Travels in Morocco, by James Richardson

Chapter 3

The two different aspects by which the strength and resources of the Empire of Morocco may be viewed or estimated. — Native appellation of Morocco. — Geographical limits of this country. — Historical review of the inhabitants of North Africa, and the manner in which this region was successively peopled and conquered. — The distinct varieties of the human race, as found in Morocco. — Nature of the soil and climate of this country. — Derem, or the Atlas chain of mountains. — Natural products. — The Shebbel, or Barbary salmon; different characters of exports of the Northern and Southern provinces. — The Elæonderron Argan. — Various trees and plants. — Mines. — The Sherb–Errech, or Desert-horse.

The empire of Morocco may be considered under two aspects, as to its extent, and as to its influence. It may be greatly circumscribed or expanded to an almost indefinite extent, according to the feelings, or imagination, of the writer, or speaker. A resident here gave me a meagre tableau, something like this,

The city of Morocco 50,000 souls.
“ Fez 40,000 ”
“ Mequinez 25,000 ”

115,000 ”

The maritime cities contain little more than 100,000 inhabitants, making altogether about 220,000. Over the provinces of the south, Sous and Wadnoun, the Sultan has no real power; so the south is cut off as an integral portion of the empire. Over the Rif, or the northern Berber provinces, the Sultan exercises a precarious sovereignty, every man’s gun or knife is there his law and authority. Fez contains a disaffected population, teeming some years since with the adherents of Abd-el-Kader. Then the Atlas is full of quasi-independent Berber tribes, who detest equally the Arabs and the Moorish government; finally, Tafilett and the provinces on the eastern side of the Atlas, are too remote to feel the influence of the central government.

As to military force, the Emperor’s standing army does not amount to more than 20 or 30,000 Nigritian troops, and all cavalry. The irregular and contingent cavalry and infantry can never be depended upon, even under such a chief as Abd-el-Kader was. They must always be fed, but they will not, at any summons, leave the cultivation of their fields, or their wives and children defenceless.

As to the commerce of the Empire, with fifty ships visiting Mogador and other maritime cities, the amount, per annum, does not exceed forty millions of francs, or about a million and a half sterling including imports and exports. Such is the view of the Empire on the depreciating side.

Another resident of this country gives the opposite or more favourable view.

The Sultan is the head of the orthodox religion of the Mussulmen of the West, and more firmly established on his throne than the Sultan of the Ottomans. His influence, as a sovereign Shereef, spreads throughout Western Barbary and Central Africa, wherever there is a Mussulman to be found. In the event of an enemy appearing in the shape of a Christian, or Infidel, all would unite, including the most disjointed and hostile tribes against the common foe of Islamism.

The Sultan, upon an emergency or insurrection in his own empire, by the politic distribution of titles of Marabout (often used as a species of degree of D.D.) and other honours attached to the Shereefian Parasol, can likewise easily excite one chief against another, and consolidate his power over their intestine divisions. His Moorish Majesty, at any rate, has always actual possession in his favour; and, whether he really governs the whole Empire or not, or to the extent which he has presumed to mark out its boundaries, he can always proclaim to his disjointed provinces that he does so govern it and exercise authority; and, in general, he does succeed in making both his own people and foreign nations believe in his pretensions, and acknowledge his power.

The truth lies, perhaps, between these extremes. The Shereefs once pretended to exercise authority over all Western Sahara as far as Timbuctoo, that is to say, all that region of the great desert lying west of the Touaricks.

The account of the expedition of the Shereef Mohammed, who penetrated as far as Wadnoun, and which took place more than three centuries ago, as related by Marmol, leaves no doubt of the ancient ambition of the sovereign of Morocco. And although this pretension has now been given up, they still claim sovereignty over the oases of Touat, a month’s journey in the Sahara. Formerly, indeed, the authority of the Maroquine Sultans over Touat and the south appears to have been more real and effective.

Diego de Torres relates that, in his time, the Shereefs maintained a force of ten thousand cavalry in the provinces of Draha, Tafilett and Jaguriri, and Monsieur Mouette counts Touat as one of the provinces of the Empire. The Sheikh Haj Kasem, in the itinerary which he dictated to Monsieur Delaporte, says that, about forty years ago, Agobli and Taoudeni depended on Morocco. This, however, is what the people of Ghadames told me, whilst they admitted that the oases neither did contain a single officer of the Emperor, nor did the people pay his Shereefian Highness the smallest impost. The Sultan’s authority is now indeed purely nominal, and the French look forward to the time when these fine and centrally placed oases will form “une dependance de l’Algérie.”

The only countries in the South which now pay a regular impost to the Emperor, are Tafilett, limited to the valley of Fez, Wad–Draha as far as the lake Ed–Debaia, and Sous. The countries of Sidi, Hashem, and Wadnoun nominally acknowledge the Emperor, and occasionally send a present; but the most mountainous, between Sous and Wad–Draha, which has been called Guezoula or Gouzoula, and is said to be peopled by a Berber race, sprang from the ancient Gelulir, is entirely independent. In the north and west are also many quasi-independent tribes, but still the Emperor keeps up a sort of authority over them; and, if nothing more, is content simply with being called their Sultan.

Maroquine Moors call their country El–Gharb, “The West,” and sometimes Mogrel-el-Aksa, that is “The far West:” 47 the name seems to have originated something in the same way among the Saracenic conquerors, as the “Far West” with the Anglo–Americans, arising from an apprehensive feeling of indefinite extent of unexplored country. Among the Moors generally, Morocco is now often called, “Blad Muley Abd Errahman”, or “Country of the Sultan Muley Abd Errahman.” The northwestern portion of Morocco was first conquered; Morocco Proper, Sous and Tafilett were added with the progress of conquest. But scarcely a century has elapsed since their union under one common Sultan, whilst the diverse population of the four States are solely kept together by the interests and feelings of a common religion.

The Maroquine Empire, with its present limits, is bounded on the north by the Mediterranean Sea and the Straits of Gibraltar, on the west by the Atlantic Ocean and the Canary and Madeira Islands, on the south by the deserts of Noun Draha and the Sahara, on the east by Algeria, the Atlas, and Tafilett, on the borders of Sahara beyond their eastern slopes. The greatest length from north to south is about five hundred miles, with a breadth from east to west varying considerably at an average of two hundred, containing an available or really dependent territory of some 137,400 square miles, or nearly as large as Spain; and the whole is situate between the 28° and 40° N. Latitude. Monsieur Benou, in his “Description Géographique de l’Empire de Maroc” says Morocco “comprend une superficie d’environ 5,775 myriamètres carrés, un peu plus grande, par conséquant, que celle de la France, qui équivaut à 5,300.” This then is the available and immediate territory of Morocco, not comprising distant dependencies, where the Shereefs exercise a precarious or nominal sovereignty.

Previously to particularizing the population of Morocco, I shall take the liberty of introducing some general observations on the whole of the inhabitants of North Africa, and the manner in which this country was successively peopled and conquered. Greek and Roman classics contain only meagre and confused notions of the aborigines of North Africa, although they have left us a mass of details on the Punic wars, and the struggles which ensued between the Romans and the ancient Libyans, before the domination of the Latin Republic could be firmly established. Herodotus cites the names of a number of people who inhabited North Africa, mostly confining himself to repeat the fables or the more interesting facts, of which they were the object.

The nomenclature of Strabo is neither so extensive, nor does it contain more precise or correct information. He mentions the celebrated oasis of Ammonium and the nation of the Nasamones. Farther west, behind Carthage and the Numidians, he also notices the Getulians, and after them the Garamantes, a people who appear to have colonized both the oasis of Ghadames and the oases of Fezzan. Ptolemy makes the whole of the Mauritania, including Algeria and Morocco, to be bounded on the south by tribes, called Gaetuliae and Melanogaeluti, on the south the latter evidently having contracted alliance of blood with the negroes.

According to Sallust, who supports himself upon the authority of Heimpsal, the Carthaginian historian, “North Africa was first occupied by Libyans and Getulians, who were a barbarous people, a heterogeneous mass, or agglomeration of people of different races, without any form of religion or government, nourishing themselves on herbs, or devouring the raw flesh of animals killed in the chase; for first amongst these were found Blacks, probably some from the interior of Africa, and belonging to the great negro family; then whites, issue of the Semitic stock, who apparently constituted, even at that early period, the dominant race or caste. Later, but at an epoch absolutely unknown, a new horde of Asiatics,” says Sallust, “of Medes, Persians, and Armenians, invaded the countries of the Atlas, and, led on by Hercules, pushed their conquests as far as Spain.” 48

The Persians, mixing themselves with the former inhabitants of the coast, formed the tribes called Numides, or Numidians (which embrace the provinces of Tunis and Constantina), whilst the Medes and the Armenians, allying themselves with the Libyans, nearer to Spain, it is pretended, gave existence to a race of Moors, the term Medes being changed into that of Moors. 49

As to the Getulians confined in the valleys of the Atlas, they resisted all alliance with the new immigrants, and formed the principal nucleus of those tribes who have ever remained in North Africa, rebels to a foreign civilization, or rather determined champions of national freedom, and whom, imitating the Romans and Arabs, we are pleased to call Barbarians or Berbers (Barbari Brâber 50), and whence is derived the name of the Barbary States. But the Romans likewise called the aboriginal tribes of North Africa, Moors, or Mauri, and some contend that Moors and Berbers are but two different names for the aboriginal tribes, the former being of Greek and the latter of African origin. The Romans might, however, confound the African term berber with barbari, which latter they applied, like the Greeks, to all strangers and foreigners. The revolutions of Africa cast a new tribe of emigrants upon the North African coast, who, if we are to believe the Byzantine historian, Procopius, of the sixth century, were no other than Canaanites, expelled from Palestine by the victorious arms of Joshua, when he established the Israelites in that country. Procopius affirms that, in his time, there was a column standing at Tigisis, on which was this inscription:— “We are those who fled from the robber Joshua, son of Nun.” 51 Now whether Tigisis was in Algeria, or was modern Tangier, as some suppose, it is certain there are several traditions among the Berber tribes of Morocco, which relate that their ancestors were driven out of Palestine. Also, the Berber historian, Ebn–Khal-Doun, who flourished in the fourteenth century, makes all the Berbers descend from one Bar, the son of Mayigh, son of Canaan. However, what may be the truths of these traditions of Sallust or Procopius, there is no difficulty in believing that North Africa was peopled by fugitive and roving tribes, and that the first settlers should be exposed to be plundered by succeeding hordes; for such has been the history of the migrations of all the tribes of the human race.

But the most ancient historical fact on which we can depend is, the invasion, or more properly, the successive invasions of North Africa by the Phoenicians. Their definite establishment on these shores took place towards the foundation of Carthage, about 820 years before our era. Yet we know little of their intercourse or relations with the aboriginal tribes. When the Romans, a century and a half before Christ, received, or wrested, the rule of Africa from the Phoenicians, or Carthaginians, they found before them an indigenous people, whom they indifferently called Moors, Berbers, or Barbarians. A part of these people were called also Nudides, which is perhaps considered the same term as nomades.

Some ages later, the Romans, too weak to resist a vigorous invasion of other conquerors, were subjugated by the Vandals, who, during a century, held possession of North Africa; but, after this time, the Romans again raised their heads, and completely expelled or extirpated the Vandals, so that, as before, there were found only two people or races in Africa: the Romans and the Moors, or aborigines.

Towards the middle of the seventh century after Christ, and a few years after the death of Mahomet, the Romans, in the decline of their power, had to meet the shock of the victorious arms of the Arabians, who poured in upon them triumphant from the East; but, too weak to resist this new tide of invasion, they opposed to them the aborigines, which latter were soon obliged to continue alone the struggle.

The Arabian historians, who recount these wars, speak of Roumi or Romans (of the Byzantine empire) and the Brâber — evidently the aboriginal tribes — who promptly submitted to the Arabs to rid themselves of the yoke of the Romans; but, after the retreat of their ancient masters, they revolted and remained a long time in arms against their new conquerors — a rule of action which all subjugated nations have been wont to follow. Were we English now to attempt to expel the French from Algeria, we, undoubtedly, should be joined by the Arabs; but who would, most probably, soon also revolt against us, were we to attempt to consolidate our dominion over them.

In the first years of the eighth century, and at the end of the first century of the Hegira, the conquering Arabs passed over to Spain, and, inasmuch as they came from Mauritania, the people of Spain gave them the name of Moors (that of the aborigines of North Africa), although they had, perhaps, nothing in common with them, if we except their Asiatic origin. Another and most singular name was also given to these Arab warriors in France and other parts of Europe — that of Saracens — whose etymology is extremely obscure. 52 From this time the Spaniards have always given the names of Moors (los Moros), not only to the Arabs of Spain, but to all the Arabs; and, confounding farther these two denominations, they have bestowed the name of Moros upon the Arabs of Morocco and those in the environs of Senegal.

The Arabs who invaded Northern Africa about 650, were all natives of Asia, belonging to various provinces of Arabia, and were divided into Ismaelites, Amalekites, Koushites, &c. They were all warriors; and it is considered a title of nobility to have belonged to their first irruption of the enthusiastic sons of the Prophet.

A second invasion took place towards the end of the ninth century — an epoch full of wars — during which, the Caliph Kaïm transported the seat of his government from Kairwan to Cairo, ending in the complete submission of Morocco to the power of Yousef Ben Tashfin. One cannnot now distinguish which tribe of Arabs belong to the first or the second invasion, but all who can shew the slightest proof, claim to belong to the first, as ranking among a band of noble and triumphant warriors.

After eight centuries of rule, the Arabs being expelled from Spain, took refuge in Barbary, but instead of finding the hospitality and protection of their brethren, the greater part of them were pillaged or massacred. The remnant of these wretched fugitives settled along the coast; and it is to their industry and intelligence that we owe the increase, or the foundation of many of the maritime cities. Here, considered as strangers and enemies by the natives, whom they detested, the new colonists sought for, and formed relations with Turks and renegades of all nations, whilst they kept themselves separate from the Arabs and Berbers. This, then, is the bonâ-fide origin of the people whom we now generally call Moors. History furnishes us with a striking example of how the expelled Arabs of Spain united with various adventurers against the Berber and North African Arabs. In the year 1500, a thousand Andalusian cavaliers, who had emigrated to Algiers, formed an alliance with the Barbarossas and their fleet of pirates; and, after expelling the native prince, built the modern city of Algiers. And such was the origin of the Algerine Corsairs.

The general result of these observations would, therefore, lead us to consider the Moors of the Romans, as the Berbers or aborigines of North Africa, and the Moors of the Spaniards, as pure Arabians; and if, indeed, these Arabian cavaliers marshalled with them Berbers, as auxiliaries, for the conquest of Spain, this fact does not militate against the broad assumption.

The so-called Moors of Senegal and the Sahara, as well as those of Morocco, are chiefly a mixture of Berbers, Arabs and Negroes; but the present Moors located in the northern coast of Africa, are rather the descendants from the various conquering nations, and especially from renegades and Christian slaves.

The term Moors is not known to the natives themselves. The people speak definitely enough of Arabs and of various Berber tribes. The population of the towns and cities are called generally after the names of these towns and cities, whilst Tuniseen and Tripoline is applied to all the inhabitants of the great towns of Tunis and Tripoli. Europeans resident in Barbary, as a general rule, call all the inhabitants of towns — Moors, and the peasants or people residents in tents — Arabs. But, in Tripoli, I found whole villages inhabited by Arabs, and these I thought might be distinguished as town Arabs. Then the mountains of Tripoli are covered with Arab villages, and some few considerable towns are inhabited by people who are bonâ-fide Arabs. Finally, the capitals of North Africa are filled with every class of people found in the country.

The question is then where shall we draw the line of distinction in the case of nationalities? or can we, with any degree of precision, define the limits which distinguish the various races in North Africa? With regard to the Blacks or negro tribes, there can be no great difficulty. The Jews are also easily distinguished from the rest of the people as well by their national features as by their dress and habits or customs of living. But, when we come to the Berbers, Arabs, Moors and Turks, we can only distinguish them in their usual and ordinary occupations and manners of life. Whenever they are intermixed, or whenever they change their position, that is to say, whenever the Arab or Berber comes to dwell in a town, or a Moor or a Turk goes to reside in the country, adopting the Arab or Berber dress and mode of living, it is no longer possible to distinguish the one from the other, or mark the limitation of races.

And since it is seen that the aborigines of Northern Africa consisted, with the exception of the Negro tribes, of the Asiatics of the Caucasian race or variety, many of whom, like the Phoenicians, have peopled various cities and provinces of Europe, it is therefore not astonishing we should find all the large towns and cities of North Africa, where the human being becomes policed, refined and civilized sooner than in remote and thinly-inhabited districts, teeming with a population, which at once challenges an European type, and a corresponding origin with the great European family of nations.

North Africa is wonderfully homogeneous in the matter of religion. The people, indeed, have but one religion. Even the extraneous Judaism is the same in its Deism — depression of the female — circumcision and many of the religious customs, festivals and traditions. And this has a surprising effect in assimilating the opposite character and sharpest peculiarities of various races of otherwise distinct and independant origin.

The population of Morocco presents five distant races and classes of people; Berbers, Arabs, Moors, Jews and Negroes. Turks are not found in Morocco, and do not come so far west; but sons of Turks by Moorish women in Kouroglies are included among the Moors, that have emigrated from Algeria. Maroquine Berbers, include the varieties of the Amayeegh 53 and the Shelouh, who mostly are located in the mountains, while the Arabs are settled on the plains.

The Moors are the inhabitants of towns and cities, consisting of a mixture of nearly all races, a great proportion of them being of the descendants of the Moors expelled from Spain. All these races have been, and will still be, farther noticed in the progress of the work. The proximate amount of this population is six millions. The greater number of the towns and cities are situate on the coast, excepting the three or four capitals, or imperial cities. The other towns of the interior should be considered rather as forts to awe neighbouring tribes, or as market villages (souks), where the people collect together for the disposal and exchange of their produce. Numerous tribes, located in the Atlas, escape the notice of the imposts of imperial authority. Their varieties and amount of population are equally unknown. In the immense group of Gibel Thelge (snowy mountains), some of the tribes are said to have their faces shaved, like Christians, and to wear boots. We can understand why a people inhabiting a cold region of rain and mists and perpetual snow should wear boots; but as to their shaving like Christians, this is rather vague. But it is not impossible the Atlas contains the descendants of some European refugees.

The nature of the soil and climate of Morocco are not unlike those of Spain and Portugal; and though Morocco does not materially differ from other parts of Barbary, its greater extent of coast on the Atlantic, along which the tradewind of the north coast blows nine months out of twelve, and its loftier ridges of the Atlas, so temper its varied surface of hill and plain and vast declivities that, together with the absence of those marshy districts which in hot climates engender fatal disease, this country may be pronounced, excepting perhaps Tunis, the most healthy in all Africa.

In the northern provinces, the climate is nearly the same as that of Spain; in the southern there is less rain and more of the desert heat, but this is compensated for by the greater fertility in the production of valuable staple articles of commerce. Nevertheless, Morocco has its extremes of heat and cold, like all the North African coast.

The most striking object of this portion of the crust of the globe, is the vast Atlas chain of mountains 54, which traverses Morocco from north-east to south-west, whose present ascertained culminating point, Miltsin, is upwards of 15,000 feet above the level of the sea, or equal to the highest peaks of the Pyrenees. The Maroquine portion of the Atlas contains its highest peaks, which stretch from the east of Tripoli to the Atlantic Ocean, at Santa Cruz; and we find no mountains of equal height, except in the tenth degree of North latitude, or 18,000 miles south, or 30,000 south, south-east. The Rif coast has a mountainous chain of some considerable height, but the Atlantic coast offers chiefly ridges of hills. The coasts of Morocco are not much indented, and consequently have few ports, and these offer poor protection from the ocean.

The general surface of Morocco presents a large ridge or lock, with two immense declivities, one sloping N.W. to the ocean, with various rivers and streams descending from this enormous back-bone of the Atlas, and the other fulling towards the Sahara, S.E., feeding the streams and affluents of Wad Draha, and other rivers, which are lost in the sands of the Desert. This shape of the country prevents the formation of those vast Sebhahas, or salt lakes, so frequent in Algeria and the south of Tunis. We are acquainted only with two lakes of fresh or sweet water — that of Debaia, traversed by Wad Draha, — and that of Gibel–Akhder, which Leo compares to Lake Bolsena. The height of the mountains, and the uniformity of their slopes, produce large and numerous rivers; indeed, the most considerable of all North Africa. These rivers of the North are shortest, but have the largest volume of water; those of the South are larger, but are nearly dry the greater part of the year. None of them are navigable far inland. Some abound with fish, particularly the Shebbel, or Barbary salmon. It is neither so rich nor so large as our salmon, and is whitefleshed; it tastes something like herring, but is of a finer and more delicate flavour. They are abundant in the market of Mogudor. The Shebbel, converted by the Spaniards Sabalo, is found in the Guadalquivir.

The products of the soil are nearly the same as in other parts of Barbary. On the plains, or in the open country, the great cultivation is wheat and barley; in suburban districts, vegetables and fruits are propagated. In a commercial point of view, the North exports cattle, grain, bark, leeches, and skins; and the South exports gums, almonds, ostrich-feathers, wax, wool, and skins, as principle staple produce. When the rains cease or fail, the cultivation is kept up by irrigation, and an excellent variety of fruits and esculent vegetables are produced; indeed, nearly all the vegetables and fruit-trees of Southern Europe are here abundantly and successfully cultivated, besides those peculiar to an African clime and soil. In the south, grows a tree peculiar to this country, the Eloeondenron Argan, so called from its Arabic name Argan. This tree produces fruit resembling the olive, whose egg-shaped, brown, smooth and very hard stone, encloses a flat almond, of a white colour, and of a very disagreeable taste, which, when crushed, produces a rancid oil, used commonly as a substitute for olive-oil. The tree itself is bushy and large, and sometimes grows of the size to a wide-spreading oak. Not far from Mogador are several Argan forests. The level country of the north is covered with forests of dwarfish oak; some bear sweet, and others bitter acorns, and also the cork-tree, whose bark is a considerable object of commerce. In the Atlas, has been found the magnificent cedar of Lebanon. This tree has also been met with in Algeria, but only on the mountains, some forty thousand feet above the level of the sea.

In the South there is, of course, growing in all its Saharan vigour, the noble date-palm, and by its side, squats the palmetto, or dwarf-palm (in Arabic dauma). Of trees and plants, the usual tinzah, and snouber or pine of Aleppo, are used for preparing the fine leathers of Morocco. Many plants are also deleteriously employed for exciting intoxication, or inflaming the passions.

Morocco has its mines of gold, silver, lead, iron, tin, sulphur, mineral, salt, and antimony; but nearly all are neglected, or unworked. Government will not encourage the industry of the people, for fear of exciting the cupidity of foreigners. A Frenchman, a short time ago, reported a silver mine in the south, and Government immediately bribed him to make another statement that there was no such mine. At Elala and Stouka, in the province of Sous, are several rich silver mines. Gold is found in the Atlas and the Lower Sous. But this country is especially rich in copper mines. A great number of ancient and modern authors speak of these mines, which are situate in the mountainous country comprised between Aghadir, Morocco, Talda, Tamkrout, and Akka. The mines most worked, are those of Tedsi and Afran. At the foot of the Atlas, near Taroudant, is a great quantity of sulphur. In the neighbourhood of Morocco, saltpetre is found. In the province of Abda is an extensive salt lake, and salt has been exported from this country to Timbuctoo. Of precious stones, some fine specimens of amethyst have been discovered.

There are scarcely any animals peculiar to Morocco, or which are not found in other parts of North Africa. Davidson mentions some curious facts relative to the desert horse; “sherb-errech, wind-bibber, or drinker of the wind,” a variety of this animal, which is not to be met with in the Saharan regions of Tunis, or Tripoli.

This horse is fed only on camel’s milk, and is principally used for hunting ostriches, which are run down by it, and then captured. 55 The sherb-errech will continue running three or four days together without any food. It is a slight and spare-formed animal, mostly in wretched condition, with ugly thick legs, and devoid of beauty as a horse.

47 The middle Western Region consists of Algiers and part of Tunis.

48 Pliny, the Elder, confirms this tradition mentioned by Pliny. Marcus Yarron reports, “that in all Spain there are spread Iberians, Persians, Phoenicians, Celts, and Carthaginians.” (Lib. iii. chap. 2).

49 In Latin, Mauri, Maurice, Maurici, Maurusci, and it is supposed, so called by the Greeks from their dark complexions.

50 The more probable derivation of this word is from bar, signifying land, or earth, in contradistinction from the sea, or desert, beyond the cultivable lands to the South. To give the term more force it is doubled, after the style of the Semitic reduplication. De Haedo de la Captividad gives a characteristic derivation, like a genuine hidalgo, who proclaimed eternal war against Los Moros. He says — “Moors, Alartes, Cabayles, and some Turks, form all of them a dirty, lazy, inhuman, indomitable nation of beasts, and it is for this reason that, for the last few years, I have accustomed myself to call that land the land of Barbary.”

51 Procopius, de Bello Vandilico, lib. ii. cap. 10.

52 Some derive it from Sarak, an Arabic word which signifies to steal, and hence, call the conquerors thieves. Others, and with more probability, derive it from Sharak, the east, and make them Orientals, and others say there is an Arabic word Saracini, which means a pastoral people, and assert that Saracine is a corruption from it, the new Arabian immigrants being supposed to have been pastoral tribes.

53 Some suppose that Amayeegh means “great,” and the tribes thus distinguished themselves, as our neighbours are wont to do by the phrase “la grande nation.” The Shoulah are vulgarly considered to be descended from the Philistines, and to have fled before Joshua on the conquest of Palestine.

In his translation of the Description of Spain, by the Shereef El–Edris (Madrid, 1799), Don Josef Antonio Conde speaks of the Berbers in a note —

“Masmuda, one of the five principal tribes of Barbaria; the others are Zeneta, called Zenetes in our novels and histories, Sanhagha which we name Zenagas; Gomêsa is spelt in our histories Gomares and Gomeles. Huroara, some of these were originally from Arabia; there were others, but not so distinguished. La de Ketâma was, according to tradition, African, one of the most ancient, for having come with Afrikio.

“Ben Kis Ben Taifi Ben Tebâ, the younger, who came from the king of the Assyrians, to the land of the west.

“None of these primitive tribes appear to have been known to the Romans, their historians, however, have transmitted to us many names of other aboriginal tribes, some of which resemble fractions now existing, as the Getules are probably the present Geudala or Geuzoula. But the present Berbers do not correspond with the names of the five original people just mentioned. In Morocco, there are Amayeegh and Shelouh, in Algeria the Kabyles, in Tunis the Aoures, sometimes the Shouwiah, and in Sahara the Touarichs. There are, besides, numerous subdivisions and admixtures of these tribes.”

54 Monsieur Balbi is decidedly the most recent, as well as the best authority to apply to for a short and definite description of this most celebrated mountain system, called by him “Système Atlantique,” and I shall therefore annex what he says on this interesting subject, “Orographie.” He says — “Of the ‘Système Atlantique,’ which derives its name from the Mount Atlas, renowned for so many centuries, and still so little known; we include in this vast system, all the heights of the region of Maghreb — we mean the mountain of the Barbary States — as well as the elevations scattered in the immense Sahara or Desert. It appears that the most important ridge extends from the neighbourhood of Cape Noun, or the Atlantic, as far as the east of the Great Syrte in the State of Tripoli. In this vast space it crosses the new State of Sidi–Hesdham, the Empire of Morocco, the former State of Algiers, as well as the State of Tripoli and the Regency of Tunis. It is in the Empire of Morocco, and especially in the east of the town of Morocco, and in the south-east of Fez, that that ridge presents the greatest heights of the whole system. It goes on diminishing afterwards in height as it extends towards the east, so that it appears the summits of the territory of Algiers are higher than those on the territory of Tunis, and the latter are less high than those to be found in the State of Tripoli. Several secondary ridges diverge in different directions from the principal chain; we shall name among them the one which ends at the Strait of Gibraltar in the Empire of Morocco. Several intermediary mountains seem to connect with one another the secondary chains which intersect the territories of Algiers and Tunis. Geographers call Little Atlas the secondary mountains of the land of Sous, in opposition to the name of Great Atlas, they give to the high mountains of the Empire of Morocco. In that part of the principal chain called Mount Gharian, in the south of Tripoli, several low branches branch off and under the names of Mounts Maray, Black Mount Haroudje, Mount Liberty, Mount Tiggerandoumma and others less known, furrow the great solitudes of the Desert of Lybia and Sahara Proper. From observations made on the spot by Mr. Bruguière in the former state of Algiers, the great chain which several geographers traced beyond the Little Atlas under the name of Great Atlas does not exist. The inhabitants of Mediah who were questioned on the subject by this traveller, told him positively, that the way from that town to the Sahara was through a ground more or less elevated, and slopes more or less steep, and without having any chain of mountains to cross. The Pass of Teniah which leads from Algiers to Mediah is, therefore, included in the principal chain of that part of the Regency.

55 Xenophon, in his Anabasis, speaks of ostriches in Mesopotamia being run down by fleet horses.

Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 15:33