongues?” (4)
  • I think that you will never have much skill in the intrigues and the jockeying for place and power that goes on in a great man’s following.” (4)
  • "But you have proved today to all who were watching on the maidan, and I make no doubt from behind the palace window frets, that you are a fighting man of the kind that men make songs about.” (9)
  • “He is more than a swordsman and a horseman, he is highly intelligent and developing an interest beyond the day-to-day in military affairs — I have talked with him from time to time — enough to know that. Also he is a man whom other men will follow; I have watched him at practice and wished that I had his élan. Above all, Tussun listens to him as he will listen to no one else.” (10)
  • "Thomas would have liked to feel triumph, but could feel none, now that the thing was over; all through his life, killing would be at times an ugly necessity to him, never a cause for triumph when once the red mist of the moment was gone." (15)
  • "Coming as he had, straight from the world of his Highland regiment to the world of an Arab frontier post, with virtually no contact with the Turkish world of his captors between, the desert had taken him over and become the home of his spirit in the way that the great city and the life that was lived there had never done. Not that he did not hate the desert at times, for all that, as seamen know what it is to hate the sea." (17)
  • "and reaching over his shoulder, drew from the scabbard across his back, in which he always carried it into action, his beloved broadsword." (19)
  • After the Jedaida disaster he is reassigned as Tussun's treasurer: "I have heard it said that Ibrahim Agha is the first incorruptible khasnadar there has been in a score of years.”
  • "He had rigidly obeyed the Prophet’s ruling on alcohol since the day that he had become a Muslim; but, remembering Donald MacLeod and his wound-cleansing techniques, he had always carried a flask of the stuff with him in his saddle bags on campaign." (22)
  • "Always, after fighting, he would put in whatever time he could spare among the wounded; any wounded, but his own had first claim on him." (26)
  • "he had learned over the years that rage, when nothing could be changed by it, was a waste of time and energy and served only to cloud the judgment." (26)

Others members of the Egyptian forces:

  • The Albanian infantry (2), at El Hamed. “It is surprising that the Viceroy rests his strength so completely on the Albanians. From the little of them that I saw in the Delta, they seemed brave enough, but half-trained and very ill disciplined...But they are the only infantry in Egypt with any discipline at all." (4)
  • Donald MacLeod (1), Taken prisoner at El Hamed and acts as surgeon to the British prisoners and Albanian infantry. Bought for service to Ahmed Agha in Cairo and Alexandria (2). At Thomas's request, Ibrahim Pasha acquires him for the Viceroy's service. (13)
    • “So here you are in a fair way to becoming a famous surgeon,”
    • He too converts to Islam, from Catholicism: "For me there was no moment of One-ness; only the knowledge that I had it within me to be a healer beyond the common run, but not in my own world, nor even as a Christian here in Cairo. So I made the choice for that reason, and that reason only.” (13)
    • "Now, and for a long while past, I am Osman al Hakim.” (16)
    • “It is not so easy to qualify and make one’s way as a surgeon or physician without the price of one’s apprenticeship in one’s pouch,” Donald said simply. “A drummer at least combines it with being a medical orderly. I was a laddie when I joined, with a laddie’s high hopefulness in me.” (16)
    • "Thomas wondered, not for the first time, whether having made the choice, Donald was not more comfortably at home in his new faith than he was himself." (16)
  • Ahmed Agha (2), Turkish general commanding El Hamed. "fleshily handsome", speaking good French. "the Agha is hated by his men, he is cruel and greedy and his vices are in a class by themselves; also they call him Ahmed Bonaparte for the good opinion that he has of himself. But he is a superb cavalry general as brave as a lion — and a good judge of men." (2)
    • Appointed Tussun's chief-of-staff after Jedaida. "Thomas, though he was grateful to the Turkish Agha for the loan of a fine horse and even, in an odd unwilling way, for having bought him in the first place, had no liking for the man himself, quite apart from his reputation for cruelty and the unsavoury practices of his private life, and did not relish the prospect of serving under him. But he fully realised that Ahmed was a brilliant soldier of long experience, and one of the few aghas [...] on whom Muhammed Ali believed he could completely rely in a tricky situation." (20)
    • "At least, he thought, the man was no more than half drunk, as was fairly usual with him. If the stories about him were true, it was only in victory, or at least when the fighting was over, that he celebrated with the full drunkenness which unleashed the more unpleasant side of his character." (20)
    • “Perhaps you did not yourself realise the toll of your strength taken from you by this superb and crowning action of your career. Now that you do realise it, I suggest that you wish to resign your position as my second-in-command and return with all honour to your own estates in the Delta.” (23)
  • Medhet (2), a young Albanian soldier met at El Hamed.
    • "who had brought himself in with a sabre gash across his ribs, who seemed to be a self-appointed soldier rather than just a hanger-on with the Albanian force, and who could not be a day more than fourteen. Donald had dealt with the flesh wound, and Medhet had promptly shifted his allegiance and attached himself as friend, surgeon’s mate and general dog’s-body to the big Lewisman."
    • "a cheerful-seeming callant with a wicked faun’s face, naked save for the tattered remains of his kilt-like fustanella and a strip of bandage line across his chest"
    • "Medhet, it seemed, was doing well, with already a lieutenancy in one of the Viceroy’s newly formed Albanian regiments, but had been sent off with a detachment for guard duty in the Port Suez shipyards and so would also be missing the campaign in the south." (13)
    • "It was a moment before Thomas recognised the tall stripling in Albanian uniform standing with the evening light behind him, for Medhet had shot skywards in the past months, but there could be no mistaking the urchin’s grin that split his face in two as he flung himself open-armed across the room." (13)
    • Thomas's aide-de-camp on the Arabian expedition. "he would never again be, to this valiant urchin, something beyond the sum of normal men. That was gone, and in its place he sensed a better-rooted and more durable relationship that would be less taxing to live with." (16)
    • He goes with Thomas to El Rass: “I go where you go, Tho’mas. Am I not your oldest friend in the world? Was I not your friend even before Tussun Pasha?” (32)
    • The sole survivor of Thomas's force at Wadi el Aas, unwillingly dispatched before the battle to warn Medina of the relief force's fate: “I ask a greater courage than I ask of myself or the rest of us. It is easy for us to charge swiftly and gloriously to death among dear comrades; you may have to die slowly and horribly — and alone.” (34)
  • Colonel D'Esurier (2), the Viecroy's French gunnery adviser, seconded to Ahmed Agha at El Hamed.
    • "a much older man, darkly saturnine of face,"
    • "I was a republican until three years ago, when we all became imperialist overnight." (2)
    • A member of Bonaparte's 1798 expedition to Egypt.
    • "the bitter-faced gunner colonel was a brilliant bird artist."
    • A native of the Charente Maritime (3).
    • "At your age I was an atheist; now, having grown less sure with age, I suppose that I am an agnostic. I say simply that I do not know. I have no faith to change." (6)
  • Abdul (7), Thomas's grey-bearded army servant in Cairo. He is away at a nephew's wedding during the assassination attempt on Thomas (15).
  • Selim (16), Donald's servant at the French Hospital
  • Zeid Muhammed el Marouki (17), a merchant and spy in Arabia for the Viceroy, whose servant brings news from the Grand Shariff's clerk.
  • Salah (17), agha of the Albanian infantry under Tussun. "Salah the Albanian with his hot blue eyes and mouth drawn tight with impatience," (17). His men flee at Jedaida (19). Recalled to Egypt (20)
  • Umar (17), agha of the Turkish infantry under Tussun. "the olive-skinned Turkish features of Umar schooled into better control." (17). Last seen at Jedaida fleeing on horse ahead of his infantry (19). Recalled to Egypt (20)
  • Colonel al Fusari (19), commanding the left flank Turkish cavalry at Jedaida
  • Quera al Din (23), one of Muhammed Ali's generals, the new Governor of Medina from April 1813 (23). He dies in early autumn 1814, possibly poisoned: "the harshness of his rule and his mishandling of the tribes made it certain that he must shortly have been removed in one way or another." (29)
  • Abdin Bey (25), commander of Tussun's escort (25). Senior Albanian infantry colonel on the Terraba campaign, and spokesman for the superstitious (26)
  • Shariff Rajik (26), "his finest cavalry leader, who until then had been acting as Commander of Irregulars for the expeditionary force, gathered his horsemen and rode out of the Hijaz," after Shariff Ghalid is deposed.
  • Zam Aglou (28), Albanian "renowned for his blood-lust and skill in piracy," commanding the assault on Quinfunduh (28). The expedition is a disaster and he returns to piracy instead of Jiddah (29).
  • the Mitair and the Beni Ali (32), nomadic tribes of the Kassim and northeast Hijaz who join Tussun's campaign against El Rass. Hereditary foes of Aneiz (32).
    • Banda (33), leader of the remaining Beni Ali at El Rass
  • Abd el Rahman (32), army surgeon in Medina
  • Malik (32), one of Thomas's officers in Medina
  • Togra Aziz (32), Thomas deputy infantry commander at Medina
  • Barak (33), senior infantry officer under Tussun at El Rass
  • Jacoba (33), senior cavalry officer under Tussun at El Rass
  • Jemal (33), officer of Turkish cavalry at El Rass
  • ibn Salam (33), leader of the Beni Jehaine irregulars at El Rass

The Bedouin cavalry:

  • Captain Zeid ibn Hussein (4), commander of two companies of Bedouin Irregular Cavalry and a detachment of Sudanese camelry at Aswan. A few years older than Thomas, his mentor and Arabic teacher (4).
    • "From Captain Zeid ibn Hussein, who in this one thing at least was not typical of his race, he was getting the kind of report, concise and well-reasoned, that Bonaparte might have expected from one of his junior officers. Colonel D’Esurier’s guess was that the Arab captain would not live out his days in command of a mud fort on the edge of nowhere." (6)
    • He is sent on the Sudan expedition.
    • "Zeid played gently with the amber-studded hilt of his dagger in the way he had when there was neither hawk nor saluki to caress." (8)
    • "Zeid had an uncomfortable gift for presenting one with choices, even choices that one had not in fact had to make." (16)
    • Colonel of a regiment on the Arabian expedition: "Thomas’s promotion to overall command of the cavalry, Arab, Turkish and Albanian, while Zeid who had been his captain and his tutor was set to command a single cavalry regiment under him, might well have strained the old friendship between them. It had not done so, and Thomas gave the credit for that where it was due." (17)
    • “You are right of course, Zeid ibn Hussein, it is a bad habit you have." (17)
    • Killed at Jedaida protecting Tussun Pasha with only four of his squadron. (19)
    • "He never crushed the coffee beans without thinking of Zeid. But this evening the memory came for the first time without grief. “He was a good friend to have had. Allah’s Peace be with him …” He bent all his skill to ringing the pestle and mortar as Zeid would have approved: to make something perfect for the passing moment." (28)
  • Bulbul (4), a chestnut mare on loan to Thomas from Ahmed Agha, on whom he learns Arab-style riding (4). Left behind at El Jizzan (7).
  • Sara (4), Zeid's grey (white) mare (4). She survives the battle of Jedaida and returns riderless to camp (20).
  • Zeid's brindled saluki bitch (4)
  • Abu Salan (4), leader of Second Squadron caught napping by horse thieves, "whose friendship is well worth the having," (4). He commands the other half of the cavalry demonstration at Yembo el Nakhl (18). His squadron is sent to trigger the Harb ambush at Jedaida and charges into the mass of Wahabi cavalry while the infantry flees (19).
  • Juba (4), Thomas's Sudanese askari (groom)
  • Ali Zim (4) of the camel train
  • Othman al Malik (6), the second-best swordsman in the escort
  • Daud ibn Hussein (18), Thomas's bugler and a junior half-brother of Zeid’s (18). Killed at Wadi el Aas: "to Daud ibn Hussein: “Your brother waits to greet you. Use sword and bugle as you did at Jedaida, you are a man now and may kill twice as many as you did then!" (34).
  • Jassim Khan (18), Thomas's standard bearer and personal orderly. (18). He helps attend to Anoud's injury despite being slightly scandalised (22). Killed at Wadi el Aas: “Jassim, your father will be a proud man when he hears of this day’s work,” he said to the young standard bearer" (34).
  • Yusef (or Jusef) ibn Muhammed (18), Sheikh Muhammed's youngest son, their only Beni Jehaine volunteer. “I am the son of a lesser wife, and can be spared from the family honour easily enough." (18). He brings Tussun's summons to El Rass and dies in Medina in June 1815 (32).
  • Lulwa (24), Thomas's favourite mare (24). Thomas gives her to Medhet for his ride to Medina from Wadi el Aas (34).
  • Bathsheba (25), Thomas's saker falcon
  • Musa ibn Aziz (26), a trooper of Thomas's mortally injured in the stomach at Terraba, who requests the customary merciful death before the retreat. "The man had always been something of a lone wolf, what if there was no one who counted themselves his friend to perform the last act of friendship for him, and he was left to the impersonal mercy of the army surgeon?"
  • Harmid Zultan (27), "the best marksman among his troopers", killed by a sniper at the defense of the Pass of the Meeting Place on the retreat from Terraba in 1813.
  • Hassan (31), a captain who receives Tussun at Medina in 1815 (31). Commands a wing at Wadi el Aas (34).
  • Hassan ibn Khalid (32), Egyptian colonel under Thomas at Medina, left in command of cavalry.
  • Nassyr el Badr (34), Thomas's scout before the battle of Wadi el Aas
  • Anwar (34), commanding one of Thomas's wings at Wadi el Aas

The Viceregal family:

  • Muhammed Ali (1), Viceroy of Egypt
    • "The Viceroy is of the day and the night and the dusk-colour that comes between. He is not of the common run. How else would an Albanian tobacco merchant turned adventurer come to be Viceroy of Egypt? He is strong — too strong for the liking of the Sultan and the Sublime Porte at Istanbul" (4).
    • Speaks French, but not Arabic (9)
    • "He disliked lack of control." (10)
    • "I know that he will keep his word in the matter because he does not wish to earn the title of faith breaker, more than need be, among the tribes. But he has earned it, and made me earn it also." (25)
    • "One thing about the Viceroy, he was as resilient as a catapult thong." (28)
    • "Thomas had known His Excellency the Ottoman Viceroy of Egypt long enough not to be in the least surprised at this view of the revived Haj not so much in terms of spiritual regeneration, as of trade and propaganda. There was a good deal of sense in it, he supposed, for a man in the Viceroy’s position." (29)
    • "But it had always seemed to him that the Viceroy’s word, once given, was binding until and unless something happened that made it advisable that he should take it back." (29)
  • Ibrahim Pasha (5), the Viceroy's elder son, 19 years old in early 1808 and seems older (5).
    • "And the short thick-set young pasha listened to him, clear, surprisingly blue eyes fixed on his face, occasionally putting in some probing question, for the most part silent. Not yet twenty, he was already showing promise of the brilliant administrator he was to become, and clearly he had learned the useful lesson that other men may be worth listening to."
    • "he was meticulously thorough".
    • "Ibrahim Pasha fingered his fair beard; a curiously old man’s gesture." (6)
    • "Ibrahim Pasha’s apartments, in complete contrast, were sparsely furnished and full of cool empty space, in which the eyes could rest. No more furniture than was strictly necessary, scarcely anything for ornament, but what there was, beautiful. It was typical of the pasha in that it seemed the room of a man much older than his not quite twenty years." (9).
    • "It is not yet two years since you, my elder son, were still held hostage for my good behaviour, in Istanbul."
    • "“There are times,” said Muhammed Ali, looking with exasperation at the thick-set young man before him, whom he could not love as he loved his beautiful and infuriating younger son, “when I wish that Tussun possessed a quarter of your understanding of political issues..."
    • "he had enough sense to know, as Tussun never knew it, when to abandon an argument or at least shift his ground."
    • "Thomas, who had long since realised that the Viceroy’s elder son was a just man, but despite his friendly aspect a cold one who made few real friends, saw with surprise the sympathy and regret, almost the warmth, in the other man’s gaze." (10)
    • "the blunt, clever face, the light blue eyes that were such a startling contrast to the dark skin." (11)
  • Tussun Bey (6), the Viceroy's younger son, 16 years old in early 1808.
    • "A young voice, warmly vital, rough at the edges in the way of a boy’s voice that has broken not so long ago into a man’s, and speaking French with an appalling Albanian accent."
    • "He was probably not more than a couple of years older than Medhet, a short thick-set stripling, lion-coloured as to skin and eyes and the tawny hair that showed in front of his left ear, where the gold-fringed swathings of his turban had been pushed somewhat rakishly askew. Everything about him seemed to be worn at a rakish angle, as though he had flung everything on in a hurry, to be off about something exciting, and he sat his fidgeting chestnut with casual ease, faintly askew in the saddle.""
    • "the rest of his awareness was entirely taken up with the boy on the chestnut mare, who seemed to focus the sunlight in his own being." (6)
    • "Tussun as usual blazing with life until the air about him seemed to crackle with it." (7)
    • "could light up the very air about him, but was never restful." (9)
    • "The one I am for ever hearing him whistling and singing under his breath. [...] the song about the foster brother.” (13)
    • "you know what he is like when there is too much wine in him." (14)
    • "Tussun had never been known to apologise to anybody for anything before." (15)
    • "Staring over the top of the other’s tousled russet head that was butting hot and damp into the hollow of his shoulder, Thomas was suddenly understanding his real reason for staying to fight his crazy Border Ballad battle; that if he survived, by the very enormity of the thing Tussun had done, all debts and inequalities must be cancelled; the small unhappy constraint that he had felt like a shadow between them ever since Tussun had bought him from Ahmed Agha all washed away." (15)
    • "Tussun also had travelled a long way in those two and a half years; Tussun, appointed commander of his father’s expedition against the Wahabis, and created Pasha of Jiddah for the occasion. He had two sons of his own now, and had lost his boyhood somewhere in the Mameluke troubles." (16)
    • "Tussun, whose own Arabic was some-what scanty," (17)
    • "[The Bedouin] would come to admire and respect the young pasha who was so unlike what they had come to believe a pasha of the Turkish world must be; they would follow him, some would come to love him; but they could never be his people, as they were Thomas’s people; and he felt oddly protective towards his commander, as though the younger man were a stranger in Thomas’s country." (18)
    • "Thomas thought, ‘The cub grows up. Indeed the cub grows up.’ (18)
    • Failing to rally the infantry at Jedaida, he charges into Feisal ibn Saud's bodyguard with four men. “Who would think to find so hot a courage in a Turkish Pasha?” Abdullah ibn Saud said later, reporting to his father. (19)
    • He is wounded at Badr and is not present for the siege and sack of Medina (20)
    • “There are times,” Thomas said, “when I scarcely recognise you. That was skilfully done; I can feel the chill of it between my shoulder-blades yet.” (23)
    • "He had learned with the passing years not to be ruffled by Tussun’s moods unless they actually threatened murder," (25)
    • "I have never known you mis-fly a falcon since you gave me my first hawking lesson. Nor have I ever known you to insult your servants for something that was your fault and none of theirs.” (25)
    • "Tussun, often described as being brave as a lion, but who in actual fact was merely one of those born incomplete, with no normal sense of fear," (26)
    • "Also, though he no doubt realised that Tussun did not have his elder brother’s abilities, there was no question but that Muhammed Ali loved his younger son best of all his children." (31)
    • "Once again he was thinking how Tussun had changed. Hard sometimes even to glimpse the golden boy who had given him his first hawking lesson in exchange for a thrust in tierce. Hard also to recognise the spoiled brat who had ordered his murder in a fit of drunken rage. ‘We have come a long way in nearly eight years,’ he thought. ‘I wonder if I seem as changed to him.’ (31)
  • Ali (7), Tussun's chamber-page, a keen musician (7). He warns Thomas of Tussun's order to kill him (14).
  • Lady Amina, the Vicereine (8), wife of the Viceroy and mother of Tussun and Nayli.
    • "Thomas met the remarkably level gaze of a pair of eyes that were lion-tawny like her son’s. [...] the voice behind the thin silken veil was sweet and warmly throaty."
    • "a strong face, full-blown rather than fleshy, broad boned and clear eyed, with a warmly generous mouth. The face of a woman who would rule her household so skilfully, the iron hand hidden in its velvet glove, that they would seldom realise that they were being ruled at all. Thomas remembered that she was reputedly the person who, of all those surrounding him, had the most influence over the Viceroy." (8)
    • "She was less accustomed to the tortuous and convoluted diplomacy of the Ottoman ruling circles than was Abbas Pasha, but she was a woman, which gave her a certain advantage in any case, and a clever one," (11)
  • Lady Nayli (8), the Viceroy and Vicereine's middle child, slightly older than Tussun.
    • "He had an impression of black eyes, long-lashed and beautiful, under a forehead of milky velvet, and wings of smooth black hair springing from under a seed pearl embroidered cap."
    • "Nayli never did care for good manners, or for the custom, or much else, except doing what best pleases her."
    • "The first thing he noticed about Nayli with her face unveiled was how young she was. At the reception, with only her kohl-painted eyes to judge by, he had thought her older than himself. Now she looked to be little older than Tussun, a girl with a charming wilful face, an unformed childish mouth that showed little white teeth, almost like milk teeth when she laughed; and too much eye-paint on her lids." (8)
    • "always in anything that had to do with the Viceroy’s daughter there was a faint sense of danger to quicken the pulse." (13)
    • "She knew so little and yet it seemed to him that she had a mind, alert and eager for knowledge, that was wasted in the curtained world of the women’s quarters." (13)
    • "Suddenly, and for the first time, he fully understood the cool and ruthless detachment of the girl’s interest in people, in what went on within them, in what made them bleed, in the extent of her own power over them. He understood that this was the test of her power over him. After he had yielded, she would give him the promised delight, full measure and without stint. The Lady Nayli, he knew instinctively, was one to keep her side of a bargain, spoken or unspoken — but only after he had yielded; forsworn another love, broken faith with certain matters deep within himself. (13)
    • "There had never been much love lost between brother and sister," (14)
    • “Your father has always been softer with you than with his sons." (15)
    • “How you hate me,” she said through lips that she scarcely seemed able to move. “No. I do most devoutly wish that I had never borne you, but that is another thing.” (15)
    • "She was face-to-face with retribution, staring with wide eyes at the horrifying prospect of lifelong fidelity and enforced childbearing without chance of escape, to the ox-like Mustafa Bey." (15)
  • Captain Ballatar (7), "a burly dark-faced man with a sabre scar slashing through one eyebrow who was captain of the Vicereine’s Albanian bodyguard" (7). "he was an old and trusted friend." (10).
  • ibn Salik (10) "who had been [Ibrahim Pasha's] personal body servant since he was a child,"(10)
  • Ayesha (11), Lady Amina's deaf-mute maid
  • Ibrahim Pasha's wife (12), an Albanian, married in 1806.
  • Tussun's wife (12), daughter of Michal ibn Ishak. Tussun is not especially interested in her (12).
  • Michal ibn Ishak (12), an orthodox Cairene sheikh, Tussun's father-in-law. His house is in the Fatamid quarter (12).
  • Mustapha Bey (12), "commander of one of the Albanian infantry regiments, and, according to Tussun, one day in all likelihood to be husband to the Lady Nayli, if long drawn family negotiations did not break down on the question of the dowry. Easy enough to pick him out; a big man built like a bull and as magnificently moustached almost as the Viceroy himself and considerably older than most of those around him, who stood now hands on hips and head tipped back to bellow with laughter at his own sally in a way which Thomas could not feel it merited." (12) “I do not wish to marry Mustafa Bey. He’s dull — he’s like an ox.” (15) "Mustapha Bey, he that was son-in-law to the Viceroy, entered Mecca in triumph at the head of the Viceroy’s Turkish reinforcements;", he goes on to capture Teif (23)
  • Fahama (13), Nayli's maid
  • Tussun's two sons (16), born between 1809-1811
  • Bulchis (25), Tussun's saker

The Mamelukes:

  • A powerful Egyptian class of slave cavalry, with pro-Ottoman, pro-British, and pro-independence factions (1). "magnificent light cavalry when they happen to feel like fighting, useless when they do not." "Because the fellahin were not fighting men, even from before the rise of Islam, the caliphs of many hundred years ago needed to buy soldiers from other lands. There have always been merchants who handle the trade, buying twelve-year-old boys from the wild horse country away beyond the sea that I believe is called the Caspian. Girls too, at times, for wives and concubines, though the Mamelukes are not above carrying off girls from the Nile villages when the mood takes them. They come of a hardy people, perfect natural riders; and the Mameluke nobles who buy them train them in the use of sword and bow — firearms they consider beneath them —as though they were their own sons, and give them their freedom when they are of an age to bear arms.” "only those brought in as slaves can rise to high rank among them.” (4)
  • Aziz Bey (6), of the Mameluke Guard. "A man maybe in his early twenties wearing Mameluke dress — Tussun was renowned for his unorthodox choice of friends — and with the blue eyes and fair skin of his kind." "Aziz is always jealous of my friends. He would like to be the only friend I have!” (6). "the young Mameluke was accounted one of the best swordsmen in the Viceroy’s army." (9) "made there can be no doubt that Aziz was, as we always suspected, one of the Sultan’s agents at this court" (10).
  • Sulieman ibn Mansoor (12) of the Mameluke Guard, a friend of the late Aziz. "the harsh high-nosed face" (12). One of Nayli's lovers; stupid, and has a scar on the back of his neck (14). He escapes Thomas's assassination (15).
  • Mubarak (12), "the gigantic Nubian, his freedman. Mubarak, who was reputed to be the strongest man in Cairo, well able to break another man’s neck with his bare hands, yet he moved as soft-footed as a cat, and reeked like a whore of rose-oil and musk that seemed, coming from him, to be the very breath of all uncleanness." (12). The third assassin, he survives three serious wounds before Thomas can kill him (15).
  • Khalid ibn Feisal (14), one of Tussun's friends and Sulieman's co-conspirators
  • Rashid (14), one of Tussun's friends and one of Sulieman's co-conspirators
  • ibn Ishak (15), the 8th assassin killed by Thomas, "a fellow officer, standing now to cover [Sulieman's] retreat, a better friend that he deserved," "he was by reputation a fine swordsman though not such a one as Aziz had been".


  • The Sultan (1), in Constantinople
  • Abbas Pasha (10), a visiting Turkish minister who has Thomas arrested for killing Aziz Bey (10), "a man built on much the same lines as the silken cushions on which he sat" (11).


  • The Wahabis (7), austere fundamentalist sect from the Najd currently controlling the Hijaz
    • Prince Saud ibn Saud (12), the Tiger of Arabia, leader of the Wahabis. "The Tiger of Arabia is not one to waste men or effort." (20). Dies of spring fever in 1814 (28).
    • Abdullah ibn Saud (19), Saud's eldest son, commander at Jedaida (19).
      • Saud's presumed successor: “He has all the old Tiger’s courage and daring. I wonder if he has the other qualities he needs. They say Saud’s last words to him were to bid him give battle always in the mountains, never to come down against us into open country.” “My father used to say that neither of Saud’s sons had his strength or his judgment, or [...] his political skill." (28)
      • He conducts a guerrilla campaign against Tussun's feint towards El Rass in 1814 (30)
      • He leads the Wahabi force at El Rass and Wadi el Aas in 1815 (32)
      • He parleys with Thomas before the battle of Wadi el Aas: "Thomas, never having come face-to-face with his old enemy of Jedaida, studied the dark, reckless hawk features with a detached interest, noting the small fleck of spittle at the corner of the mouth. What a thing was religious fervour." "For an instant something that was almost a smile lit behind the dark face. An odd thing is liking between men." (34)
    • Feisal ibn Saud (19), Saud's younger son, cavalry leader at Jedaida (19). Left to hold the southern defensive line from Kulukh to Bissel against Muhammed Ali, he is lured down to open ground and defeated (30).
    • Hammud al Rakshi (21), Captain of Medina, leader of the Wahabi garrison, a tall man with a head wound killed in front of Thomas during the Wahabis' departure
    • Ghalia (23), widow of the sheikh of Terraba, "with a welcome for any man who counted himself an enemy of the Ottoman world. Added to that, Ghalia herself (how else could a woman hold such men and such a place?) was known to be a witch." (23) “The men say, furthermore, that it is well known the Sheikha Ghalia is a witch, able to throw a cloak of invisibility over those she chooses to befriend, [...] It is said that she can turn herself into a great cat, and tear out the hearts of men.” (26)
  • Grand Shariff Ghalid of Mecca (17), on the fence (17). He throws in with the Wahabis after the Jedaida defeat (20). He switches sides to support the Sultan's forces after the fall of Medina (23). Tussun reluctantly arrests him on the Viceroy's behalf in order to secure their rear during the Wahabi war (25).
    • "he only said — he said, ‘Allah’s will be done. I have spent my whole life in wars with the Sultan’s enemies, and cannot therefore be afraid to appear before him.’ I wish my father or I came as well out of this as he did at that moment.” (25)
    • "Ghalid is no longer High Shariff of Mecca and ruler of the Hijaz; and my father does not understand how little the wives and treasure and comfortable exile count for, beside that.” (25)
  • the Beni Harb (17), between Yembo and Medina, lukewarm allies of Saud ibn Saud (17), "the largest tribal confederacy in the Hijaz, whose clans dominated the main route from Yembo el Nakhl to Medina" (18). After Jedaida, Thomas buys their support for the second advance on Medina (20).
    • the Beni Sobh (18), likely to be encountered on the march to Medina
    • Beni Salen (18), likely to be encountered on the march to Medina
  • the Beni Jehaine (17), important tribe between Yembo and Medina, who promise limited support – safe passage and non-combatant guides – to the Turkish expedition before Jedaida (18). They warn off Abdullah ibn Saud and the Beni Harb afterward (20).
    • Sheikh Muhammed (18), leader and spokesman of the Beni Jehaine. "was the extra gift for Sheikh Muhammed himself of a pair of gold-rimmed spectacles. The old man had accepted them with delight, sending for his own copy of the Koran that he might put them instantly to the test." (18)
  • Anoud bin Aziz ibn Rashid (22), of Medina, who calls to Thomas for help during the looting.
    • Thomas gives her first aid: "The fourth finger and the top of the percussion were sheared off by a slanting sword-cut, the top joint of the third finger hanging by a strip of skin. She must have flung her hand up instinctively to ward either herself or someone else from the blade." (22)
    • "eyes of the surprisingly light grey that he had seen before, though not often, among the tribes,"; her father's were also grey. (22)
    • About Aziz ibn Rashid: “My father came out of a far-off tribe to take my mother for his wife. There was blood feud between their tribes, and her people cast her out. She died when I was young, and my father was a strange man and took no second wife, and I am all the sons and all the daughters of my father’s house.” (22)
    • "She was no beauty, her nose was too long and her jaw too sharply angled for a woman; but her mouth, the colour of watered wine, was wide and mobile with great sweetness in it." (24)
    • She relaxes her Arabian-style seclusion to meet Tussun at Thomas's request: “It is difficult, this matter of two worlds,” said Anoud; and then: “I am of the Faith, but I am your woman and your world is mine. What would you have me do?” (28).
    • "My father sometimes talked to me as though I were a son.” (28)
  • Kadija (22), Anoud's chaperone, "an old woman of great hideousness among those in the commander’s kitchen, who squatted on guard like a vast and benevolent black toad in the corner of the inner chamber." (22). She accompanies Anoud to Teif (28) and Medina (30) and witnesses her death (34).
  • Ali Karim (28) goldsmith of Teif near the Mecca Gate caravanserai, Thomas and Anoud's landlord.

British forces in Egypt:

  • 78th Highland Regiment
    • 2nd Battalion (1), recruited at Perth in 1804 (1). All 780 men & 36 officers detached to El Hamed killed or captured (2). Around 400 held in Cairo (3).
      • Colonel MacLeod (1)
      • Grenadier co. (1). 11 survivors of El Hamed (2).
        • Donald MacLeod (1), no relation, "an extremely large fair young man from the island of Lewis who combined the position of company drummer with that of medical orderly in the usual way of such matters" (1).
        • Private Thomas Keith (1) armourer to the 2nd Battalion, and possessed of a Baker rifle.
        • Jock Patterson (1), "with the usual stray dog"
        • Willie Moffat (1), "with the letter he always wrote to his wife" before battle. Killed April 21st 1807 at El Hamed.
    • Major Colin MacKenzie (7), killed at Rosetta about 1 April 1807. Tussun gives Thomas his captured broadsword. He had "grey-green eyes and sandy hair and big-boned humorous face".
  • 35th Foot (1), also holding El Hamed and Nile-Edko line
  • De Rolle's Foot (1), also holding El Hamed and Nile-Edko line
  • General Frazer (3), officer commanding the expedition

Residents of Scotland:

  • Grandfather (1), deceased, a Jacobite soldier
    • Flambeau (1), a bay horse on which Thomas learned to ride
  • Grandmother (1), deceased, the heiress of Broomrigg
  • Keith père (1), a master watchmaker and silversmith (2)
  • Jamie Keith (1), Thomas's elder brother, a watchmaker
  • Mr. Sempill (1), a gunsmith, Thomas's old master
  • Jenny Cochrane (1), the apothecary's niece (1), an old flame (24).
  • Leezy (1), the Keiths' old servant
  • Montrose (18), storied Jacobite commander of recalcitrant Highlanders


Lower Egypt

  • Alexandria (1), port taken by the British in March 1807
  • Rosetta [Rasheed] (1), the key to the Delta
  • Lake Edko (1), two miles from the Nile
  • El Hamed (1), bivouac of 2nd Bttn. 78th Regt. on 10-20 April 1807, four miles east of Rosetta
  • Cairo (1), seat of the Viceroy, where most of the British prisoners are sent (2). Thomas is assigned there to train Turkish cavalry in 1808.
    • Heliopolis (7), Greek ruins across the river
    • Giza and Helwan (7), nearby pyramids
    • Kasr el Nil (7), the great barracks that once housed the Mamelukes
    • Fatamid quarter (12),
      • Michal ibn Ishak's house (12)
      • the Old Palace (13), where Nayli summons Thomas
    • the House of the Two Pigeons (12), an establishment patronised by Tussun
    • the French Hospital (13)
      • Donald's quarters (16), a small austere room
  • Port Suez (16), landing place of the Egyptian cavalry

Upper Egypt, the Southern Province

  • Aswan (3), 1000 km upriver at the forth cataract, where Thomas is sent to join the Bedouin cavalry (3).
  • El Hamha oasis (4), site of a fortified camp of Bedouin cavalry beyond Aswan
    • Thomas's nature retreat: "A great sand bowl, where the shifting of a crescent-shaped dune had laid bare a gigantic sandstone hand, its forefinger longer than the height of a man. Just the hand and its own shadow in the emptiness, and nothing more. Egypt was so full of vast ruins, broken statues ten times the size of a man, half lost, half found in the drifting sands, that there was nothing strange about it, though it had given Thomas a shock of awe the first time he came upon it. It had grown familiar since then, and he sat down as one might sit down beside a friend; aware as he always was in that place, of contact with other times, other men, other faiths. A good place to think." (5)
  • El Jizzan (5), a new fort in Upper Egypt, being inspected by Ibrahim Pasha in early 1808


  • The Hijaz province (17), on the eastern shore of the Red Sea
    • Mecca, the first Holy City of Islam, seat of the Grand Shariff (17). Welcomes Mustapha Bey's forces after the Grand Shariff allies with the Viceroy (23). Thomas spends the summer of 1813 there with 400 cavalry (25).
      • the Pilgrim Gate (25), Thomas is quartered in a house nearby
      • the citadel
      • the Great Mosque
        • the Ka'aba (29), a station of the Haj
      • the school next to the Great Mosque, Muhammed Ali's headquarters in 1813
      • the Desert Gate
      • the Place of Abraham (29), a station of the Haj
      • Zam-Zam (29), the sacred well, a station of the Haj
      • Safa and Martha (29), twin hills, a station of the Haj
    • Wadi el Mahrat (25), a few miles outside of Mecca, where Tussun and Thomas go hawking
    • Oasis of Mina (29), six miles from Mecca, visited on the 8th day of the Haj
    • Mount Arafat (29), visited on the 9th day of the Haj
    • Medina, the second Holy City, heavily garrisoned by the Wahabis (17)
      • el Barr (21), the maidan
      • the Prophet's tomb, surmounted by a green dome, the second holiest site in Islam
      • the citadel, occupied by the Wahabi defenders
      • the Damascus Gate, on the north, whence the Wahabis are released
      • the Governor's Palace, taken over by the expedition
      • the northern quarter (22), a well-to-do merchants' neighbourhood, where Anoud and her father lived
    • Jiddah (16), port city, of which Tussun is named Pasha before the Arabian expedition (16), garrisoned by the Grand Shariff (17), opened to the Egyptians after the capture of Medina (23)
    • Yembo [Yanbu] (17), Red Sea port taken by the Egyptian forces
    • Yembo el Nakhl (17), town a day inland from the port of Yembo, where they meet with the Beni Jehaine sheikhs (17). Thomas and the Bedouin occupy a forward post there between the two attempts on Medina (20).
    • Badr (18), in Beni Harb territory on the road to Medina (18). Tussun takes a wound in a skirmish there on the second march to Medina (20).
    • Jedaida (18), a critical pass in Beni Harb territory on the road to Medina, with wells and village. "the way through the mountains to Medina, running, so the scouts had told them, for three miles, and in places less than a hundred yards wide. Easy to see why ibn Saud, acting through the Beni Harb, had chosen this place for his centre and main collecting point for the dues exacted by virtual blackmail from the pilgrim caravans." (19)
    • Teif [Taif] (23), summer capital of the Grand Shariff, held by the Wahabis since 1802, taken by Mustapha Bey after the alliance with the Shariff (23). “Teif is famous for its roses,” (28).
      • the Mecca Gate caravanserai (28), Thomas and Anoud rent three rooms nearby above a goldsmith's in 1814.
    • the Pass of the Meeting Place (27), near Terraba, "where two tribal territories came together." Thomas's men cover the infantry retreat through it.
    • Quinfunduh [Al Qunfudhah] (28), Wahabi-held Red Sea port captured by Zam Aglou in 1814, gateway to the Yemen (28). The Albanian force fails to secure the outlying wells and is driven out with heavy losses after a month's occupation (29).
  • the Kassim [Al Qassim province] (30), mountain region east of Medina
    • El Rass [Ar Rass] (19), Abdullah ibn Saud's force reported there 3 days before Jedaida (19). Tussun makes a feint towards it while Muhammed Ali attacks Kulukh (30). About 300 miles northeast of Medina, Tussun returns there and besieges the town the following summer, but does not breach the walls before Abdullah ibn Saud brings up reinforcements (32).
    • Aneiz [Unaizah] (30), Tussun makes feint towards it while Muhammed Ali attacks Kulukh (30).
    • Henakiah [Al Henakiyah] (30), NE of Medina, Tussun takes his diversionary force thus far
    • Wadi el Aas (33), 8 miles northwest of El Rass, where Thomas's relief force is wiped out by the Wahabi cavalry in June 1815 (34).
  • the Najd (17), inner Arabia, Wahabi central
    • Diriyah (12), Saudi capital
    • Terraba (or Tarraba) [Turubah] (23), hill fortress of Sheikha Ghalia whither the Teif garrison regroups (23). Egyptian forces attack it with heavy losses in 1813 and withdraw (26). Sacked by Muhammed Ali after the fall of Kulukh (31).
    • Kulukh (30), southern town controlling Muhammed Ali's route into the Najd
    • Bissel (30), village at the other end of the Kulukh front
  • the Yemen (28), eyed by the Viceroy, with a rich coffee-trade


  • Edinburgh (1), Thomas's birthplace
    • White Lion Wynd, Leith (5), their street
    • Leith Wynd (7), containing Mr. Sempill's shop
  • Broomrigg (1), his grandparents' farm, six miles away
  • Lewis (1), Donald MacLeod's home island in the Outer Hebrides
  • Perth (1), where the 78th Highlanders recruited a new battalion in 1804
  • the Pass of Killiecrankie (19), scene of a Jacobite victory

Background and referencesEdit

Publication historyEdit

In English:

  1. Hodder & Stoughton, 1987. Hardcover.
  2. Chivers, 1988. Large-print.
  3. Coronet, 1989. Paperback.
  4. Association for the Blind of W.A., 1993. Audiobook.
  5. Endeavour Press, 2014. E-book.


  1. French: Le Cavalier du désert, 1990.
  2. Japanese: Chi to suna : Ai to shi no arabia, 2007.