Miss Tully: Letters from Tripoli during the plague epidemic of 1785-6 – January 18th


January 18th, 1786

Their troubles are compounded by a plague of locusts

We have at this time such a scarcity of wheat, that the Christians are glad to buy up all the biscuit from the ships in the harbour; and if the plague had not swept off the chief part of the inhabitants, they must have perished by famine: indeed, the small quantity of grain we have, seems, for our misfortune, to be threatened by the locusts, which have been approaching from the deserts of Egypt. These destructive insects have seldom been known to annoy this place, though they are the almost yearly scourge of Egypt and part of Asia. They fly in compact bodies through the air, darkening the atmosphere, and occupying a space of many miles in their passage. They make a noise in the act of nipping off the corn and herbage that cannot be mistaken, and which is distinctly heard at a great distance. While these invaders pass along, as if by enchantment, the green disappears and the parched naked ground presents itself. The locusts are salted down in great quantities at Cairo and Alexandria, and carried to different parts of Africa: many are brought to this place and eaten by the inhabitants.

Miss Tully: Letters written during a ten years, residence at the Court of Tripoli, 1783-1795

Hardinge Simpole, 2009, p.122

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