Toser. — The Bey’s Palace. — Blue Doves. — The town described. — Industry of the People. — Sheikh Tahid imprisoned and punished. — Leghorn. — The Boo-habeeba. — A Domestic Picture. — The Bey’s Diversions. — The Bastinado. — Concealed Treasure. — Nefta. — The Two Saints. — Departure of Santa Maria. — Snake-charmers. — Wedyen. — Deer Stalking. — Splendid view of the Sahara. — Revolting Acts. — Qhortabah. — Ghafsa. — Byrlafee. — Mortality among the Camels — Aqueduct. — Remains of Udina. — Arrival at Tunis. — The Boab’s Wives. — Curiosities. — Tribute Collected. — Author takes leave of the Governor of Mogador, and embarks for England. — Rough Weather. — Arrival in London.
Leaving Dra-el-Hammah, after a hot march of five or six miles, we arrived at the top of a rising ground, at the base of which was situate the famous Toser, the head-quarters of the camp in the Jereed, and as far as it goes. Behind the city was a forest of date-trees, and beyond these and all around, as far as the eye could wander, was an immeasurable waste — an ocean of sand — a great part of which we could have sworn was water, unless told to the contrary. We were met, before entering Toser, with some five or six hundred Arabs, who galloped before the Bey, and fired as usual. The people stared at us Christians with open mouths; our dress apparently astonished them. At Toser, the Bey left his tent and entered his palace, so called in courtesy to his Highness, but a large barn of a house, without any pretensions. We had also a room allotted to us in this palace, which was the best to be found in the town, though a small dark affair. Toser is a miserable assemblage of mud and brick huts, of very small dimensions, the beams and the doors being all of date-wood. The gardens, however, under the date-trees are beautiful, and abundantly watered with copious streams, all of which are warm, and in one of which we bathed ourselves and felt new vigour run through our veins. We took a walk in the gardens, and were surprised at the quantities of doves fluttering among the date-trees; they were the common blue or Barbary doves. In the environs of Mogador, these doves are the principal birds shot.
Toser, or Touzer, the Tisurus of ancient geography, is a considerable town of about six thousand souls, with several villages in its neighbourhood.
The impression of Toser made upon our tourists agrees with that of the traveller, Desfontaines, who writes of it in 1784:— “The Bey pitched his tent on the right side of the city, if such can be called a mass of mud-houses.” The description corresponds also with that of Dr. Shaw, who says that “the villages of the Jereed are built of mud-walls and rafters of palm-trees.” Evidently, however, some improvement has been made of late years. The Arabs of Toser, on the contrary, and which very natural, protested to the French scientific commission that Toser was the finest city in El–Jereed. They pretend that it has an area as large as Algiers, surrounded with a mud wall, twelve or fifteen feet high, and crenated. In the centre is a vast open space, which serves for a market-place. Toser has mosques, schools, Moorish baths — a luxury rare on the confines of the Desert, fondouks or inns, &c. The houses have flat terraces, and are generally well-constructed, the greater part built from the ruins of a Roman town; but many are now dilapidated from the common superstitious cause of not repairing or rebuilding old houses. The choice material for building is brick, mostly unbaked or sun-dried.
Most of these houses stand detached.
Toser, situate in a plain, is commanded from the north-west by a little rocky mountain, whence an abundant spring takes its source, called Meshra, running along the walls of the city southward, divides itself afterwards in three branches, waters the gardens, and, after having irrigated the plantations of several other villages, loses itself in the sand at a short distance. The wells within the city of Toser are insufficient for the consumption of the inhabitants, who fetch water from Wad Meshra. The neighbouring villages are Belad-el-Ader, Zin, Abbus; and the sacred villages are Zaouweeat, of Tounseea, Sidi Ali Bou Lifu, and Taliraouee. The Arabs of the open country, and who deposit their grain in and trade with these villages, are Oulad Sidi Sheikh, Oulad Sidi Abeed, and Hammania. The dates of Toser are esteemed of the finest quality.
Walked about the town; several of the inhabitants are very wealthy. The dead saints are, however, here, and perhaps everywhere else in Tunis, more decently lodged, and their marabets are real “whitewashed sepulchres.” They make many burnouses at Toser, and every house presents the industrious sight of the needle or shuttle quickly moving. We tasted the leghma, or “tears of the date,” for the first time, and rather liked it. On going to shoot doves, we, to our astonishment, put up a snipe. The weather was very hot; went to shoot doves in the cool of the evening. The Bey administers justice, morning and evening, whilst in the Jereed. An Arab made a present of a fine young ostrich to the Bey, which his Highness, after his arrival in Tunis, sent to R. The great man here is the Sheikh Tahid, who was imprisoned for not having the tribute ready for the Bey. The tax imposed is equivalent to two bunches for each date-tree. The Sheikh has to collect them, paying a certain yearly sum when the Bey arrives, a species of farming-out. It was said that he is very rich, and could well find the money. The dates are almost the only food here, and the streets are literally gravelled with their stones. Santa Maria again returned his horse to the Bey, and got another in its stead. He is certainly a man of delicate feeling. This gentleman carried his impudence so far that he even threatened some of the Bey’s officers with the supreme wrath of the French Government, unless they attended better to his orders. A new Sheikh was installed, a good thing for the Bey’s officers, as many of them got presents on the occasion.
We blessed our stars that a roof was over our heads to shield us from the burning sun. We blew an ostrich-egg, had the contents cooked, and found it very good eating. They are sold for fourpence each, and it is pretended that one makes an ample meal for twelve persons. We are supplied with leghma every morning; it tastes not unlike cocoa-nut milk, but with more body and flavour. R. very unwell, attributed it to his taking copious draughts of the leghma. Rode out of an evening; there was a large encampment of Arabs outside the town, thoroughly sun-burnt, hardy-looking fellows, some of them as black as negroes. Many people in Toser have sore eyes, and several with the loss of one eye, or nearly so; opthalmia, indeed, is the most prevalent disease in all Barbary. The neighbourhood of the Desert, where the greater part of the year the air is filled with hot particles of sand, is very unfavourable to the sight; the dazzling whiteness of the whitewashed houses also greatly injures the eyes. But the Moors pretend that lime-washing is necessary to the preservation of the houses from the weather, as well as from filth of all sorts. We think really it is useful, by preventing dirty people in many cases from being eaten up by their own filth and vermin, particularly the Jews, the Tunisian Jews being the dirtiest persons in the Regency. The lime-wash is the grand sanitary instrument in North Africa.
There are little birds that frequent the houses, that might be called Jereed sparrows, and which the Arabs name boo-habeeba, or “friend of my father;” but their dress and language are very different, having reddish breasts, being of a small size, and singing prettily. Shaw mentions them under the name of the Capsa-sparrow, but he is quite wrong in making them as large as the common house-sparrow. He adds: “It is all over of a lark-colour, excepting the breast, which is somewhat lighter, and shineth like that of a pigeon. The boo-habeeba has a note infinitely preferable to that of the canary, or nightingale.” He says that all attempts to preserve them alive out of the districts of the Jereed have failed. R. has brought several home from that country, which were alive whilst I was in Tunis. There are also many at the Bardo in cages, that live in this way as long as other birds.
Went to see the houses of the inhabitants: they were nearly all the same, the furniture consisting of a burnouse-loom, a couple of millstones, and a quantity of basins, plates, and dishes, hung upon the walls for effect, seldom being used; there were also some skins of grain. The beams across the rooms, which are very high, are hung with onions, dates, and pomegranates; the houses are nearly all of one story. Some of the women are pretty, with large long black eyes and lashes; they colour the lower lid black, which does not add to their beauty, though it shows the bewitching orb more fully and boldly. They were exceedingly dirty and ragged, wearing, nevertheless, a profusion of ear-rings, armlets, anclets, bracelets, and all sorts of lets, with a thousand talismanic charms hanging from their necks upon their ample bosoms, which latter, from the habit of not wearing stays, reach as low down as their waists. They wrap up the children in swaddling-clothes, and carry them behind their backs when they go out.
Two men were bastinadoed for stealing a horse, and not telling where they put him; every morning they were to be flogged until they divulged their hiding-place.
A man brought in about a foot of horse’s skin, on which was the Bey’s mark, for which he received another horse. This is always done when any animal dies belonging to the Beys, the man in whose hands the animal is, receiving a new one on producing the part of the skin marked. The Bey and his ministers and mamelukes amused themselves with shooting at a mark. The Bey made some good hits.
The Bey and his mamelukes also took diversion in spoiling the appearance of a very nice young horse; they daubed hieroglyphics upon his shoulders and loins, and dyed the back where the saddle is placed, and the three legs below the knee with henna, making the other leg look as white as possible. Another grey horse, a very fine one, was also cribbed. We may remark here, that there were very few fine horses to be met with, all the animals looking poor and miserable, whilst these few fine ones fell into the hands of the Bey. It is probable, however, that the Arabs kept their best and most beautiful horses out of the way, while the camp was moving among them.
The old Sheikh still continued in prison. The bastinadoes with which he had been treated were inflicted on his bare person, cold water being applied thereto, which made the punishment more severe. After receiving one hundred, he said he would shew his hiding-place; and some people being sent with him, dug a hole where he pointed out, but without coming to anything. This was done several times, but with the same effect. He was then locked up in chains till the following morning. Millions of dollars lie buried by the Arabs at this moment in different parts of Barbary, especially in Morocco, perhaps the half of which will never be found, the owners of them having died before they could point out their hoarded treasures to their relatives, as but a single person is usually in the secret. Money is in this way buried by tribes, who have nothing whatever to fear from their sovereigns and their sheikhs; they do it from immemorial custom. It is for this reason the Arabs consider that under all ancient ruins heaps of money are buried, placed there by men or demons, who hold the shining hoards under their invincible spell. They cannot comprehend how European tourists can undertake such long journeys, merely for the purpose of examining old heaps of stones, and making plans and pictures of such rubbish. When any person attempts to convince the Arabs that this is the sole object, they only laugh with incredulity.
Went to Nefta, a ride of about fourteen miles, lying somewhat nearer the Sahara than Toser. The country on the right was undulating sand, on the left an apparently boundless ocean, where lies, as a vast sheet of liquid fire, when the sun shines on it, the now long celebrated Palus Libya. In this so-called lake no water is visible, except a small marsh like the one near Toser, where we went duck-shooting. Our party was very respectable, consisting of the Agha of the Arabs, two or three of the Bey’s mamelukes, the Kaëd of the Jereed, whose name is Braun, and fifty or sixty Arab guards, besides ourselves. On entering Nefta, the escort immediately entered, according to custom, a marabet (that of Sidi Bou Aly), Captain B. and R. meanwhile standing outside.
There were two famous saints here, one of whom was a hundred years of age. The other, Sidi Mustapha Azouz, had the character of being a very clever and good man, which also his intelligent and benevolent appearance betokened, and not a fanatic, like Amour Abeda of Kairwan. There were at the time of our visit to him about two hundred people in his courtyard, who all subsisted on his charities. We were offered dates, kouskousou, 78 and a seed which they call sgougou, and which has the appearance of dried apple-seed. The Arabs eat it with honey, first dipping their fingers into the honey, and then into the seed, which deliciously sticks to the honey. The Sheikh’s saint also distributed beads and rosaries. He gave R. a bag of sgougou-seed, as well as some beads. These two Sheikhs are objects of most religious veneration amongst all true believers, and there is nothing which would not be done at their bidding.
Nefta, the Negeta of the ancients, is the frontier town of the Tunisian territories from the south, being five days’ journey, or about thirty-five or forty leagues from the oases of Souf, and fifteen days’ from Ghadumes. Nefta is not so much a town as an agglomeration of villages, separated from one another by gardens, and occupying an extent of surface twice the size that of the city of Algiers. These villages are Hal Guema, Mesâba, Zebda Ouled, Sherif, Beni Zeid, Beni Ali, Sherfa, and Zaouweeah Sidi Ahmed.
The position of Nefta and its environs is very picturesque. Water is here abundant. The principal source, which, under the name of Wad Nefta, takes its rise at the north of the city, in the midst of a movement of earth, enters the villages of Sherfa and Sidi Ahmed; divides them in two, and fecundates its gardens planted with orange-trees, pomegranates, and fig-trees. The same spring, by the means of ducts of earth, waters a forest of date-trees which extends some leagues. A regulator of the water (kaëd-el-ma) distributes it to each proprietor of the plantation.
The houses of Nefta are built generally of brick; some with taste and luxury; the interior is ornamented with Dutch tiles brought from Tunis. Each quarter has its mosque and school, and in the centre of the group of villages is a place called Rebot, on the banks of Wad Nefta, which serves for a common market. Here are quarters specially devoted to the aristocratic landed proprietors, and others to the busy merchants. The Shereefs are the genuine nobles, or seigneurs of Nefta, from among whom the Bey is wont to choose the Governors of the city. The complexion of the population is dark, from its alliance with Negress slaves, like most towns advanced in the Desert. The manners of the people are pure. They are strict observers of the law, and very hospitable to strangers. Captain B., however, thought that, had he not been under the protection of the Bey, his head would not have been worth much in these districts. Every traveller almost forms a different opinion, and frequently the very opposite estimate, respecting the strangers amongst whom he is sojourning. A few Jewish artizans have always been tolerated here, on condition of wearing a black handkerchief round their heads, and not mount a horse, &c. Recently the Bey, however, by solemn decrees, has placed the Jews exactly on the same footing of rights and privileges as the rest of his subjects.
Nefta is the intermediate entrepôt of commerce which Tunis pours towards the Sahara, and for this reason is called by the Arabs, “the gate of Tunis;” but the restrictive system established by the Turks during late years at Ghadumes, has greatly damaged the trade between the Jereed and the Desert. The movement of the markets and caravans takes place at the beginning of spring, and at the end of summer. Only a portion of the inhabitants is devoted to commerce, the rich landed proprietory and the Shereefs representing the aristocracy, lead the tranquil life of nobles, the most void of care, and, perhaps, the happiest of which contemplative philosophy ever dreamed. The oasis of Nefta, indeed, is said to be the most poetic of the Desert; its gardens are delicious; its oranges and lemons sweet; its dates the finest fruit in the “land of dates.” Nearly all the women are pretty, of that beauty peculiar to the Oriental race; and the ladies who do not expose themselves to the fierce sun of the day, are as fair as Mooresses.
Santa Maria left for Ghabs, to which place there is not a correct route laid down in any chart. There are three routes, but the wells of one are only known to travellers, a knowledge which cannot be dispensed with in these dry regions. The wells of the other two routes are known to the bordering tribes alone, who, when they have taken a supply of water, cover them up with sand, previously laying a camel-skin over the well-mouth, to prevent the sand falling into the water, so that, while dying with thirst, you might be standing on a well and be none the wiser. The Frenchman has taken with him an escort of twelve men. The weather is cooler, with a great deal of wind, raising and darkening the sky with sand; even among the dategroves our eyes and noses were like so many sand-quarries.
Sheikh Tahib has been twice subjected to corporal punishment in the same way as before mentioned, with the addition of fifty, but they cannot make him bleed as they wish. He declares he has not got the money, and that he cannot pay them, though they cut him to pieces. As he has collected a great portion of the tribute of the people, one cannot much pity the lying rogue.
We were amused with the snake-charmers. These gentry are a company under the protection of their great saint Sidi Aysa, who has long gone upwards, but also is now profitably employed in helping the juggling of these snake-mountebanks. These fellows take their snakes about in small bags or boxes, which are perfectly harmless, their teeth and poison-bags being extracted. They carry them in their bosoms, put them in their mouths, stuffing a long one in of some feet in length, twist them around their arms, use them as a whip to frighten the people, in the meanwhile screaming out and crying unto their Heavenly protector for help, the bystanders devoutly joining in their prayers. The snake-charmers usually perform other tricks, such as swallowing nails and sticking an iron bar in their eyes; and they wear their hair long like women, which gives them a very wild maniacal look.
Three of the mamelukes and ourselves went to Wedyen, a town and date-wood about eight miles from Toser, to the left. The date-grove is extensive, and there are seven villages in it of the same name. We slept in the house of the Sheikh, who complained that the Frenchman, in passing that way, had allowed his escort to plunder, and actually bound the poor Sheikh, threatening him on his remonstrating. What conduct for Christians to teach these people!
One morning before daylight, we were on horseback, and en route towards the hills, for the purpose of shooting loted, as they call a species of deer found here. The ground in the neighbourhood of Wedyen is tossed about like a hay-field, and volcanic looking. About four miles off we struck into the rocks, on each side of our path, rising perpendicularly in fantastic shapes. On reaching the highest ground, the view was exceedingly wild. Much of the rock appeared as if it had only just been cooled from a state of fusion; there was also a quantity of tuffo rock, similar to that in the neighbourhood of Naples. The first animal we saw was a wolf, which, standing on the sky-line of the opposite hill, looked gigantic. The deep valley between, however, prevented our nearer approach.
We soon after came on a loted, who took to his heels, turning round a mass of rock; but, soon after, he almost met as, and we had a view of him within forty yards. Several shots were fired at him without effect, and he at last made his escape, with a speed which defied all our attempts at following him. Dismounting, the Sheikh Ali, of the Arab tribe Hammama, who was with us, and who is the greatest deer-stalker in the country, preceded us a little distance to look out for deer, the marks of which were here very numerous. After a short time, an Arab brought information of a herd of some thirty, with a good many young ones; but our endeavours to have a shot at them were fruitless, though one of the Arabs got near enough to loose the dogs at them, and a greyhound was kicked over for his pains. We saw no more of them; but our want of success was not surprising, silence not being in the least attended to, and our party was far too large. The Arabs have such a horrible habit of vociferation, that it is a wonder they ever take any game at all. About the hills was scattered a great variety of aromatic plants, quantities of shells, and whole oyster-beds, looking almost as fresh as if they had been found by the sea-side.
On our return from Toser, we had an extensive view of the Sahara, an ocean as far as the eye could see, of what one would have taken his oath was water, the shores, inlets, and bays being clearly defined, but, in reality, nothing but salt scattered on the surface. Several islets were apparently breaking its watery expanse, but these also were only heaps of sand raised from the surrounding flat. The whole country, hills, plains and deserts, gave us an idea as if the materials had been thrown together for manufacture, and had never been completed. Nevertheless these savage deserts of boundless extent are as complete in their kind as the smiling meadows and fertile corn-fields of England, each being perfect in itself, necessary to the grand whole of creation, and forming an essential portion of the works of Divine Providence.
The Sheikh Tahib’s gardens were sold for 15,000 piastres, his wife also added to this 1,000, and he was set at liberty. The dates have been coming in to a great amount. There are many different kinds. The principal are:— Degalah, the most esteemed, which are very sweet and almost transparent. Captain B. preferred the Trungah, another first-rate sort, which are plum-shaped, and taste something like a plum. There are also the Monachah, which are larger than the other two, dryer and more mealy, and not so sweet as Degalah, and other sorts. The dates were very fine, though in no very great abundance, the superior state of ripeness being attributed to there only being a single day of rain during the past year in the Jereed. Rain is bad for the dates, but the roots of the tree cannot have too much water.
The tent-pitchers of the camp went round and performed, in mask, actions of the most revolting description, some being dressed as women, and dancing in the most lascivious and indecent manner. One fellow went up to R., who was just on the point of knocking him down, when, seeing the Treasurer of the Bey cracking his sides with laughter, he allowed the brute to go off under such high patronage. It was even said that these fellows were patronized by his Highness. But, on all Moorish feastdays, lascivious actions of men and women are an indispensable part of their entertainment. This is the worst side of the character of the Moors. The Moorish women were never so profligate as since the arrival of the French in Algeria.
One of the greatest chiefs, Sultan Kaëd, of the Hammama has just died. He was an extremely old man, and it is certain that people live to a good old age in this burning clime. During his life, he had often distinguished himself, and lastly against the French, before Constantina. Whilst in the hills one day, we came suddenly upon a set of Arabs, about nine in number, who took to their heels on seeing us. A man has just been killed near this place, probably by the same gang. For robbery and murder, no hills could be better fitted, the passes being so intricate, and the winds and turns so sudden and sharp. The Sheikh Ali brought in two loteds, a female and its young one, which he had shot. The head of the loted is like a deer’s, but the eye is further up: it is about a fallowdeer’s size. The female has not the beard like a goat, but long hair, reaching from the head to the bottom of the chest, and over the fore-legs. These loteds were taken in consequence of an order from the Bey, that they should not return without some.
On our march back to Tunis, we encamped for two days by the foot of a range of hills at Sheesheeah, about ten miles off. The water, brought from some distance, was bad and salt.
We proceeded to Ghortabah, our old place. Two of the prisoners (about twelve of whom we had with us), and one of the Turks, died from the excessive heat. The two couriers that were sent with despatches for the Government were attacked near this place by the Arabs, and the horse of one was so injured, that it was necessary to kill him; the man who rode the horse was also shot through the leg. This was probably in revenge for the exactions of the Bey of the Camp on the tribes.
On our return to Ghafsa, we had rain, hail, and high wind, and exceedingly cold — a Siberian winter’s day on the verge of the scorching desert. The ground, where there was clay, very slippery; the camels reeled about as if intoxicated. The consequence was, it was long before the tents came up, and we endured much from this sudden change of the weather. Our sufferings were, however, nothing as compared to others, for during the day, ten men were brought in dead, from the cold (three died four days before from heat), principally Turks; and, had there been no change in the temperature, we cannot tell how many would have shared the same fate. Many of the camels, struggling against the clayey soil, could not come up.
Eight more men were shortly buried, and three were missing. The sudden transition from the intense heat of the one day to the freezing cold of the next, probably gave the latter a treble power, producing these disastrous effects, the poor people being sadly ill-clad, and quite unprepared for such extreme rigour. Besides, on our arrival at the camp, all the money in Europe could not have purchased us the required comforts, or rather necessaries, to preserve our health. Cold makes everybody very selfish. We were exceedingly touched on hearing of the death of a little girl, whom we saw driven out of a kitchen, in which the poor helpless little thing had taken refuge from the inclemency of the weather.
Santa Maria arrived from Ghabs without accident, having scarcely seen a soul the whole of the way. He certainly was an enterprizing fellow, worthy of imitation. He calculated the distance from Ghabs to Toser at 200 miles. There are a number of towns in the districts of Ghabs better built than those of Nefta and Toser; Ghabs river is also full of water and the soil of the country is very fertile. The dates are not so good as those of the Jereed. Ghabs is about 130 miles from Ghafsa. We here took our farewell of Santa Maria; he went to Beja, the head-quarters of the summer-camp: thence, of course, he would proceed to Algiers, to give an account of his espionage. Next season, he said, he would go to Tripoli and Ghadames; he had been many years in North Africa, and spoke Arabic fluently.
We next marched to Byrlafee, about twenty miles, and ninety-one from Toser, where there are the ruins of an old town. The weather continued cold and most wintry. Here is a very ancient well still in use. Fragments of cornices and pillars are strewn about. The foundations of houses, and some massive stone towers, which from their having a pipe up the centre, must have had something to do with regulating the water, are all that remain.
We had now much wind, but no rain. A great many camels and horses perished. Altogether, the number of camels that died on the return of the camp, was 550. The price of a camel varies from 60 to 200 piastres. Many good ones were sold at the camp for eighty piastres each, or about two pounds ten shillings, English money. A good sheep was disposed of for four or five piastres, or about three shillings. There were also some ludicrous sales. A horse in the extremities of nature, or near to the articulo mortis, was sold for a piastre, eight pence; a camel, in a like situation, was sold for a piastre and a half. A tolerably good horse in Tunis sells at from 800 to 1000 piastres.
There are the remains of an aqueduct at Gilma, and several other buildings, the capitals of the pillars being elaborately worked. It is seen that nearly the entire surface of Tunis is covered with remains of aqueducts, Roman, Christian, and Moorish. If railways be applied to this country — the French, are already talking about forming one from Algiers to Blidah, across the Mitidjah — unquestionably along the lines will be constructed ducts for water, which could thus be distributed over the whole country. Instead of the camels of the “Bey of the Camp” carrying water from Tunis to the Jereed, the railway would take from Zazwan, the best and most delicious water in the Regency, to the dry deserts of the Jereed, with the greatest facility. As to railways paying in this country, the resources of Tunis, if developed, could pay anything.
Marching onwards about eighteen miles, we encamped two or three beyond an old place called Sidi–Ben-Habeeba. A man murdered a woman from jealousy in the camp, but made his escape. Almost every eminence we passed was occupied with the remains of some ancient fort, or temple. There was a good deal of corn in small detached patches, but it must be remembered, the north-western provinces are the corn-districts.
In the course of the following three days, we reached Sidi–Mahammedeah, where are the magnificent remains of Udina. After about an hour’s halt, and when all the tents had been comfortably pitched, the Bey astonished us with an order to continue our march, and we pursued our way to Momakeeah, about thirty miles, which we did not reach until after dark. We passed, for some three or four hours, through a flight of locusts, the air being darkened, and the ground loaded with them. At a little distance, a flight of locusts has the appearance of a heavy snow-storm. These insects rarely visit the capital; but, since the appearance of those near Momakeeah, they have been collected in the neighbourhood of the city, cooked, and sold among the people. Momakeeah is a countryhouse belonging to the Bey, to whom, also, belongs a great portion of the land around. There is a large garden, laid out in the Italian style attached to this country-seat.
On arriving at Tunis, we called at the Bardo as we passed, and saw the guard mounting. There was rather a fine band of military music; Moorish musicians, but playing, after the European style, Italian and Moorish airs.
We must give here some account of our Boab’s domestic concerns. He boasted that he had had twenty-seven wives, his religion allowing four at once, which he had bad several times; he was himself of somewhat advanced years. According to him, if a man quarrels with his wife, he can put her in prison, but must, at the same time, support her. A certain quantity of provision is laid down by law, and he must give her two suits, or changes, of clothes a year. But he must also visit her once a week, and the day fixed is Friday. If the wife wishes to be separated, and to return to her parents, she must first pay the money which he may demand, and must also have his permission, although he himself may send her to her parents whenever he chooses, without assigning any reason. He retains the children, and he may marry again. The woman is generally expected to bring her husband a considerable sum in the way of dowry, but, on separation, she gets nothing back. This was the Boab’s account, but I think he has overdone the harshness and injustice of the Mohammedan law of marriage in relating it to our tourists. It may be observed that the strict law is rarely acted upon, and many respectable Moors have told me that they have but one wife, and find that quite enough. It is true that many Moors, especially learned men, divorce their wives when they get old, feeling the women an embarrassment to them, and no wonder, when we consider these poor creatures have no education, and, in their old age, neither afford connubial pleasure nor society to their husbands. With respect to divorce, a woman can demand by law and right to be separated from her husband, or divorced, whenever he ill-treats her, or estranges himself from her. Eunuchs, who have the charge of the women, are allowed to marry, although they cannot have any family. The chief eunuch of the Bardo has the most revolting countenance.
Our tourists brought home a variety of curious Jereed things: small date-baskets full of dates, woollen articles, skins of all sorts, and a few live animals. Sidi Mohammed also made them many handsome presents. Some deer, Jereed goats, an ostrich, &c., were sent to Mr. R. after his return, and both Captain B. and Mr. R. have had every reason to be extremely gratified with the hospitality and kind attentions of the “Bey of the Camp.”
It is very difficult to ascertain the amount of tribute collected in the Jereed, some of which, however, was not got in, owing to various impediments. Our tourists say generally:—
Money, dollars, and piastres, (chiefly I
imagine, the latter.) 23
Burnouses, blankets, and quilts, &c. 6
Dates (these were collected at Toser,
and brought from Nefta and the surrounding
It is impossible, with this statement
before us, to make out any exact
calculation of the amount of tribute.
A cantar of dates varies from fifteen
to twenty-five shillings, say on an
average a pound sterling; this will
make the amount of the 500 camel-loads
at five cantars per load £2,500
Six camel-loads of woollen manufactures,
&c., at sixty pound per load, value 360
The money, chiefly piastres, must be left to conjecture. However, Mr. Levy, a large merchant at Tunis, thinks the amount might be from 150 to 200,000 piastres, or, taking the largest sum, £6,250 sterling:
Total amount of the tribute of the Jereed:
in goods £2,860
Ditto, in money: 6,250
To this sum may be added the smaller presents of horses, camels, and other beasts of burden.
Before leaving Mogador, in company with Mr. Willshire, I saw his Excellency, the Governor again, when I took formal leave of him. He accompanied me down to the port with several of the authorities, waiting until I embarked for the Renshaw schooner. Several of the Consuls, and nearly all the Europeans, were also present. On the whole, I was satisfied with the civilities of the Moorish authorities, and offer my cordial thanks to the Europeans of Mogador for their attentions during my residence in that city.
A little circumstance shews the subjection of our merchants, the Consul not excepted, to the Moorish Government. One of the merchants wished to accompany me on board, but was not permitted, on account of his engagements with the Sultan.
A merchant cannot even go off the harbour to superintend the stowing of his goods. Never were prisoners of war, or political offenders, so closely watched as the boasted imperial merchants of this city.
After setting sail, we were soon out of sight of Mogador; and, on the following day, land disappeared altogether. During the next month, we were at sea, and out of view of the shore. I find an entry in my journal, when off the Isle of Wight. We had had most tremendous weather, successive gales of foul wind, from north and north-east. Our schooner was a beautiful vessel, a fine sailer with a flat bottom, drawing little water, made purposely for Barbary ports. She had her bows completely under water, and pitched her way for twenty-five succeeding days, through huge rising waves of sea and foam. During the whole of this time, I never got up, and lived on bread and water with a little biscuit. Captain Taylor, who was a capital seaman, and took the most accurate observations, lost all patience, and, though a good methodist, would now and then rush on deck, and swear at the perverse gale and wrathful sea. We took on board a fine barb for Mr. Elton, which died after a few days at sea, in these tempests. I had a young vulture that died a day before the horse, or we should have fed him on the carcase.
An aoudad which we conveyed on account of Mr. Willshire to London, for the Zoological Society, outlived these violent gales, and was safely and comfortably lodged in the Regent’s Park. After my return from Africa, I paid my brave and hardy fellow-passenger a visit, and find the air of smoky London agrees with him as well as the cloudless region of the Morocco Desert.
78 This is the national dish of Barbary, and is a preparation of wheat-flour granulated, boiled by the steam of meat. It is most nutritive, and is eaten with or without meat and vegetables. When the grains are large, it is called hamza.
79 A camel-load is about five cantars, and a cantar is a hundred weight.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59