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Title: Algeria from within
Author: Bodley, R. V. C. (Ronald Victor Courtenay)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Algeria from within" ***

[Illustration: The Author]

                                ALGERIA
                              FROM WITHIN

                                  BY
                            R. V. C. BODLEY

                              ILLUSTRATED

                             INDIANAPOLIS
                       THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY
                              PUBLISHERS



                           COPYRIGHT, 1927,
                     BY THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY

                            _Printed in the
                       United States of America_

                           PRINTED AND BOUND
                       BY BRAUNWORTH & CO., INC.
                          BROOKLYN, NEW YORK



                                 _To_
                            MY MANY FRIENDS
                       OF ALL NATIONALITIES WHO
                            INHABIT ALGERIA



                               FOREWORD

This is not a preface but merely a few words to state that in
writing these pages I have in no way tried to criticize the French
administration or to discuss the Arab from any point of view but
that of a spectator.

I have no political feelings, few ambitions beyond living simply
and far away from the world, and if this work exists at all, it
is because I have wished that people should know Algeria as it
really is.

Once upon a time I had great ideas about worldly position and the
sound of long titles; I believed that greatness was to be achieved
in the capitals of Europe or on the battle-fields, but I know now
that this is not so. Worldly positions and great titles are the
weary outcome of much money laboriously reaped, and the heroes of
battle-fields pass unnoticed in the street.

Southern Algeria, with all its charm, with all its capricious moods,
has, like some lovely woman, taken me in its arms and I am doubtful
if it will ever let me go.

Let this book therefore be read in the spirit in which it has been
written by one who, having seen life in many parts of the globe,
has found peace and solution to all worldly difficulties among the
rustling palm-trees and broad expanses of the Sahara.

I must here take the opportunity of thanking certain kind friends
who have helped me in my work, notably:

Monsieur Jean Causeret, Secrétaire Général du Gouvernement
Général, who has supplied me with maps, Dr. Alfred S. Gubb,
the well-known English physician in Algiers, the Rev. Lucius Fry,
British Chaplain in Algiers, and Mrs. Clare Sheridan, who have all
lent me photos appearing in these pages. My thanks are also due to
Mrs. Welthin Winlo, whose untiring secretarial work has helped me
to prepare this work, to Miss Una Thomas who has helped me with
the proofs, and to Mr. Julian Sampson, who has not only supplied
me with photographs, but who has also brought his expert knowledge
to bear in the selecting of suitable illustrations.

  LAGHOUAT,
    _November_, 1926.



                               CONTENTS

  CHAPTER                                                     PAGE
        I   The Object of the Book                            13
       II   A Little Geography                                17
      III   A Little History                                  22
       IV   The French Conquest of Algeria                    29
        V   The Inhabitants To-Day                            35
       VI   French Administration of Algeria                  40
      VII   Arab Administration                               48
     VIII   Marabouts                                         57
       IX   The Arab Character                                64
        X   Life among the Arabs                              72
       XI   Arab Women                                        80
      XII   Arab Love and the Women of the Reserved Quarter   87
     XIII   Arab Music and Dancing                            94
      XIV   Religion                                          101
       XV   Religious Observances                             109
      XVI   “Mektoub” and Other Superstitions                 116
     XVII   Abd-El-Kader                                      122
    XVIII   Arab Education                                    128
      XIX   Sport among the Arabs                             133
       XX   The Nomads                                        140
      XXI   Sheep-Breeding                                    146
     XXII   Other Products                                    152
    XXIII   Algiers                                           158
     XXIV   Two Excursions                                    164
      XXV   Voyage                                            170
     XXVI   Bou Saada                                         176
    XXVII   The First Glimpse of the Sahara                   182
   XXVIII   The Oasis of Laghouat                             187
     XXIX   The Mzab                                          194
      XXX   Ghardaia and Adjoining Towns                      201
     XXXI   Guerrera and the Sand Desert                      208
    XXXII   Biskra                                            213
   XXXIII   Timgad                                            219
    XXXIV   Djemila the Desolate                              226
     XXXV   Constantine to the Coast                          232
    XXXVI   Kebylie                                           239
   XXXVII   Traveling Off the Beaten Track                    246
  XXXVIII   Few Sketches of Arab Life                         252
    XXXIX   A Last Glimpse of the Arab                        295
            Index                                             303



                          ALGERIA FROM WITHIN

                               CHAPTER I

                        THE OBJECT OF THE BOOK


A writer who sets out to study a foreign country such as Algeria
is faced with two difficulties: the first, the natural suspicion
of the Mohammedan population; the second, the little information
obtainable from the French inhabitants of the country.

It has been possible to overcome the first difficulty by making
the Arab realize that there was no intention to interfere with
his interior life or to obtain information in order to denounce
family secrets. The second difficulty has remained. This is due
to two factors. The first is the ignorance of the majority of
Frenchmen, whether they be business men or colonists, of the customs
and peculiarities of any area not neighboring that in which they
actually dwell; the second is the French administrator’s apparent
lack of information on anything beyond that which is not already
to be found in the official handbooks.

When occasionally one meets some one with a deeper knowledge of
the matters which should interest him, it is hard, as a foreigner,
to obtain any valuable data. The Frenchman finds it difficult
to realize that any one can wish to peer into the inner workings
of a foreign country without some ulterior motive. If it is not
deliberate spying for a jealous government, it is to steal a march
on some business enterprise!

Comprehensive books on Algeria of to-day are few, and usually
contradict one another, according to the point of view of the
writers.

The only solution, therefore, to the problem of writing this book
has been for the author to settle in the country, living the life of
its people, and gleaning what information was possible as a business
man in the city of Algiers, as a sheep-breeder on the Sahara, and as
a traveler across the great plains and mountains of this sunny land.

The title of the book has perhaps a pretentious sound, suggesting
that Algeria is some unexplored country into which the writer has
penetrated, bringing back with him revelations of unknown mysteries
never yet set before the public. But though this is not the case,
it is hoped that the reader, be he a tourist or scholar, will find
in these pages information which is new and interesting—_Algeria
from Within_ in opposition to the Algeria from “_without_”
as set down by travelers who have passed a few winter months in
the country and who, returning home, have compiled an inaccurate
volume based on first impressions and on legends served up very
hot by the hard-worked guides.

These legends will have to be dispelled at the cost of disillusioning
veteran visitors who pass winter after winter in the overheated
hotels of Mustapha Supérieur. But, against this, the book will
endeavor to explain shortly and accurately what this French colony
really is, what its people are doing and thinking, wherein lies
its future.

There have been no aspirations to make of it a comprehensive
guide-book or survey of the country’s long history, neither has
any attempt been made to criticize the French rule, or to compare
it with the administration of other colonies. True facts have been
set down as seen by one who has lived many years in the country,
constantly studying all about him without confining himself to one
area nor to one class of people. Living not only in the big cities,
but also in the cultivated plains, in the desolation of the desert,
and mixing with the French administrators, with business men, with
the colonists, and visiting the Arabs in such intimacy that it is
possible to tell of their daily life as it is really lived.

[Illustration: map]

It is more a pen-picture of Algeria and the Sahara as it is to-day,
drawn in the desire that the reader— be he traveler in all the
senses of the word or one who journeys by his fireside on long
winter evenings— will close the volume with a feeling that he
has peeped for a moment into the intimate life of a country which,
with all its youthful future, has a background of history more
varied perhaps than any other country in the world. . . .

To the average tourist who leaves the misty London station in
search of warmth and sunshine, the country he is about to visit
is probably a somewhat uncertain vision of blue skies, palm-trees,
and stately Arabs.

The inspired artists of the P. L. M. railway posters have dazzled
his eyes with enchanting prospects of palm-green shores and rolling
expanses of sand, golden in a perpetual sunset, while the scaleless
maps of tourist agencies have graven in his mind the names Algiers,
Biskra, Fez and Tunis, leaving him with a vague impression that
all these places are in the same country and within easy reach of
one another.

His mind is rather in the same state as that of the old lady who asks
the officer going to India not to forget to look up her nephew who
is stationed in Burmah. He has probably not realized that Algeria
differs greatly from Tunisia and Morocco in people and in government,
and that it has no connections whatever with either of these two
countries which form its eastern and western frontiers.

Even winter residents and regular visitors to Algeria know the
country very superficially, and though some have ventured along
the beaten tracks as far as the oases of Touggourt and Ghardaia,
there are few who have left the main roads and mixed in the private
life of the country. And what blame to them? There are few railways,
and the motor-transport time-tables are lacking. The guide-books do
not dwell upon places off the classical tours, the information at
the tourist agencies goes no further, and even if the adventurous
traveler pushes into the unfrequented regions, he will find no one
to guide him, and unless he knows Arabic he will often be unable to
make himself understood. Even when the acquaintance of an Arab chief
has been made it takes many months to break through his exterior
façade and to obtain a glimpse of his thoughts or his private life.

This book, therefore—which should be read in conjunction with a
guide-book—will endeavor to lift a veil on matters which are of
the deepest interest to all those who want to learn something about
a land which must appeal to the most blasé traveler.



                              CHAPTER II

                          A LITTLE GEOGRAPHY


Algeria is situated some fifteen hundred miles due south of London,
and is accessible via Paris and Marseilles in fifty hours, or by sea
from Southhampton in four days. The country is bounded on the north
by the Mediterranean, on the east by Tunisia, and on the west by
Morocco. Its southern boundary is difficult to define, as, though in
reality Algeria extends right across the desert to Senegal, Algeria
proper does not go farther than the northerly tracts of the Sahara.

Moreover, although considered as a French colony, the country
is divided into three departments or counties, having the same
status as if in France. From east to west they are Constantine,
Alger, Oranie, and there is a further area lying south of these
departments known as the Territoires du Sud.

The actual area of the country, again, is uncertain, owing to the
great tracts of desert, but, roughly speaking, it can be said that
the cultivated and inhabited areas comprising the three departments
cover an area of 222,000 square miles—a little smaller than
France. Including the Sahara, the country must be reckoned at
1,071,000 square miles.

By natural configuration the land is divided into four distinct
belts: the low hills which border the coast protecting the rich
cereal and vine lands from the sea winds; the Little Atlas or
Mountains of the Tell, which include the lofty peaks of the Kabyle
country; the Sersou, forming a kind of broad valley between the
hills and the Hauts Plateaux which, as the name implies, is a high
tableland, some two thousand feet above sea-level and rolling down
to the desert three hundred miles south of the coast; and the Sahara,
stretching away to Senegal.

The desert can, again, be divided into different areas. Its northern
belts, covered with a kind of scrub, thyme and mint, afford ample
nourishment to the flocks of sheep and goats all the winter, while
camels can always find plenty to eat there. Beyond this pasture-land,
is the rock and the sand desert, the former greatly exceeding the
latter in area. It is a desolate and cruel-looking country, except
where the oases spring up and form centers unexpectedly rich not
only in palms, but also in all kinds of fruit-trees.

Generally speaking, therefore, Algeria is a hilly country,
and the Sahara is far from flat; the whole land is very fertile
wherever there is water, but subject to great extremes of climate.
What surprises the traveler most, after a tour through any of
the three departments and down to the desert, is first of all the
astonishing variety of scenery through which he passes, and second,
the amount of natural products of the land.

The roads along the coast give a wonderful impression of marine
scenery—deep red cliffs and a sapphire sea.

To the east of Algiers, forests of cork-trees border the road,
olive-yards cover the slopes of the hills, while every now and then
one sees extensive tobacco plantations.

Turning inland, the traveler will pass through more forests, then,
climbing into the Kabyle Mountains, he will come to the fig-trees
clothing the steep hills, till up and up he climbs to a level of some
five thousand feet above the sea. Towering mountains are about him,
deep in snow for four months of the year and quite unexpectedly
cold in this sunny Africa.

Following the coast in a westerly direction, he will traverse miles
of all kinds of vegetables, grown by the local farmers for export
to France and England. The new potatoes, the salads and tomatoes,
associated with exorbitant prices in Paris in winter, will be seen
ripening under this southern sun.

If the journey is continued farther west into the confines of Oranie
a few cotton plantations will be seen, then the vast plains of
cereals—the ancient granary of the Roman Empire—which now that
the old system of irrigation has disappeared are sadly dependent
on the rainfall.

Turning inland from Algiers, the hills bordering the coast are left
behind and the vine-clad plain of the Mitidja is entered. For two
hours the car will pass swiftly through vineyard after vineyard,
while here and there rich orange-groves will relieve the monotony
of the interminable lines of vines. The wine produced in this area
is much richer and of higher alcoholic degree than that of France,
and in a normal year not only suffices for all the wants of the
country, but is exported in large quantities to the mother country,
where it is used to cut the Burgundies and Bordeaux, and in some
cases to be sold as French _vin ordinaire_.

Moving still in a southerly direction, the country becomes
mountainous as the Atlas range is entered. The slopes are covered
with mountain-oak, pine-trees, and now and then cork, but, though
this is supposed to be one of the forest-lands of Algeria, the
traveler needs to be notified of the fact. There is, however,
one very fine cedar forest above Teniet el Haad, but it is rarely
visited as it is off the beaten track. The hills are full of tailless
monkeys—the Barbary ape—which come down to the roadside, where
there are inhabitants and prospects of food.

Beyond the Atlas range, here known as the Tell, where cattle and
horses are raised, the country slopes down on to the wide pastures
of the Sersou; it is now very flat and desertic in appearance. Soon
the tufts of alfa grass are noticed growing in tall bunches right
away as far as the eye can reach, and farther, for hundreds of
miles to east and west extend these tracts of paper-making grass.
Many of the concessions are owned by British concerns, which, having
picked the raw material, despatch it to the Lancashire papermills
to be manufactured.

Leaving the alfa, the country again becomes mountainous and wooded
as the Hauts Plateaux are reached. The trees do not, however,
last long, as soon the downward grade is begun, with the rich
pasture-lands which run right away into the desert. This is the
land of sheep-breeding, and as one travels along one sees countless
flocks of sheep and goats.

The beginning of the Sahara is clearly defined by the sudden
disappearance of the low, barren hills which have marked the descent
from the Hauts Plateaux. The reappearance, too, of the palm-tree,
which has not been seen since Algiers, reminds one that one is
in the land of the oases, while away, away, stretches the desert,
till its grayness merges in the sky like some eternally calm sea.

The pasture continues for a few hundred miles and then gradually
disappears, giving place to stones and rocks, desolate and merciless,
until in turn these give way to rolling sands, and again to barren
wastes of pebbles, broken only by the welcome water-point or the
green oasis offering relief to weary wanderers.

In a few words, this is the scenery of Algeria, and after a week’s
journeying the traveler is really amazed at the thought that all
he has seen is in one country, so varied has been his impression.

[Illustration: _Reproduced by permission of Mr. George Churchill,
British Consul General, Algiers_
Algiers as It Was before the French Conquest in 1830]

[Illustration: The Old Port of Algiers as it is To-day]

Algiers, with its sub-tropical gardens and modern improvements,
the sea coast, the broad plains of cereals, the rich vineyards,
the orange-groves and olive-yards, the forests of cork and pine,
the wild mountains, the silent expanses of alfa, the nomads on the
pastures, and the limitless Sahara!

Further, if one remains a year in the country one will realize the
difficulties with which the settler is faced owing to the extremes
of climate. Generally speaking, it rains too much north of the
Sersou during the months of November, December, and January. It
never rains too much in the south. The summer and spring are too
dry, and, whereas in the winter there is frost as far south as the
edge of the Sahara, the summer heat is everywhere excessive. The
heat is especially unpleasant in Algiers and along the coast on
account of the damp; at midday in the plains it is intolerable,
and when the sirocco blows from the desert, life is wretched all
over the smitten area.

Irrigation is in its childhood; artificial pasturage is unknown,
with the result that a good or a bad year depends entirely on the
caprices of the weather. Generally speaking, one can say that in a
period of seven years there are two very good years, four average
years, and one bad year.

When the year is good it is beyond all imagination, and it is, in
fact, said that the two very good years should pay for any losses
in the remaining five!

A land of light and shade, of everlasting contrasts, a land which,
like a lovely woman, charms one by its unexpectedness, by its
tenderness and sudden harshness, by all its capricious moods. A land
of the future, but a land also of the past—and this, perforce,
brings us to the next chapter.



                              CHAPTER III

                           A LITTLE HISTORY


The original inhabitants of Algeria were Berbers. The present
native inhabitant of Algeria is the Berber, and yet ask any one
who the natives are and they will reply “Arabs”; some of the
more intelligent will perhaps say “Arabs with a sprinkling of
Berbers.”

But this is wrong. When history first threw light on North Africa
the Berbers were there, and they have not yet departed. It is
true that many invasions and upheavals have passed through Algeria
during the past three thousand years, but, though they have left
their trace, it is only the Arabs who have really left their mark
on the original inhabitants.

The first important landmark in the history of North Africa is the
foundation of Carthage about the year 840 B. C. The Phœnicians had
already settled on the Tunisian coast for some three hundred years
previous to this, but their importance dates from the foundation
of their great city, which was to have such an influence on the
history of the civilized world for six hundred years.

Since this book, however, is not a history of the country, it will
be sufficient to mention the outstanding historical features during
those long years during which war and invasion centered round the
North African shores. The Carthaginian domination flourished in all
its splendor until the year 264 B. C. Up to this period those hardy
merchant mariners were masters of the whole of the Mediterranean;
they had explored the Atlantic coast as far as Sierra Leone;
one expedition had sailed right round the African continent;
and they had made it clear to Rome that they would brook no
interference. Carthaginian naval power was supreme, and she counted
on that alone to ensure her sovereignty of the Mediterranean. In
the latter half, therefore, of that century she had defied Rome,
and in a few years came into armed conflict with the future masters
of the world.

This armed conflict, which was to last for over eighty years, and
which was to produce those names famous to every public schoolboy who
does not despise classical education—Hanno, Hamilcar, Hannibal,
Hasdrubal, Scipio, Fabius Maximus—ended in 146 B. C. with the
destruction of Carthage and the foundation of a Roman province
consisting of modern Tunisia and part of Tripoli. One hundred years
later Numidia, Algeria of to-day, was annexed, and for the next four
hundred years the march of empire continued. At first the Romans
were not a little embarrassed with their new acquisitions, all the
more so on account of the hostile attitude of the Numidian kings
at Cirta (modern Constantine). Strifes and minor wars continued
for some time. Rome aided first one side and then another, but,
finally realizing the futility of her rôle, a strong expedition
was despatched and finally succeeded in defeating the Numidian
king Jugurtha. It was not, however, until the year 46 B. C. that
Cæsar finally routed Juba on the Tunisian coast and in that defeat
destroyed the kingdom of Numidia.

The son of Juba, who had been taken to Italy and educated as a
Roman, was married to the daughter of Antony and Cleopatra, and
was eventually placed on the throne of Numidia, where he ruled in
splendor until the year 19 B. C. During his reign the empire had
spread and extended over North Africa from the Tunisian coast to
the Atlantic, and its military posts guarded the entries of the
Sahara. The traces of once-glorious Rome remain in various states
of ruin to this day, and will be dealt with in further chapters. It
would take too long to enter into details of the administration of
the country under the Imperial eagle and of the birth and growth
of Christianity in North Africa. The Roman Empire had spread, and
it was not until the beginning of its fall that the rule in North
Africa tottered.

Ever since the beginning of the fifth century A. D. Roman possessions
in Europe were being flooded by the advance of the Vandals. In 428
the terrible Genesric crossed to Africa from Spain, with an army
of ninety thousand men, and landed at Ceuta. Like all new invaders,
he was welcomed as a savior, and his success was instantaneous. He
swept the Roman armies before him, he built a fleet and became the
terror of the Mediterranean, and in 455 took Rome.

How far these conquests would have continued it is difficult to
say had not Genesric died. With his death his followers, who had
drifted into an easy-going state, no longer held together, but
became the prey of jealous strifes among chiefs. Their fall was
rapid. The Roman Government, now transferred to Constantinople,
was awaiting the opportunity to avenge its defeat. A little more
than a hundred years after the landing of the Vandals in Africa,
Belisarius sailed from Constantinople with six hundred ships,
and three months later landed in Tripoli.

The Byzantine invasion had begun, and in three months Belisarius
was able to announce to the Emperor Justinian that North Africa
was again part of the Roman Empire.

But the Byzantine rule did not last long. The country was rent
by wars and revolts; the people were worn out with changes of
government; and, though there remain great forts and mightily walled
cities as a record of this rule, they are evidence in themselves
of the turbulent times which shook the country. When, therefore,
the first Arab invasion poured in, there was nothing to quell
it, and for one last time Imperial Rome struggled for a moment,
staggered and fell.

The first Arab invasion of the seventh century was more a series of
raids than anything else. Mohammed had appeared and died, but his
teaching had remained, and had inspired those bands of wild nomads
to organize themselves. Persia, Syria, Egypt had fallen before the
advance, and soon they began moving farther west. The most important
of these raids was that led by Sidi Okba, who traversed the whole
of Algeria and Morocco, and who, no doubt, would have gone on had
he not been arrested by the Atlantic.

He was killed during his return journey by the Berber army under
Koceila, and he is buried near Biskra, where his memory is venerated.

Hassan followed him, and finally drove the last Byzantines out of
North Africa. Needless to say, the chief object of the invaders had
been to convert the people to the new faith, and little by little
the Berbers became Mohammedans. It did not take long for them to
create dissension in these beliefs, but they remained generally
under the law of the Prophet, respecting the principles even more
rigidly than their conquerors.

However, the most important point of this conversion is that
it created an Arab-Berber alliance for the further march of
Mohammedanism into Europe. It is said that it was a Berber named
Tarik who first crossed the Straits of Gibraltar, and it was after
him that the rock took its name, Djebel el Tarik—the Mountain
of Tarik.

The Arabs and Berbers pressed on through Spain until they were
defeated by Charles Martel at Poitiers in 732 and retired into
the peninsula. The remains of their grandeur can be seen in the
glorious palaces and mosques at Seville, Cordova and Granada. But
the Berbers, being of an independent nature, did not readily accept
the laws and regulations of the allies. In the tenth century there
were a number of insurrections in Algeria, and the Fatimides, or
followers of the descendant of Fathma, the daughter of the prophet,
succeeded for a period in dominating the country. Unfortunately for
them their chief tried to go too far in his independence, and in the
twelfth century the Sultan at Cairo launched a punitive expedition
composed of the five tribes known as the Hilals.

Unlike the expeditions of the seventh century, these invaders
came in hordes, bringing with them their flocks and their
belongings, and sweeping mercilessly across the country, leaving
devastation behind. Arabs and Berbers united to oppose them,
but to no avail. Their armies poured over the land like a cloud
of locusts. The little that was left of Roman civilization was
destroyed, the cultivation disappeared, and North Africa was the
desert of over a thousand years before.

From this period until the end of the fifteenth century North Africa
was given over to pillage. With the exception of the cities of
Tunis, Tlemçen and Fez, anarchy seems to have reigned everywhere,
and there are no records or history of the period. The Arab had
shown his worth; the Arab as an administrator had no qualification;
he has not yet proved the contrary.

At first it was the Spaniards who took the place as rulers of
North Africa. They had gradually driven the Mohammedans out of
southern Spain, and during the first ten years of the sixteenth
century had occupied the seaports from Oran right down to Bougie,
including Algiers. But these conquests did not really interest
them as their eyes were turned to the Indies. Moreover, in the
meanwhile the brothers Barbarossa were scouring the Mediterranean,
and when they were asked to rid Algeria of the Spaniards it did
not take them long to do it. But once the deed was accomplished,
the Turks refused to leave, and in 1546 took possession of Algiers.

For the next three hundred years the White City became the stronghold
of the pirates of the Mediterranean. At first their fleet was
nominally a national navy, fighting against Charles Quint, but little
by little all form of legitimate warfare disappeared and open piracy
became the sole occupation of these wild seamen. Their ships became
independent rovers of the sea; built lighter and more handily than
the average cargo- or war-vessel of other nations, they fell upon
their prey regardless of its flag, captured it, and brought it back
to Algiers. Here the cargo was divided: a quarter to the state,
and the rest to the owner and crew of the vessel. The sailors or
passengers on board the prize were employed as slaves, those who
knew trades, to build and beautify the palaces of their masters,
the more common to work in the quarries or to row in the galleys. If
they were men of importance, they were held to ransom. Among other
prisoners who spent a not too pleasant sojourn in Algeria were
Cervantes, the author of _Don Quixote_, and the French poet Regnard.

It was not long, however, before the powers in Europe began to occupy
themselves with these acts of open brigandage. In 1541, Charles
Quint led an expedition, but partly by reason of adverse weather,
and partly by the strength of the Turkish lair, he was entirely
defeated, and just escaped with a small portion of his forces.

The squadron sent by Cromwell under Blake in 1655 fared better.
Part of the Turkish Fleet was destroyed at Tunis, and the release
of the British prisoners was obtained. Louis XIV sent two fleets
in 1682 and 1688, under Duquesne and d’Estrès respectively,
but, though their bombardments did a good deal of damage to the
fortifications, and temporarily hampered the pirates’ activity,
the effect did not last long.

About the same time Sir Thomas Allen, and a little later Sir Edward
Spragg, inflicted minor defeats on the Turkish fleets, but on the
whole little harm was done; and though Lord Exmouth won a decisive
victory in 1816 and seriously battered the fortifications, he was
unable to land, and it remained for the French in 1830 finally
to shake and destroy a rule which had dominated the Mediterranean
for three centuries. With their entry on to the scene, the period
of anarchy begun by the Vandals finally disappeared, and the task
almost completed by the Romans started again on almost as barren
a soil as that faced by the great colonists of the Mediterranean
a hundred years before Christ.



                              CHAPTER IV

                    THE FRENCH CONQUEST OF ALGERIA


It will be easily understood that this undisputed mastery of the
Mediterranean basin had given the Turks of Algeria a very great
impression of their importance, and had left them with little
respect for the European powers. Consideration, therefore, for
representatives of those powers was on the same scale, and when
one day the French Consul, Deval, paid an official visit to the
Dey Hussein to protest about the non-payment of a debt to a French
subject, Hussein summarily sent him about his business with a flick
over the face with his fan.

This took place in 1827, but it was not until 1830 that the French
really decided to have done with the insolence of the dey. An army
of thirty-five thousand men was organized under General Bourmont,
one of Napoleon’s officers, escorted by a fleet of three hundred
ships. Curiously enough the success of the expedition was greatly
facilitated by the lack of vigilance of British guards some twenty
years before.

In 1808 Napoleon had practically decided to conquer Algeria and
Colonel Boutin had been sent on a secret mission to Algiers with
orders to reconnoiter the land. During his return journey the ship
on which he was traveling was captured by a British man-of-war and
the Colonel was imprisoned at Malta.

He, however, succeeded in escaping, and, returning to France, laid
his report before the Emperor, who had by that time decided that
Egypt was a more interesting goal.

Boutin’s plans were therefore put aside, but when the expedition of
1830 was being prepared they came to light again and were exclusively
used in drawing up all the details of the attack.

Wisely avoiding the mistakes of their predecessors who had attempted
to take the stronghold itself, the fleet bearing the army sailed to
the west of Algiers, and in June, 1830, landed without opposition
in the sheltered bay of Sidi Ferruch. The cause of this easy landing
has never been clearly established, but it is supposed that Hussein
either believed that this invasion would share the same fate as all
others, and that by allowing the army to land his victory would be
more complete, or else that he did not anticipate an attack from
that quarter.

However, the fact remains that the whole of the French army landed
without difficulty, and that a few days later they were marching
on Algiers. They met the first elements of the Turkish army at
Staoueli. The battle was fierce, but the French artillery caused
havoc among the ranks of the Moslem troops, which were driven out of
their position. The French headquarters were established on the site
of the future Trappist monastery, which is now a great wine-cellar.

The advance on Algiers was continued, but there were no roads,
and the hills of the Sahel were covered with thick scrub. On June
twenty-ninth, however, the army arrived before Algiers. The attack
on the fortress where Charles Quint had for a brief moment pitched
his tent was immediately commenced. For a time the Turks held out,
but, realizing the futility of their task, they set fire to the
powder-magazine and blew up the great pile, emblem of their long
rule. The French, meeting no longer with any opposition, pushed on,
and on July fifth made their triumphal entry into Algiers.

The immediate result of this victory was for the King of France,
Charles X, to lose his head. He believed that he was now in a
position to exercise absolute power, and he expressed himself
by publishing his famous _Ordonnances_. The consequence was
revolution. Charles X was deposed, and Louis Philippe, the son of
Philippe Egalité, mounted the throne. General Bourmont was relieved
of his post as Commander-in-Chief, giving way to General Clauzel.

As can be imagined, this did not tend to help matters across the
Mediterranean. The capture of Algiers had taken barely a month—the
subduing of the Arabs was to drag on for over thirty years.

In the first place, the new Government in Paris was very diffident
about pushing forward the conquest of the country. At first only
the coast was occupied. This was interpreted by the natives of the
interior as fear, and it was with little difficulty that the young
Emir, Abd-el-Kader, raised the population to a holy war. Until the
year 1847 this struggle continued with varying success, and it was
not until Bugeaud, an old warrior of the First Empire, took charge
of the operations that the unruly chief began to lose ground. The
capture of his _smala_ in 1843 at Taguine in the Sersou was the
beginning of the end. Four years later he surrendered and was
exiled, and he finally died at Damascus. His memory is venerated
by all the Arabs of the country.

Once the emir was out of the way, Bugeaud began to penetrate the
interior by colonization. His famous motto, _“Ense et aratro,”_
was to prove a veritable success, and little by little the country
began transforming itself. In the meanwhile he did not neglect
the conquest of the territory still unsubdued. In 1852 the Oasis
of Laghouat was captured after tedious fighting, and with it the
penetration of the Sahara began.

The last strongholds of the Berbers in the Kabyle Mountains fell in
1857. The country seemed turning toward peace. But in 1864 a fierce
revolt burst forth in southern Oranie; the French punitive column
was massacred, and the rebellion spread all over the department. It
took five years to quell it completely.

Hardly was this over than the Franco-Prussian War broke out and
Algeria again became a center of agitation. The Kabyles for a short
space threatened the peace of the whole country, capturing numbers
of French centers and massacring the inhabitants. The French were
obliged to send troops back from France at a very awkward moment,
but they succeeded in quelling the insurrection. In 1879 the Berbers
of the Aurès made an attempt to rise, but were rapidly repressed;
the same lot awaited the insurgents of southern Oranie in 1881. I
can not pass this point in the history of the conquest without
mentioning a name great in the annals of Algeria though sadly
forgotten by many historians.

I refer to Cardinal Lavigerie, priest and administrator, founder
of the order of the Pères Blancs who did more by his foresight
and calm judgment to bring the Arabs under French rule than any
governor during these turbulent times. His political activities
were only eclipsed by his evangelical work, and his influence in
North Africa has ever remained.

Those who are interested in this subject will find some excellent
reading in _Le Cardinal Lavigerie et Son Action Politique_ by
J. Tournin. This book not only deals with the Cardinal’s long
administration in North Africa but also throws much light on all
those intrigues which finally led to the disestablishment of the
Church in France.

Since then little has occurred to disturb the peace of Algeria,
and, in spite of a certain amount of unrest during the Great War,
there has been no definite rebellion.

The French conquest took long, but, when one looks at the stupendous
difficulties which had to be overcome, one is surprised it was
completed so rapidly. Everything was against it: an unstable
government, which was overthrown at the outset of the campaign by an
equally unstable rule, which itself disappeared a few years later
to give place to the adventures of the Second Empire; statesmen
who had no definite policy as regards North Africa, and generals
who never had sufficient troops nor a free enough hand really to
take up the conquest of the country seriously.

Opposing them was an enemy, composed of born fighters, knowing
the country as well as their horses, amazingly mobile, capable of
concentrating to fight a battle and dispersing again like the sand,
and inspired with the spirit of religious war. The country was
overgrown with thick brush; there were no roads, great mountains to
cross, and, once in the interior, no means of feeding or watering the
army, with no towns from which food or cattle could be requisitioned,
no wells or springs and a climate of great extremes.

When one traverses the great plains of the Sersou and the Hauts
Plateaux leaning back in a comfortable car, or when trekking across
the Sahara to some known water-point among a friendly people, one
often wonders how it was possible for that small French column
in this unknown country to press on after an elusive enemy with
lines of communication of such immense length. There is no heroic
record of their achievements, and, apart from certain names known
to French school-children, no one appears to have been honored or
exalted as responsible for this series of campaigns.

Let any trained soldier consider the taking of Laghouat, three
hundred miles south of Algiers, in a desert, unpopulated and
waterless, and he will wonder how it was done. The conquest of
Algeria by the French is one of the greatest pages of military
history.



                               CHAPTER V

                        THE INHABITANTS TO-DAY


North Africa has been very aptly described as a melting-pot of the
Mediterranean races, and, though all trace of invaders such as the
Vandals and the Byzantines have vanished, the other peoples who
came and conquered and were in turn defeated have left their mark
on the inhabitants of to-day.

The Phœnician, the Roman, the Arab, the Spaniard, the Turk, can be
seen in all parts of North Africa, and, though it requires perhaps
a little study and experience to place one’s hand on the actual
features of the past conquests, they are most striking when one
is shown them. The original race of the country is, however, the
Berber, and, in spite of these invasions which have devastated,
reinstated, and again devastated his country, he has remained in
a good many districts as pure as the Celts.

Roughly speaking, it can be said that to-day the pure Berbers
are found in all the highest mountains, such as the Aurès above
Biskra, the Kabyle country, and that portion of the Tellian Atlas
known as the Ouarsenis, strongholds to which they returned during
the various invasions, and where they remained unassailable while
the tide of war ebbed and flowed beneath them. The people of the
Mzab and the Touaregs of the Hoggar are also pure Berbers: in the
case of the former because they were determined to remain pure
and exiled themselves in the merciless desert, and in the latter
because they were too far away to be touched by invasion. In other
parts of Algeria intermarriage naturally took place during the
various dominations, but, though Roman and Turkish traces remain,
these are eclipsed by those of the Arabs.

Roughly speaking, therefore, it can be said that the groups of pure
Berbers are located in the high mountains, in the Mzab and in the
Hoggar; that the Berber influence is predominant among the people
who inhabit the country immediately south of Algiers, as far as
the southern slopes of the Atlas, the department of Constantine,
and an arm of the southern territories running from Biskra down to
Ouargla and the great belt of desert running right across the Sahara
from the Atlantic to Tripoli on a latitude just south of El Golea.

The whole of the rest of the country—that is, the department of
Oran, the whole of the southern tracts of the department of Alger,
and the rest of the southern territories other than the belt named
above— is decidedly Arab. The Berber is there, but the influence
is almost entirely that of the nomad invader.

If you ask an intelligent native what his nationality is, he
will reply that he is an Arab who has been slightly Berberized
or else he will say that he is a noble Arab—that is to say,
a claimant to direct descent from Mohammed. While on this subject
it is interesting to note what the conception of nobility is among
these people. Outwardly, before the European, it is the title of
_bash agha_ or _agha_ or _caïd_, but in reality this does not
count with the people any more than Lord-Lieutenant of a county
in England. To them it is merely a title imposed by the French,
which they must respect just as they must respect the Colonel or
the _Administrateur_. Aristocracy to them is the descent from the
Prophet, or as one wise old gentleman once said:

[Illustration: An Arab Beggar]

[Illustration: Scene of Arab Life]

“To many of us nobility can be achieved by much learning.”

In other words, the scarlet burnous and the loud-sounding title would
carry no weight if it were not enforced by the French authority.

To-day, therefore, the inhabitants of Algeria are Arabs and
Berbers of whom fifty per cent. claim almost pure Berber blood,
and Frenchmen. There are many Spaniards in the department of Oran,
and in the east a fair sprinkling of Italians and Maltese. The Jews,
too, form an important section of the community; those who live in
the north wear European dress, and in the south most of them wear
Arab costume, with a certain little difference in the burnous, and in
some districts they have robes peculiar to themselves. Their women,
even in some families of the north, keep the dress of their people,
the embroidered kerchief about the head and the rather shapeless
frock. By a law known as the Décret Crémieux, voted in 1871,
to facilitate the conscription of recruits for the Franco-Prussian
War, all Jews north of a certain latitude in Algeria automatically
became French citizens. It was not very popular at the time, but
its consequences now are much appreciated. In spite, however, of
this French citizenship and all the wealth acquired in commerce,
the Jews of Algeria have kept themselves strangely apart. Even in
Algiers all their shops are in a certain quarter; they close without
exception on Saturday, and attend the synagogue with the utmost
regularity. They never intermarry, and they form as distinct a race
as the Arabs. In fact, in many districts—and especially in the
south—they are always referred to as Israelites. Sometimes they
are persecuted, but this merely knits them closer together. They
despise the Arabs, but fear them, and tremble at any sign of force.

The Arabs equally despise the Jews, but unfortunately they have
got themselves rather into their hands through making use of them
as money-lenders.

The actual French occupation of the land does not penetrate very
far—in fact, in a great many areas the Frenchman is leaving the
interior and returning to the coast. Again and again one passes
through European villages with a church built to accommodate a
thousand people or so, and one sees about twenty European dwellings
in the town and the rest of the houses in ruins or inhabited by
Arabs. What has caused this? Primarily, the inherent dislike of
the Frenchman to expatriate himself. If he comes to Algeria it is
with no idea of spending the rest of his days here. His one idea
is to make enough money to permit him to return home to France and
eke out a pinched existence in his native village, but with the
satisfaction of being a _rentier_. Secondly, the rather ungrateful
task of cultivating in a country where all depends on the rainfall.
It is all right for the man who has capital and who can bide his time
to pay off his losses of the bad year with the profits of the good,
but it is heart-breaking work for the small landowner. Of course
there are numbers of families who have settled in the cultivated
regions and who have become Algerian, but they are the exception;
their names can be counted off rapidly.

These men have great fortunes in wine, in cereals and tobacco,
and their children have in many cases never seen France; but,
generally speaking, the Frenchman is not a colonist, and it is
very, very rare to see him away in the Sahara sheep-breeding or
alfa-collecting. He has, however, done one rather contradictory
thing in imposing his language on practically the whole country.
With the exception of the nomads who wander about the Sahara, it is
rare to come to any center and not find a French-speaking population.

The Arabs among themselves of course speak their own language; it is
a strange dialect based on pure Arabic, but peculiar to North Africa.

Moreover, it differs in accent according to regions. For instance,
the language of the south is much deeper and more guttural than
that of Algiers, and the talk in Constantine and Oran, again,
has many words and intonations not found in other centers.

I think that the correct name for this dialect should be
Arabo-Berber. There is, of course, also the pure Berber spoken
by the people of the Kabyle and Aurès Mountains, of the Mzab and
the Hoggar; and, though Berbers are often found who can not speak
anything else, it is almost a general rule to find them bilinguists,
while the majority talk French too. It is interesting to note that
when the Sultan of Zanzibar came to North Africa the only people
with whom he could speak fluently were the Berbers of the Mzab.

The Jews speak both Arab and French fluently; their Arab is often
purer than that of the actual natives. A great number speak Hebrew
among themselves.

However, to progress comfortably through the country, French is
essential, and Arabo-Berber is a great help and inspires confidence
among the people. Grammatically, it is a simple language, but the
pronunciation is difficult and the number of words which mean the
same thing requires one to have command over a large vocabulary. It
is a language that can be learned only with a teacher.

These, therefore, are the peoples and the tongues of North Africa,
and, armed with this knowledge, we can now penetrate further into
the system of administration.



                              CHAPTER VI

                   FRENCH ADMINISTRATION OF ALGERIA


                             1. _Civilian_

The administration of any country to a foreigner is always rather
incomprehensible, but the manner in which Algeria is administered
by the French is more than a surprise.

It is not our duty to criticize the method of government of this
country, and let it be said at once that, strange as the method
may seem, the results are admirable.

To the uninitiated, Algeria is a colony such as Kenya or the
Gold Coast, with a Governor and all the general system of working
dominions beyond the seas. But, though the country is administered
by a Governor-General, he does not, as might be supposed, depend on
the Colonial Office, neither do any of his reports pass through the
hands of the Colonial Secretary. His tenure of office is, moreover
most uncertain, and he is only appointed for a period of six months
at a time, renewable at the end of each period, and this appointment
is made by the Home Office (_Ministère de l’Intérieur_) in Paris,
under whose jurisdiction he is.

At first this contradiction of things seems hard to understand, and
one is forced to penetrate further into the inner workings of Algeria
to understand. In the first place, North Africa—with the exception
of Tunisia and Morocco, which are protectorates—is divided into
three departments, with practically the same organization as in
France. That is to say, each department sends to the Parliament in
Paris one senator and two deputies, who are elected by the French
inhabitants of the country and by those Arabs who have opted for
French nationality.

These departments have their _préfets_ and _sous-préfets_, as in
France, and the towns their mayors, with the municipal council,
_juges de paix_, _commissaires de police_, etc. Thus up to this
point the system of administration in the three departments is
identical with that in the mother country.

The first slight difference we come upon is in the case of what are
known as _communes mixtes_. These centers are those where the Arab
population is in excess of the French. In this case the mayor is
replaced by an _administrateur_. The area covered by the jurisdiction
of this individual is much larger than the _commune_ under the
mayor, and comprises numerous _douars_, or native villages. The
_administrateur_, who wears a vague uniform, something between
that of an officer and a lion-tamer, is trained specially for his
post. He is assisted in his duties by an _administrateur adjoint_
and by a _commission municipale_. This _commission municipale_ is
composed partly of Frenchmen elected in the area of the _commune
mixte_, and partly of Arabs belonging to the various _douars_, who
are appointed by the Governor-General. The _caïds_ and other Arab
chiefs—of whom we will speak later—assist the _administrateur_
as his agents in their respective areas.

The _administrateur_ himself has certain powers of jurisdiction
over Arabs, but all those who are French citizens have recourse to
the ordinary civil power.

This, therefore, in a few words is the system of administration
of Algeria proper, and it would all seem quite simple if we did
not suddenly come face to face with the Governor-General. Here,
in the midst of all this peaceful organization associated with the
Great Revolution, we have Monsieur Le Gouverneur-Général, with
his summer palace, his staff, his aides-de-camp, naval and military,
flying the tricolor on his motor-car, while the guard turns out and
presents arms. What has he to do with all the senators and deputies
and _préfets_?

The answer is simple. For all practical purposes, nothing. He
himself may be a French senator with his seat in the upper chamber;
at the end of six months he may become a minister or he may be
politely dismissed. And how often has the post of Governor-General
of Algeria been held by some high functionary not wanted in France,
or by one who is merely biding his time to take office again. The
Governor-General, therefore, unless he be a man of exceptional
value, can not really do very much for or against the welfare
of the country, and the most important duties therefore devolve
on a permanent official known as the _Secrétaire Général du
Gouvernement_.

This gentleman—though he is usually not a man of great ambition,
otherwise he would not be in this thankless post—has a great
working knowledge of the country and its people, and it is he who
keeps his superior in touch with all that is going on. But even
he has nothing to do with the French civil administration, which
belongs entirely to France.

On the other hand, there are three assemblies over which the
Governor presides and which carry out on their own account a
certain amount of the administration of the country. They are the
_Conseil du Gouvernement_, dealing chiefly with the building of new
villages, making of roads and railways, and generally opening up
the colony; the _Délégations Financières_, composed of French
colonists, French taxpayers, and a certain number of well-to-do
Arabs. These financial delegates discuss the budget for Algeria,
which incidentally, and contradictorily, is independent of France,
as is also the Bank of Algeria, which prints its own banknotes.
Finally we have the _Conseil Supérieur_ composed of twenty-two
members: the _Procureur-Général_, the Admiral, the _préfets_ and
a few Arabs of importance who meet once a year under the presidency
of the Governor-General to vote the budget for Algeria.

But even here the Parliament in Paris is afraid of letting the
wretched colony look after itself, and it insists upon ratifying
the budget, without knowing anything about it.

Algeria, therefore, is not a colony, but part of France, administered
in the same way as any French department, but under the care of the
Governor-General appointed by the Home Office, who is all-powerful
without having any real authority at all. The _communes_ are French
or _mixtes_; the Arabs have a certain say in the government, but
not much; the budget is separate, but under the scrutiny of the
Palais Bourbon.


                             2. _Military_

All this seems complicated enough, but the mystery is not over—it
deepens as we leave the northern districts of Algeria and move
south. We have now seen the rôles of the various functionaries in
the three departments of Constantine, Alger and Oranie, and we must
turn to the area known as the Territoires du Sud.

The actual boundary between the departments and these southern
territories varies somewhat, but it can be said roughly that
anywhere two hundred miles from the coast one has passed out of
civil control and into military. Thence these territories stretch
away across the Sahara until the Niger is reached—great, open
spaces with small fertile points where there is water. All this
waste land is also under the Governor-General and his permanent
staff in Algiers. There is one slight difference. Whereas if he were
to make a speech to the townsfolk of some smiling vine center near
Algiers he must ask the _Secrétaire-Général_ for the necessary
data to address the multitudes, in the south he applies to the
_Directeur des Territoires du Sud_. This functionary, who is often
intelligent, has an enviable post, and if he is interested in the
Great South, with its strange people, he can make a study under very
advantageous circumstances. Here again, however, we have an anomaly,
for, though the _Directeur des Territoires du Sud_ is responsible
for their order, his administrators are all soldiers and the country
south of the civil territory is under the strictest form of martial
law. A little explanation on the system of government will perhaps
make matters clearer.

The southern areas are divided into what are known as _Cercles
Militaires_, and they may cover an area of one hundred square
miles. The _Cercle_ is under a colonel and is subdivided into
_annexes_, each under a captain, who is responsible to the colonel
for his area. There are a number of officers attached to these
annexes, all specially trained in their duties—in fact, from
the colonel down, all the staff have passed through the school of
the _affaires indigènes_ and have spent practically all their
life in the south. For the future we will refer to the military
administration as the Bureau Arabe, the name under which it goes
in the south. To all intents and purposes the Bureau Arabe is
all-powerful. Fines, fatigues, prison for all persons not having
a European status are entirely in its hands. The court-martial
convened has the power of life and death over the same category
of persons; only Europeans and naturalized Arabs can appeal to the
civil courts. The rule is harsh, sometimes unjust—it depends on
the staff of the Bureau Arabe. The military in the various oases are
commanded by regimental officers who have really nothing to do with
the Bureau Arabe; they are just in the garrison as they might be in
Algiers or Marseilles. But if the head of the _annexe_ requires them
for any administrative or punitive purpose they are at his disposal.

A flock of sheep disappears, the owner complains, and, if he is
considered sufficiently important to take notice of, a section
of _spahis_ is sent off to trace the flock. Some one has to be
ejected from his house—an N.C.O. and four tirailleurs carry out
the unpleasant duty.

Unless an Arab carries a great deal of weight he is helpless if
the Bureau Arabe decides against him. Apart from this, however, the
chief of the _annexe_ has other more peaceful and useful duties. He
has all the functions of the mayor to perform, and is surrounded
by a municipal council. These worthies— who are partly Arabs,
partly French and partly Jews—vote silly laws such as traffic
regulations for the non-existent vehicles. They decide whether the
main street shall be painted green or gold; they vote money to repair
the roof of the colonel’s house. Their most important function is
the distribution of water in the oasis. This, as will be explained
in a later chapter, is a question of life and death in the long
Sahara summer, and it requires infinite care to arrange it all. But,
apart from this, the municipal council does little, and, though
the _Chef d’Annexe_ occasionally performs a civil marriage, the
law and order of the Great South rests in the hands of the military.

I use the word _order_ purposely, as it is through their presence
that we can travel safely over those magnificent roads which they
also have made across the rolling plains. For, though justice
is sometimes miscarried, there is little chance of the bandit
escaping if he commits highway robbery or murder on the roads of
the Bureau Arabe.

These are, therefore, the pros and cons, and let it be said for
these colonels and captains who have spent all the best years
of their lives in the Sahara, that they are confronted by great
difficulties, and that until the day when the Arab is emancipated
and set on the same footing as his conquerors, the only method by
which an end can be achieved is severity.

So far it will seem that we have left the realm of complication
and entered that of straightforward government. A mere illusion.

Living in the same town and almost next door to the Bureau Arabe,
we find the Juge de Paix, the Notaire, and the Commissaire de
Police. What the first two can do to justify their existence is
beyond the imagination. The Commissaire has functions which he
exercises, but which seem quite unnecessary, as in all his actions
he is entirely paralyzed by the Bureau Arabe.

For instance, if some petty crime is committed he can investigate
it, but he can not condemn without the authority of the _Chef
d’Annexe_. If one requires a gun-license one has to apply to the
Commissaire de Police, but he must go to the Bureau Arabe to get
it. He is in charge of the few native policemen who wander about
the oases in search of crime and bribes, but, though the prison is
next door to his office, it is guarded by the military.

It is all the same curious system which causes the
Governor-General’s powers—extending across the Sahara, to the
verge of Central Africa—to depend on the Home Office in Paris.

Moreover, we have not yet finished with all these different forms
of administration, and in the next chapter I shall try to explain
how the native functionaries aid in the government of the country.



                              CHAPTER VII

                          ARAB ADMINISTRATION


                     1. _Through the Arab Chiefs_

It can be said that in the northern districts of Algeria, where
civilian rule is supreme, the Arab chief’s position is more
honorary than anything else. It is true that he holds the same
titles as his brethren in the south and that he is responsible for
an area comprising many _douars_, but his authority is very limited
owing to his constant contact with the local _administrateurs_.

In the south it is very different. Here we are among the nomad
tribes, who, though they have certain fixed limits of pasturage,
roam over vast areas and great tracts of land, rarely remaining
one week in the same place.

It would therefore be materially impossible for any European
administration to deal directly with these people always on the
move, and who have dialects and pronunciation which only an Arab
can understand.

The French Government, therefore, appoints Arab chiefs, who,
to all intents and purposes, rule over the nomads, and who are
responsible for law and order among the people and for the levying
of taxes. The head of the Arab chiefs, who is ruler over the whole
tribe or confederation of tribes, is known as the _bash agha_. He
is appointed by the Governor-General, and he is chosen for his
authority, for his capacity as an administrator and for the name
he bears.

It must be remembered, however, that though the Government tries
as far as possible to appoint men of noble lineage, this is not
necessarily done, and the Government does not recognize any sort
of official succession from father to son. If the eldest son is
considered worthy of the post he is probably appointed to take
his father’s place, but cases occur where a distant relation,
and sometimes an Arab chief of another family is brought in, if
the actual ruling house is considered unworthy.

The _bash agha_ has under him one or two _aghas_ whom he recommends
to the Bureau Arabe for appointment. One of the _aghas_ is often
his eldest son, but here again there is no rule.

The confederation of tribes is divided into subtribes, which,
though they each have their own name, all belong to the main clan.
These differ in numbers, but the confederation is usually composed of
from ten to twenty tribes. These tribes are estimated by the numbers
of tents or heads of families they contain. They each represent
about two thousand people and have at their head a _caïd_. It is,
moreover, interesting to note that the _bash agha_ and the _aghas_
belong to one of these tribes of which they are honorary chiefs.

The _caïd_ is, as in the case of the _agha_, recommended
by the _bash agha_ to the Bureau Arabe, who, if agreeable to
the recommendation, passes it on to the Governor-General for
confirmation. Here, again, they try as far as possible to select the
_caïds_ from the same family as the _bash agha_. The appointment
of the _caïd_ is most important, as it is he who is in direct
touch with the tribe wherever it happens to be. He is assisted in
his duties by the _khaliphat_, who does all the clerical work and
who acts in the place of the _caïd_ when he is absent.

The _caïd’s_ tribe is subdivided into four or five
“fractions,” each under a _sheik_. The _sheik_—about whom so
much fantastic literature has been written, and who, though he may
be a cultivated man, is usually so by accident—has a small command,
and his authority depends on his personality. He can usually neither
speak nor write French, and to the casual visitor differs in no
way exteriorly from the poorest shepherd in his “fraction.”
In fact, with the exception of a few _aghas_ and _caïds_ who are
rich and who have come in contact with Europe, the Arab chief,
with his silk-decked tent and his _smala_ of glorious beauties,
wielding the powers of life and death at a moment’s notice, is a
thing of the past. He shambles along on a rickety horse reminding
one rather of the bull-ring, and he lives most of his life under
a kind of awning which he calls a tent.

Since the war, the Government insists that the chiefs it appoints
shall have passed the elementary standard at the local French
school, but there are many _caïds_ of pre-war nomination who are
completely illiterate and who have never lived anywhere but in a
tent. Moreover, the official power of a chief is very limited. He
is merely a functionary paid by the Government to assist it in its
administrative duties in the south, and with this end in view he
has the support of all those in authority.

Officially this is all. Unofficially there is a great deal more power
wielded in the background, power used sometimes quite unscrupulously
to attain a personal end. For example, the Bureau Arabe only
recognizes the _bash agha_ and his subordinates. A crime occurs
among the nomads, the _caïd_ of the tribe concerned is notified,
and he sets about making his investigations. On his report alone
the Bureau Arabe will act. There are, of course, many of these
men who are scrupulously honest and who carry out their duties
conscientiously, but there are others who do not, and there are
certainly frequent miscarriages of justice through personal reasons.

There was a case where the _agha_ had a feud with a _sheik_ of
his tribe. The _sheik_ was in the right; the _sheik_ tried to make
trouble for the _agha_, and appealed to the French authority. The
French authority gave the _sheik_ his right.

The _agha_ said nothing at the time, but a few weeks later he sent
the _sheik_ on a mission, and while he was away he took his wife
and kept her till he thought the vengeance sufficient. The _sheik_
was powerless to act, as the _agha_ had committed no crime in the
eyes of the French law, and he knew if he made any more fuss that
his life would not be safe. It is better for a nomad to keep in
with his _caïd_ if he does not want to lose all he has.

Of course these cases are mainly exceptions, and the average _caïd_
does his duty conscientiously. There is one I know well who looks
after his people so seriously that he is actually out of pocket when
the end of the year comes round. The point to bring out, though,
is the danger of giving too much power to people whose idea of
justice is very primitive, and who in cases of vengeance are quite
unscrupulous. Life and death to an Arab are less important than the
evening meal, and it is difficult to say what would happen if ever
they were given autonomy. It is a delicate question.

For the moment we must continue our examination of native
administration.


                  2. _Through the Arab Functionaries_

Quite apart from the official chiefs appointed to assist the
Bureau Arabe in the enforcement of the law, there are a number of
functionaries who have nothing whatever to do with the French civil
or military government of the country.

These functionaries exercise their duties in the north as well as
in the south, wherever there are believing Mohammedans. They are
appointed, of course, with the approval of the Governor-General,
but they are chosen chiefly for their knowledge of Moslem laws
and rites. In the north, as in the south, they are under the Arab
chiefs, but their rulings on purely Arab questions are as final
as those of a French civil or military court, and their religious
doctrines are based on deep study of the laws of the Prophet.

They are divided into two categories. In the first are those
who administer the law, in the second, those whose duties are
religious. The young men who qualify for posts in the first
category are those whose parents feel that they have a calling
for higher things than being shepherds or laborers. While still
learning the Koran by heart with the native teacher they are sent
to the French school with the definite object of working. Here they
are taught all elementary matters in the same way as a European
child in a boarding-school, and at the age of sixteen they go up
for an examination which, if they pass, gives them an entry into
the Medersa.

The Medersa is a college in Algiers where the students study
Mohammedan law for a period of six years. Some of those who pass
carry their studies further, and go up for the examination for the
French bar, but to those who are not so ambitious there are two
openings. They can either become Interprètes Judiciaires—that
is to say, interpreters in French courts, where Moslem law comes
into contact with French law—or else they can definitely take up
the Droit Musulman as a profession.

If the student merely passes out unbrilliantly, or even fails to
get his diploma, he will probably become a _khodja_ in a Bureau
Arabe or in some other French office dealing with Arabs. His duties
will be to translate into Arabic all official despatches sent out
to the tribes or _douars_, and likewise to translate into French
all incoming Arab documents.

A successful candidate will, however, first of all find himself
appointed to the post of _adel_, a kind of superior clerk in a
native lawyer’s office, and from that he can rise to _bash adel_,
or principal clerk. From the _bash adels_ are chosen the _kadis_.
The _kadis_ have many functions, which in England would combine
the duties of solicitor, official receiver, registrar, and judge,
without the latter’s power of awarding punishment.

All native cases of jurisdiction are first of all brought before the
_caïds_ and _aghas_ of the district. If they are crimes or cases
with which he can not deal by compromise, he either sends them on
to the Bureau Arabe or, if they are not criminal offenses, to the
_kadi_. People who require arbitration can, of course, go direct
to the _kadi_, but the nomad prefers the ruling of his _caïd_. The
most usual cases to come before the _kadi_ are those of inheritance,
lawsuits, sales of property, and family quarrels. He also marries
and divorces those who wish it.

His decision is final, and even in questions between great chiefs
they must either accept the _kadi’s_ ruling or else carry the
case before the French tribunals, which is a lengthy and expensive
procedure. In fact the _kadi_ is the decisive factor in all native
disputes, in all family matters, and in all cases which do not
actually incur definite punishment.

The _kadis_ themselves are usually charming people, cultivated,
courteous, and full of a quiet sense of humor gathered amidst the
comedies and tragedies of daily life which pass before them. Many
of them have a great deal of moral influence, and are instrumental
in bringing about reconciliations between foolish couples and
quarreling families.

There are also learned men, called _talebs_, in Mohammedan
centers. These natives teach the Koran in the schools and counsel
others who want advice in legal matters. They have also the important
function of writing and translating documents and letters for those
illiterate natives who require their services, whether it be in
French or in Arabic. On the same plane as the _kadi_, but without
the same official education, are found those of the second category,
mentioned above—the religious teachers.

First of all the _mufti_. The _muftis_ often have had a legal
education and are consulted on Mohammedan law before taking cases
before the _kadi_, in the same way as in England one goes to a
solicitor, but they are chiefly authorities on religious rites,
and they hold official positions at the mosques. Every Friday and
on feast days they preach and expound the Koran at the midday
and evening prayer. Their power has greatly diminished of late
but their knowledge of Mohammedan scripture is profound. In cases
where there is no _mufti_ the _kadi_ is regarded as the authority
on religious matters.

The priest of the mosque is called the _imam_. He is in charge of
all religious ceremonies, and when the collective prayer is said,
the faithful follow him in all the chants and movements. He is
sometimes an educated man, but it is not the general rule, and
one often finds the _imam_ attending classes held by the _taleb_
to learn how to write and speak literary Arabic. (Literary Arabic
in opposition to the bastard tongue spoken in North Africa.)

[Illustration: An Arab Barber]

[Illustration: Roasting the Lamb Whole]

[Illustration: Children Bathing in a Southern Oasis]

Then there is the _muezzin_, who is the verger of the mosque,
and whose chief duty is to call the faithful to prayer.

There is no special costume for these different officials, but they
usually wear somber or white burnouses, and one can always tell a
learned man by the delicacy of his hands.

What strikes one most in all this Mohammedan administration is that
it has not altered since the beginning of its creation, and that
it has not been in the least degree influenced by contact with laws
or customs of other countries.

Even in matters where the application of modern laws would be
beneficial, such as in the question of inheritance which causes
the greatest muddle imaginable, the old system of twelve hundred
years ago is adhered to.

Now previously we noticed the apparent contradiction in the French
administration of Algeria, which seemed to be rather overgoverned,
and here we have another contradiction in the fact that these native
functionaries are allowed to act with complete independence in all
matters affecting their own laws. This is one of France’s wisest
policies in Algeria, and it is of comparatively recent date.

At first the French did not realize the enormous importance of Islam
in North Africa, but now that they have grasped it, they use their
knowledge sagaciously.

The French administration of Algeria is complex, but it achieves
its end, as the traveler will realize if, on marvelous roads, he
traverses this immense country unmolested by the masses of wild
men who live there.

I repeat again it is not the duty of a foreigner to criticize the
government of another country, but merely to examine it and judge
of the results.



                             CHAPTER VIII

                               MARABOUTS


Standing alone and quite apart from the native officials just
mentioned are the _marabouts_. The name is derived from the Arab word
_marabet_, which originally meant one who served as a soldier in a
_rebat_ or fortress built on the frontier of Mohammedan countries
as defense against the infidel, and which became a base of attack
against Christian neighbors.

In the forts the moslem soldiers gave themselves over to acts
of piety. When the days of holy war had passed the _rebats_ were
converted into religious buildings, and a _marabet_ was, therefore,
a holy man, an apostle of Mohammed.

_Marabouts_ in North Africa are now holy men who claim direct
descent from Mohammed. There are a few who by that virtue alone
become _marabouts_, and it can be imagined, therefore, that there
are a considerable number of these saints in Algeria. Any Arab
village which respects itself has a _marabout_ or two buried in the
cemetery, and a great many have them living on the premises. They
have no official position, and their influence depends entirely
on their own personality. In some cases they are great figures
wielding an enormous amount of power, which is utilized by the French
Government for its own ends, and they are incidentally treated with
much consideration.

On the other hand, as practically all the male children of
_marabouts_ inherit the title, there are many who are completely
insignificant, I will even say unscrupulous and immoral, and who
live on what they can make out of the poor and credulous followers
of the Prophet. They are not always educated, and though they have
probably studied the Koran their knowledge on other matters is
very rudimentary. Many of them profess to be doctors, and though
their methods are very primitive, wonderful cures have been known
at their hands, chiefly owing to the faith of those treated.

They are almost all rich men, owning flocks in the sheep-breeding
areas, date-palms in the far south, and extensive properties in
the north. This wealth comes from the offerings of the faithful in
return for blessings and prayers for their welfare.

This, of course, leads to a great deal of abuse, and there are very
many of these holy men who reap in hoards of wealth which they spend
on sumptuous living. Moreover, as it is supposed to be an act of
grace to be in the following of a _marabout_ their servants are not
paid, and are practically slaves whose lives are in the hands of
their master. They are beaten or punished at will with no redress,
as it is rare that information leaks out officially to the French
authorities, who prefer to interfere as little as possible with
these holy men, whose religion seems, in their own eyes, to absolve
them from all acts of unrighteousness.

They drink alcohol, they rape, they live in the utmost disorder,
imposing unscrupulously on the believing faithful. If they find
people who oppose them they cast spells on them or curse them into
eternity, and the number of credulous folk who believe in this
is extraordinary.

Some of them are good at sleight of hand and perform childish
conjuring tricks which leave their followers in a state of gibbering
astonishment. I remember once confounding a fairly decent type of
_marabout_ who conjured before me by explaining the trick. But,
though he was rather upset, I saw that the people’s faith was
not in the least shaken. Naturally the well-to-do Arabs of good
family do not respect these law-breaking saints, and say that though
their ancestry must be considered, they can not be regarded as real
_marabouts_, whose lives are examples to all the faithful.

However, against these rogues there are many exceptions: men of
great piety who spend a good deal of time and money in relieving
the suffering of the poor, and who have devoted a great part of
their existence to the study of sacred writings, while in practise
they strictly follow the principles of the Koran.

All _marabouts_, disorderly or otherwise, are at the head of what
is known as a _zaouia_. A _zaouia_ is supposed to be a kind of
retreat for men and women, but chiefly women, who are tired of
worldly things. They give up all they have, be it one sheep or a
large-acred property, to the _marabout_, and in return are clothed,
lodged and fed for the rest of their lives in spiritual beatitude.
They also have to work, tilling his land, looking after his horses,
weaving carpets and burnouses, etc., the produce of their work
being nominally used to raise further money to help the needy.

In the case of the conscientious _marabouts_ this is done,
but the practise is also a source of personal revenue to the
unscrupulous. However, good and bad alike, they all have that Arab
spirit of hospitality and charity, and any person, rich or poor,
can always claim lodging and board with the blessing of the holy man.

The _zaouias_ are occasionally a sort of seminary where young
men who wish to be _muftis_ or _imams_ go to study, but since the
creation of competitive examinations at the Medersa the pupils of
the teaching _zaouias_ have greatly diminished.

Occasionally one comes across female _marabouts_. As a general rule
they are not much respected by the educated Arabs, and their field of
action lies chiefly among the poor women who believe that they have
miraculous powers to cure diseases and ward off the evil eye. These
women are sometimes, though not always, the wives of _marabouts_,
and they are also the children of holy men who have no sons. There
have been two very notable ladies of maraboutic standing, Lalla
Zineb, of El Hamel, near Bou Saada, and Lalla Aurelie Tidjani,
of Aïn Mahdi, near Laghouat.

The _marabout_ is married in exactly the same way as any other
Arab, and if he is sufficiently wealthy he keeps a well-stocked
harem. Cases occur when the sons of _marabouts_ do not take on their
father’s title but live like ordinary citizens. There are also
a few descendants of the Prophet who have never been _marabouts_
because they say that their ancestors were never inspired by Heaven;
but, generally speaking, the position of a holy saint is too tempting
to let slip by.

I have a great friend who is a _marabout_. His name is Hadj Mohktar,
and he lives at Chellala, on the rolling plain above the Sahara. He
is a dignified old gentleman, about sixty years old; though like
most Arabs he does not know his age. His eyes, which are piercingly
black, twinkle merrily when he is amused; he has a good sense of
humor and a brain far superior to that of most of his caste.

He has been twice to Mecca, but this does not stop him from drinking
a glass of wine when it is offered to him. He is rich and has some
of the finest flocks in North Africa.

One night, hearing that I was at the hotel, he came up to see me
after dinner. I offered him some champagne, which he drank with
evident pleasure. After a little preliminary talk about the prospects
of sheep-breeding that year, he asked me if I would care to take
a walk with him in the village. I accepted, expecting to be taken
to a gathering of learned _muftis_, but to my surprise we wended
our way to the reserved quarters of the native dancing-girls. Our
entry into the house we sought caused, to say the least of it, a
sensation. The girls precipitated themselves towards the old man
and kissed his shoulder and his turban. Cushions were brought,
carpets and rugs, and a throne was made for him. I was accommodated
with a stool at his feet. A tray was brought with honey cakes and
milk, but the _marabout_ waved it all away.

“Bring me beer,” he commanded.

Beer was brought and we solemnly clinked glasses. Dancing-girls
from the neighboring houses appeared and kissed his turban. A few
men drifted in, but seeing who was present, discreetly disappeared.

The _marabout_ turned to me solemnly and said: “In your country
do you have dancing-girls as in North Africa?”

I shook my head.

“Neither did we before the French came. Your people have much
wisdom,” he replied. “They are Christians, are they not?”

“Yes,” I said, “but there are also Jews in my country, and
in our dominions there are Mohammedans and Hindus and Buddhists.”

The old man’s eyes fixed themselves on me.

“But are there, then, other sects than Mohammedan, Christian,
and Jew?”

“Oh yes,” I went on, and I tried to give him a rough outline
of the other faiths of the world. He listened to me in silence.

“You are very young,” he said at last, “but you have the
wisdom of a great _marabout_.”

He spoke no more, and sat fingering the coral beads from Mecca, deep
in meditation. I sat quiet, too, contemplating the amazing scene
before me. The dark blue and red carpets, the flickering candles
casting grotesque shadows on the ceiling, the flaming colors of the
girls’ dresses as they sat in a semi-circle contemplating their
noble guest, while their bracelets and anklets gleamed in the dark
corners of the room.

Suddenly the old man turned to me again.

“You have a great doctor called Voronoff, have you not?”
he asked.

“Well, he does not come from my country, but he is a European,”
I replied.

“I have studied his teaching,” went on the old man. “Can he
really rejuvenate the old?”

“For a short time I believe,” I said, “but I have really not
gone deeply into the question. Personally I do not quite see the
value of being made to live beyond our appointed time.”

The old man smiled.

“You are wise, but you are young. When you feel the weight of years
weighing on you, you will wish again to have all your vitality,
all your faculties. And yet our death is destined, and what can a
human do? _Mektoub!_”

He bowed his head and seemed again lost in meditation.

“Youth fades rapidly, and old age lasts long,” he said at last.
Then, rising, he moved toward the door.

Outside a warm breeze struck our faces, the stars seemed large and
bright in the dark heavens; over there, down the street, one could
hear the deep notes of the Arab flute drawing out its plaintive tune,
the rhythmical beat of the _tam-tam_ struck our ears.

“They play a melody of the far south,” he said. “It is
very beautiful, it is very sad. The heart of the Arab dominated
is sad. I will leave you. May Allah bless and keep you young long.
To-morrow we will visit my flocks. _Inch Allah_.”

He held out his hand, pressed mine, raised his fingers to his lips
and then placed them on his breast. He flung the white burnous over
his shoulder and disappeared into the night.

The note of the flute drifted up with the wind, and I walked back
to the hotel with a feeling of great peace of mind.



                              CHAPTER IX

                          THE ARAB CHARACTER


Before studying a country and its people it is essential to endeavor
to arrive at some conclusion regarding that people’s character.

All nations have their outstanding characteristics, characteristics
which will always make it so difficult to carry out the ideals of
the Bolshevik or even to make efficacious the worthy efforts of
the League of Nations.

The Briton, adventurous, conservative, law-abiding; the Frenchman
with his horizon and ambitions limited by his home and his family
circle, his thrifty instincts, his sentimental patriotism; the
German, persevering and disciplined, believing only in himself—give
us at once well defined mentalities. The man in the street knows
this, the most advanced idealist can not deny it, so that the
various nations of Europe remain, as hitherto, defined nations.

It is not possible, however, to say this of the Arab, for though
the words _Inch Allah_, (If God wills it), is the main doctrine
of the Mohammedan, it is not absolutely Arab. In the first place,
who are the Arabs? A race originating in Arabia is the obvious
and not entirely erroneous reply. But the Arab is more than this,
for since Mohammed appeared and made of his nomad followers a great
force the race has passed through a great many evolutions.

There is not space in this book to write a long treatise on this
subject, but to those whom this matter interests let me recommend
the works of Lothrop Stoddard and Gustave le Bon.

For the moment we are dealing mainly with the character of the
Arab of Algeria, or rather the character of the real Arab of the
South, and not that of the Europeanized waster one meets in the big
centers, or of the effeminate and overcivilized chiefs one sees at
tourist-infested centers such as Biskra and Bou Saada.

With few exceptions those men have lost all their fundamental
principles and are but the apes of a rather poor class of European.
The real Arab of the South belongs to a race to himself, and in
spite of this very definite personality his character is difficult
to study to any satisfactory conclusion.

Those who have attempted the task will put forward various reasons
for this difficulty, but I am certain that the main obstacle is
the way in which the question is envisaged.

It is out of the question to try to look at this people from any
Western standpoint, utterly impossible because the whole of the
conception of life is different from ours. In Europe and America of
to-day it is the laws which follow the evolution of the people. As
the races become more emancipated, more educated, they require
new laws to suit the new conditions of life. Among the Arabs it is
the reverse.

Mohammed made the laws, laws which were good and which in many
cases remain good, but it must be remembered that they were more
applicable to the days of the Arab splendor than to the daily life
of the Faithful in the twentieth century.

How can one then attempt to look at these people as having any
sort of relationship with us, how can we place ourselves in their
position and look through their eyes? It is impossible.

All that we can do, if bent on this study, is to live among them
and try to understand their reasoning. This I have attempted to do,
and the conclusions I have drawn are set down here for what they
may seem worth.

The Arab is primarily before all the world a man of great calm and
dignity. His dignified walk down the street in his long robes is
typical of his attitude in both private and public life. I have
heard the foolish remark:

“Well, he could not hurry anyway in those cumbersome clothes!”

Perhaps not, but has an Arab ever been seen to hurry with his
meals, with his prayers, with his ablutions? Does an Arab ever
break into a trot or a canter when riding without some definite
object of winning a race or hunting game? Never. The Arab eats,
prays, washes, rides as slowly as he walks; the humblest shepherd
will look dignified while some millionaire sheep-merchant shouts
and gesticulates over the price of a ewe.

After his dignity we notice his courtesy. An Arab is never rude
deliberately. He may be insincere and say what he thinks will please,
but he will endeavor not to jar on any one’s sensitiveness.

His temper is quick where honor is concerned, and he will strike with
the knife or shoot with the gun if the matter deserves his attention.

His hospitality is proverbial. No one coming to his house at the
hour of a meal will be left waiting; rich man or poor man, relative
or infidel, he will be asked to come in to share the repast. There
are many chiefs I know who never sit down less than twelve to dinner
year in, year out, and usually the number is more like twenty.

Charity and fraternal equality, being the chief principles of the
Koran, are carried out rigorously. A beggar is never turned away
empty handed, no man is despised because he is poor or not of a
great family; at the same time those men well-born are very proud
of their names and titles, and will tell you at length all about
their lineage. One of the questions the chiefs always ask one when
meeting some European is:

“Is he, or she, of good family?”

Often and again has my friend and partner in sheep-breeding said,
referring to my lonely life in the oasis:

“What you ought to do is to return to England and marry somebody
well-born, somebody we can know.”

The arrogance of it! And yet there is not the slightest tone of
superiority in the statement. It is a foregone conclusion that
I must realize that they could not have some one sharing their
intimacy who was not a lady by birth.

“All that counts is the blood,” is another of their favorite
phrases; “we are all brothers, but it is the great families who
give the example to the less fortunate.”

With this, however, they are very simple in their tastes. It is
true that they enjoy putting on their scarlet burnouses smothered in
decorations for official parties, and that they have a very extensive
wardrobe, but they get tired of their finery in a few hours and
return gladly to their more simple daily dress. Their life at home
is not at all sumptuous. Few sleep in beds, practically none eat
with knives and forks, and the meals, though sometimes lengthy,
are all homely dishes cooked by their womenfolk.

Generally speaking, laziness is predominant in the Arab. A few
work very hard, but they are in a great minority. The remainder
do nothing which is not necessary for their livelihood, and those
who are obliged to earn their daily bread just earn it and no more.
This is partly due to the climate and partly to the precept of the
Koran, which forbids man to provide for the future as, in so doing,
he will lack faith in the infinite power of God alone.

Sportsmen they all are—loving a gun and a horse more than anything
else in the world, and ready for any form of hunting.

These, roughly, are the good points in their character, and we must
perforce turn to the other side of the picture. To the uninitiated
the calm mask of haughty indifference which characterizes their
faces conceals a great deal of Oriental wisdom. I do not think this
is the case. From an intellectual point of view the Arab is densely
stupid, very ill-read and utterly inartistic. With an Arab of good
upbringing there are two subjects which he can discuss—religion
and sport. If he is interested in business he will talk about his
own particular line but nothing else. They have not heard of the
most world-famed authors. Shakespeare, Goethe, Voltaire, are not
even names to them except when they happen to have been applied to
streets which they have frequented.

Music outside their own is an unknown quantity; pictures other than
photographs of people they know do not exist. All that which counts
for us in the literary, musical, artistic world is as complete a
blank to them as a Babylonian cuneiform to an able seaman.

It is staggering sometimes to realize their ignorance. Even those who
have been to the French Lycée do not seem to have absorbed anything
beyond reading, writing, arithmetic and a little geography. And
yet they travel abroad. They go to France, some go to England and
Switzerland, and what do they bring back? A recollection of streets
and people and race-meetings and gaming-tables.

“_Un point, c’est tout!_”

I think that the appellation of “Wise Men of the East” as
it applies to Arabs must come from their profound knowledge of
the Koran and its precepts, which in many ways imbues them with
utterances of some depth and of a veiled meaning.

I do not say that they would be better off if they had all our
Northern learning; probably not. I merely set down what is a fact
about the reverse side of the impenetrable mask!

In business the Arab is honest if it is worth while. That is to say,
the poor and uneducated shopman or pedler will cheat as much as
possible, but the well-to-do merchant or landowner will not risk
his name to gain a little more unless he is quite sure of passing
undetected. This, however, applies in some degree to most races.

The nomads in their sheep deals are usually quite straight.

The Arab has a sense of humor and will tell a good story; he will
lie when required, but it is very rare to find one who will do so
on oath with his hand on the Koran.

One side of the Arab is rather unpleasant, and let it be said at
once that it applies more to those who have come in contact with
Europeans than to others. I refer to their dealings with European
women. Their own are sacred subjects not to be mentioned, whose
names and position are respected, but the European woman, and
chiefly American and English women, do not share the same regard.
This again is greatly due to the foolish attitude of a minority
of Anglo-Saxon women who come to the country and are carried away
by the glamour of the surroundings, by the starlit nights and the
graceful robes of their admirers. If only they could see these men,
as I have sometimes in Europe, in bowler hats, they would shudder
at the contrast. Now they only see them in their robes under the
African sky and—well, they fall very easily.

The only altercation I have had with my Arab friends has been on
this subject. A common remark one often hears is:

“_Oh, les Anglaises!_” or “_Oh, les Americaines!_” and a
knowing wink. French women and Italian have not this reputation,
and what is so lamentable is that through the fact of a few of
our race acting in this way, believing they are far from home and
unnoticed, these morals are attributed to us in general.

There is little else to add about the Arab; some of these remarks
have been elaborated in subsequent chapters, other points dealing
with the superstitious side of the character have been raised.

One little story to illustrate the childish side of their nature
seems appropriate here:

I was sitting one evening some years ago in the Casino at Biskra
with a _caïd_ friend of mine. As we sat sipping our coffee an
Englishwoman, whom I knew vaguely, came in, and the _caïd_ pointed
her out to me excitedly, asking many questions about her. I gave
him all the information I could, and it then transpired that he was
deeply in love with her, but that as she could not speak any French
their conversation was somewhat limited. He sat for a while and then,
turning, asked me rather diffidently if I would teach him a few
words which would express to the object of his passion all he felt.

I was rather amused at his anxious tone and laughingly gave him
the following formula:

“I love you.

“Kiss me.

“Forgive me.

“Forget me.”

He repeated it again and again until he had got it quite fixed in
his mind, and then left me, presumably to offer it to the lady.
I did not see my friend again nor the lady, so I do not know how
the courtship, based on my nine words, fared, but one day some years
after this incident I was reading a novel, written also long after
the little English lesson, by an author who could not have known
of the incident; the scene was laid at Biskra; a fictitious _agha_
was speaking:

. . . “I am learning English,” he said gently; “tell me,
please, if my pronunciation is correct.” And in a curiously
indefinable accent he proceeded to recite the little set piece that
some one had mischievously taught him:

“Love me.

“Kiss me.

“Forgive me.

“Forget me.” . . .[1]

The Arab mind had learned nothing more, but he had kept that sentence
fixed in his brain to repeat when the opportunity presented itself!

They are all children, delightful children who never grow up.

Twelve hundred years ago they came to Algeria with their customs
and their clothes and their sheep, and they are still in the same
place with the same customs and the same clothes and the same breed
of sheep. And, _Inch Allah_, they will be there in the same way
when Jesus comes to judge the faithful.

FOOTNOTES:

 [Footnote 1: Quotation from _Make Believe_, by
Clare Sheridan.]



                               CHAPTER X

                         LIFE AMONG THE ARABS


We must now turn our attention to the inner life among the Arabs,
to their customs, to their religious observances; and though it is
always difficult for a foreigner, and especially a foreigner in a
Mohammedan country, really to see the life as lived by its people,
it is believed that sufficient intimacy has been developed between
the author and the Arabs to give a very accurate picture of what
goes on among them.

The word “Arab” will be used, as it is not intended in
this chapter to touch again on the subject of the pure Berber,
mentioned before; neither is it considered necessary to mention the
Europeanized natives who have adapted themselves to a great extent
to the life of the big commercial towns of the north and who are
all in favor of the Young Turk Movement and the modernizing of the
excellent systems handed down to them by their ancestors.

These pages will be devoted to the average Arab household living
either in the native quarters of the smaller _communes mixtes_,
in the farms or away in the southern oases and under the tent in
the Sahara.

The first thing which strikes one very forcibly is the extraordinary
respect shown to the head of the family. It is usual for a great
many people of one family to live in the same house, but it is
only the head who counts. Moreover, among the nomads the _caïd_
of the tribe estimates his people by heads of families. In the home
the father reigns supreme; he usually has his meals apart or with
his eldest son. In some cases there are three groups of diners,
the chief with the older men and the guests, the sons and their
friends, and the retainers. The food is brought in and placed before
the first group, who eat what they want, then it is passed to the
second group, and finally to the third. After dinner the older men
talk and laugh and smoke, but the younger men will either sit quiet
or, if they want to talk and smoke, they will go outside. In the
presence of the head of the family the younger generation show
the utmost deference; it is unusual for them to sit down when in
conversation with their father, and they never smoke in his presence.

If a dinner-party is being given and some light or inappropriate
subject of conversation is brought up in the presence of the
father and son, the son will endeavor to change the subject or
even leave the room. Apart they will tell as good a story as any
one, but together it is not considered respectful. Should a chief
come into a café with friends, and a younger member of the family
happen to be there, the latter will leave immediately so as to lay
no restraint on the older man. Many is the time when Europeans,
ignorant of all this etiquette, have asked a party of Arabs to
dinner and have suddenly found that four or five of the party have
not put in an appearance. The host may be hurt, he may be puzzled,
but the solution of the riddle is easy—those four or five guests
have found out that one of the party was a senior man with whom
they could not sit down at table.

In return for all this the head of the family looks after the whole
of the welfare of his descendants, and any relatives are welcome
to eat and reside in his house or tent as long as they like.

By nature the Arab is very easy-going. Even the shopkeepers do not
worry people to buy, and will often tell a customer that the article
he requires is not stocked rather than interrupt a conversation with
a friend over the counter. Their prices are usually rather vague,
and bargaining is quite normal, the result of the deal depending
a great deal on the mood of the shopkeeper. If the deal is not
brought off there is no ill-feeling, and the customer will often
be asked to come in and drink a cup of tea.

The very poor people, and there are a great many, live on charity
and the wages of odd jobs, but it is amazing to see how body and soul
hang together with practically no clothes or substantial nourishment.

Their occupations and pastimes are varied. They are either landowners
in the northern districts, or sheep-farmers and date-growers in the
south—all very profitable occupations and the source of great
fortunes quite unsuspected by the visitor. In their leisure they
ride and hunt with falcons, and shoot; they enjoy horse-racing
and everything to do with riding, and though a great many of them
have motor-cars they consider them merely as conveniences, and the
greatest ambition of a young Arab is to own a horse.

As in all Oriental countries, European vices become exaggerated,
and once a native starts gambling or drinking he does little else.

Otherwise their existence is very simple, and the way they spend
their days is adapted to nature and very healthy. An Arab gets up
early and also quickly. This is due to two reasons. The first is that
he does not usually sleep in a bed, but on a rug on the floor with
another rug over him; the second is that he does not wash on rising,
and he very often goes to sleep in his clothes. How many times have
I been away in out-of-the-way places with Arab friends, either
shooting or attending sheep-markets; coffee has been ordered for
five A. M. They have somehow vaguely wakened me at four-forty-five,
and at four-fifty-five my companions have appeared, all dressed,
to ask why I wasn’t ready! And my reply has always been the same:

“Because I have a strange and curious habit of undressing when I
go to bed and of shaving when I rise.” And it _is_ considered a
strange and curious habit. But that does not mean that these Arabs
are dirty in their persons—far from it. Before and after meals
they wash their hands and faces, before their prayers they do the
same; sometimes they take a bath. Regularly once a week they go to
the _hammam_, or steam bath, where there is an unlimited quantity
of hot water, and where they wash from head to foot, and there is
nothing cleaner than washing in a Turkish bath. Moreover, there
are first-rate masseurs who for a moderate fee take pounds of fat
off the patient in an hour.

What I have never been able to discover is how often the average Arab
changes his underclothing. The exterior dress is often sent to the
laundry and I have an idea that in many cases the change is made
four times a year, at the various seasons. Speaking of clothes,
it may perhaps interest the reader to know of what an Arab’s
garments consist:

Next to the skin there is a shirt; there are socks, there are
sometimes drawers, a pair of baggy trousers and leather slippers,
rather like unfinished pumps and not embroidered as may be
supposed. Embroidery on shoes is considered effeminate and can
only be worn on the long red boots used for riding. Over the shirt
is usually a sweater and over that a jacket; it may be a smart
embroidered affair with many buttons, or it may be a simple tunic,
or it may be a European coat, but it does not matter much as it
is entirely covered by the _gandourah_, which is like a long white
nightgown with a low neck, made of wool or silk or cotton.

On the head is a turban which consists of three separate pieces—the
_gannoure_, which is the high framework made of felt on which is
placed the _chech_, which entirely covers it, surrounds the face,
covers the neck, and is tucked away inside the coat. Round the
_chech_ is wound either a band of silk or else the camel’s hair
cords, known as _khiete_. The origin of the wearing of cords was
for the purpose of always having a rope handy to attach to any
receptacle to draw water from the wells in the Sahara.

Over the whole thing the Arab wears one or two burnouses. These are
long cloaks with a hood and are made of wool, camel’s hair, silk
or cloth. The poor shepherd possesses only a woolen or camel’s
hair cloak, but the well-to-do chief has in addition to his rough
burnous for country wear one made of silk over which he wears one
of blue or green or maroon cloth embroidered with silver or gold.
It is a most convenient garment, as in winter it keeps the wearer
warm and the hood pulled over the turban protects him from rain.
Moreover, when it gets hot one or both burnouses can be removed. At
night they take the place of rugs or blankets.

During the morning the Arab will go about his business either in
the town or out on the plain. If he is at home he will eat a light
lunch at eleven-thirty, but this is not an important meal, and
out on the Sahara he will content himself with a piece of bread
and some milk. Time to an Arab is a very vague convention once
he has got up. At first it exasperates the European who has been
brought up to regular habits, but one realizes little by little that
one’s exasperation is a complete mystery to them, and one gives
up worrying about punctuality. It is very annoying sometimes when
one has made all one’s plans to begin a long excursion early in
the morning to find the start fixed for noon, or to invite a lot of
men for dinner at seven-thirty and find some arrive at six-thirty,
some at eight-thirty, and some not at all!

[Illustration: _Photographs by Mr. Julian Sampson_
A “Propriétaire”]

[Illustration: Numidian Type: Musician of a Marabout]

[Illustration: A Moorish Villa]

That is another custom which it takes a long time to understand,
and one is left hurt that people invited do not arrive, and often
do not even make an excuse or consider that one is necessary. It
comes from the fact that in all their houses dinner is always going
for a dozen or so of people, and one more or less does not count.
Every one sits down when the meal is ready, and no one troubles
to count the guests. Of course this does not apply to a regular
invitation to dinner made with the definite purpose of meeting
some one or listening to music; in cases like that no one would
dream of being discourteous. At the same time it is very rare
for an Arab definitely to accept or refuse an invitation. To your
request that he will take a meal with you to-morrow he will reply,
_“Inch Allah”_—“If God wills it”!

Against this, if you are on friendly terms with the Arabs, you can
arrive about meal time—no surprise will be shown, and you will
squat down and share the meal as if it were your daily habit. In
the same way, if some man came in to see one about six-thirty in
the evening he would expect to be asked to dine, which is often
awkward in a European household.

If the Arab has eaten a midday meal he will probably sleep for an
hour after, and then continue doing what he has to. About six-thirty
comes the dinner, and this meal is important. There is always the
highly spiced soup with pieces of meat floating about, usually
another dish of meat and vegetables, and always the _kous-kous_,
with more meat. They drink water or milk, for even those who are
in the habit of taking wine and spirits rarely do so in their own
houses if Europeans are not there. After dinner they drink their
mint tea or coffee, and friends come in to see them, or they go
out themselves and sit in the shops or cafés and drink more tea,
and talk and laugh until it is time to go to bed.

Their meals are eaten on the floor. They keep a kind of narrow
mattress on which they sit, and the dishes are placed on a small
table about a foot high known as a _maïda_. A common napkin some
eight feet long is placed on their knees all round the circle. All
the food, except the soup and sometimes the _kous-kous_, is eaten
with the hand, and before the meal and after, soap and warm water
are carried round and every person washes his hands and face. It
is said that these ablutions bring prosperity. There are usually no
glasses, and a common mug is handed round from which sips are taken.

Of course, when receiving guests of note, or Europeans, the meal
is much more sumptuous, and among the Europeanized chiefs there
is a gaudy dining-room kept for the friends from over the seas.
Crockery of all kinds is produced, knives and forks, a jumble of
wines and a general atmosphere of inconsequent confusion. But the
meal is excellent, though sometimes a trifle long.

This is an average menu for a short dinner:


  _Chorba_. Soup with vermicelli, highly spiced.

  _Bourak_. Mutton minced with mint and sage, rolled up in a
 light pastry—this is a kind of sausage roll.

  _Leham Lalou_. A kind of mutton stew in a dark sauce, cooked
 with prunes and sweet almonds. The words mean sweetmeat.

  _Mechoui_. The lamb roasted and served whole. Even to Europeans
 no knives or forks are issued, and it must be torn to pieces with
 the hands.

  _Kous-kous_. Looks like semolina and is made of hard wheat
 kneaded into tiny round balls and steamed. With it is served a kind
 of vegetable soup called _marga_, a highly spiced sauce, and often
 mutton or chicken. There are countless varieties of _kous-kous_
 varying according to localities.

  _Heloua_. Sweets and cakes made of flour and honey and almond
 paste and orange water.


There are many other alternative dishes; game often appears, but
as a general rule the _chorba_, the _mechoui_, and the _kous-kous_
are _de rigueur_ for the set dinner. In the place of the sheep
there may occasionally appear a gazelle, and if an Arab wants to
show his deepest respect for you he will serve a baby camel roasted
whole. But this is very rare.

Generally speaking, therefore, the Arab’s life is very simple
and peaceful. He is courteous and hospitable, a rather lazy country
gentleman, not very intelligent, but wiser and more philosophical
than many Europeans on problems of daily life. Men who lay tremendous
stress on points of honor, and who rarely forgive an injustice or
an insult, disliking any sort of encroachment by non-Mohammedans,
they have drifted into inertia behind the precepts of the Koran.

“What Allah has destined will occur, so why worry?”



                              CHAPTER XI

                              ARAB WOMEN


Having now cast a cursory glance over the life of the Arab man,
let us look into the inner life of the homestead—that is to say,
the life of the women, of the children, and of the servants. Placing
them in the same category does not in the least suggest that the
Arab woman is in any way a slave. Far from it. This is quite a
fallacy, which must be added to the list of legends to be dispelled
in this book.

With the exception of the Kabyles, the women in Algeria have almost
as many rights as the men. They are, of course, not nearly so free
as European women, and they are often obliged to share the home
with other wives, but, as they have been brought up to know no
other mode of living, they do not wish for anything else.

We will take as an example the life of an Arab girl belonging to a
respectable family of moderate means. The daughters of the family
when little girls will help their mother in the household duties,
accompany her when she goes out, learn to cook and to weave and
all the duties of a good housewife. Sometimes they are sent to the
convent of the White Sisters, where they earn a little money and are
taught to make carpets on regular lines. The Sisters will give them
a rudimentary education, but it will only take the form of lectures
on morality and hygiene. It is very, very rare to find an Arab girl
who can read or write. As soon as she reaches a marriageable age
offers will be made to her father by the fathers of eligible young
men, and if any union seems opportune terms will be discussed.

Apart from guaranteeing the bride a home, with enough to live
on, it is usual for the bridegroom’s parents to pay a sum down
and for the bridegroom to give his bride a trousseau, while she
in return will bring a dowry of a few household goods and golden
jewelry—family heirlooms, which may be of great value. When all
is arranged the date of the marriage is fixed, and up to the actual
first contact bride and bridegroom will not see each other. The
young man however often sends his female relatives to inspect the
young woman and to report on her appearance. The wedding lasts for
seven days and is conducted at the girl’s home and at the man’s.
For a week the bride’s mother will entertain all her friends and
the friends of her daughter, while the bridegroom is giving parties
to his companions. After the formality of going to the _kadi_ the
husband has access to the bride. She is brought to his house and
let into a room where he is hiding behind the curtains or under the
bed. When she is alone he suddenly leaps out and seizes her. This
is the first time they meet face to face.

After a quarter of an hour or so an old woman comes in, makes an
examination, and informs the assembled guests that the marriage
has been consummated, and cries of joy are uttered and the newly
married couple separate. It is not until the end of the feast that
the husband and wife live entirely together. Once she is with her
husband she sets about making his home comfortable. If they are
well off she will keep a female servant to do all the rough work
such as sweeping and polishing, but the preparing of the meal is
always done by her. The food is carried by her to her husband,
and he eats alone. She has her meals apart or with the other wives.

In the case where a man is already married the new wife, though she
may be the husband’s favorite, will take a secondary place with
the other wives, who will give her all the odd jobs to do. If she
is tactful she will be nice to them, and if she is clever she will
get her husband into her hands and make him dispose of the other
wives. As a matter of fact, this sort of intrigue is getting rare.
In the first place, polygamy is on the decline; this is due partly
to the contact of soldiers with the European method of living during
the war, and partly from reasons of economy. In cases where the first
wife is getting old—and Arab women get old very quickly—she is
often glad to have a young wife as a help.

In the homes of well-to-do Arabs the women are kept under lock and
key, and they practically never go out for a walk. They will be taken
for drives in closed carriages or motors, and occasionally they will
pay visits at nights to their women friends, but they go heavily
veiled and accompanied by many attendants. Once a week they go to the
Turkish bath, and once a week to the cemetery. Sometimes among the
poorer class the women are forced to go out to do their shopping,
but they are veiled from head to foot, and even this is rare, as
the husband usually does the marketing on his way to and from work.

All this caution, however, does not prevent intrigue and infidelity,
which is facilitated by old women and friends. A visit to another
girl is arranged, the visit is made, but there is another exit,
and the woman goes to see her lover. Unfortunately this is also
becoming common among unmarried girls who escape the supervision
of their parents.

However, in really good families the women are usually straight,
and they know, moreover, how to keep their husbands. In fact, the
wife is very much the mistress in her own home, and she lets her
man have just enough liberty and no more.

The laws of divorce are very broad, and are on an equality for men
and for women. The first case for separation is that of the couple
who, after three days of marriage, go before the _kadi_ and ask
for their release, because they realize that they can’t stand the
sight of each other. In this case they each take back what they gave
and return to their respective homes free, and shortly marry again.

The other main bases for divorce are the same as in Europe, but
there are also excuses which make things much easier than with us.
For instance, if a woman complains that her husband is out every
night and does not come home till midnight or so, the _kadi_ will
pronounce the necessary decree. In this case the wife keeps all the
man has given her, and he also pays the eleven francs which is the
fee for dissolution of marriage. A man gets his divorce at once if
he finds that his bride is not the _pure jeune fille_ he supposed
her to be. This entails many complications and family feuds, but,
as it is hard to prove, it is usually allowed to go by. There are
cases of divorce after long years of marriage, and there are cases
of the reunion of divorced parties who have lived separated for long.

The main point to realize is the facility of getting judicially
separated, and the fact that the woman has just as many rights as
the man.

Of course the life the wife leads if she is humble and docile is not
very amusing. In addition to cooking she must weave burnouses and
carpets, either for the home or, if they are poor, for sale, and
the man, having the position of lord and master before the world,
takes advantage of his wife’s docility if he can. But then this
happens in Europe!

As a matter of fact, the Arab man is not a bully, and one notices
that whenever he goes to the sheep and cattle markets he always
buys something for his wife, and with his children he is very kind
and thoughtful.

The wives of the nomads lead very much the same life as their
sisters in the towns, the only difference being that they do not
veil themselves when out in the plain.

It is not permitted for a woman to go to the mosque, and it is
unusual for them to say their prayers—in fact, their ignorance of
anything outside the homestead is complete. It is perhaps because of
this that they make good wives and do not hanker after the supposed
joys of the great world.

There is one flaw in all this peaceful life, and that is the state
of widowhood. When the husband dies the woman has nothing, unless
she has been allowed to put money aside herself or has property of
her own. She may be the wife of a _marabout_ or of an _agha_—the
moment she is a widow she loses all her status. There are three
alternatives open to her. The first is to go on living with her sons,
if they are big enough to keep her; the second to return to her
family or to that of her husband, if they are alive and willing;
or thirdly, to marry again. In well-to-do families the first two
alternatives are the most followed, but the third is not common,
as, though, curiously enough, a man will marry a divorced girl,
he rarely mates himself with a widow.

Of course, if the woman has independent means it is a different
story; but this is rare, and if none of the above openings are
possible her fate is very sad. A lone woman is regarded as having
no position, and she must at once make one for herself. Here again
she has three further alternatives: to enter the local _zaouia_,
where she practically becomes the slave of the _marabout_ and lives
the rest of her life weaving and working in this kind of convent;
or, if she prefers it, she can become a servant; or, as a last
resource, enter the ranks of the dancing-girls in the reserved
quarter. In fact, if she has no occupation and no house of her own,
the French authorities force her to take up her residence in that
special part of the town.

But, except in these particular cases, the Arab woman is not the
bond-slave of the man, and I have no doubt that the majority are much
happier than many European wives. It is, of course, very difficult
to get any definite information about all this, as it is against
the laws of etiquette to mention Arab women to their men. The above
facts have been gathered by little bits of talk here and there with
intimate friends, who have now and then voluntarily unburdened their
hearts, by talks to some of the rare few of the older generation who
have traveled a great deal and who don’t mind airing their views,
and by actual contact with respectable married women. Of this the
less said the better, as such meetings were strictly against all
the laws of propriety, and were contrived by friendly intrigues.

Secrecy about the womenfolk is so great that the stranger is not
even allowed to hear the sound of their voices, and I have stayed
with an Arab chief for a week, where we were eighteen to dinner
every night, and where there must have been twenty women and as
many children in the same house, and I never heard a sound which
suggested female presence. Even in the Sahara, where the women are
only divided from the men by a rug hung across the center of the
tent, I have passed the night, and only realized that women were
present when a child cried and its mother hushed it.

Some Arab chiefs allow European women to visit their wives, but
it is not very interesting. They can’t speak a word of French,
and they sit staring at the visitor with curious eyes, and touch
her clothes to see how they are woven and put on. Occasionally one
meets with women who have been to Europe, but, with few exceptions,
they regret their ventures and are glad to return.

There is one famous case of an Arab girl who drifted away from
the South, crossed the sea, and eventually found herself in Paris,
where she started dancing. She had an instantaneous success, and in
a short time had visited London and New York, acclaimed wherever she
went. It would be too long to go into all her adventures—suffice
it to say that she was courted by all, that she met all kinds of
interesting people; dressed in the smartest frocks, and lived on
a lavish scale. One day she returned to Laghouat and she remained
six months; during those six months she lived again as an Arab,
then she went back to Paris, but it was too late. The South had
seized her, her people had clutched her heart again, and she could
no longer keep away.

She returned to her home in the oasis. Nothing will now make her
return to Europe, and she says that the only possible life for a
woman is to be married to a nice Arab and shut up. The last time I
saw her she was sitting on the floor of a roughly furnished room,
barefooted, eating _kous-kous_ with her hands out of the same bowl
with her servants!



                              CHAPTER XII

            ARAB LOVE AND THE WOMEN OF THE RESERVED QUARTER


By bracketing these two subjects together I do not wish it to be
supposed that in Algeria the two are synonymous, though curiously
enough there is none of that sordid atmosphere which is associated
with women of easy morals in Europe. It is generally believed that
the Arab man is a brute who uses women only for his pleasure,
and that the Arab woman is a piece of furniture and accepts the
situation. It is another legend.

There are few men in the world who are such ardent lovers as the
Arabs, and few women who know as well the art of holding a man
and making him dance to her tune. The Arab goes quite mad when he
is in love, and forsakes his home and his people to lead the life
of a lone savage. In the meanwhile the object of his adoration is
laughing at him coldly, without the smallest emotion and without
any encouragement. The lover can continue performing the utmost
follies—the woman won’t flinch if she doesn’t love him.

The moment she does it is quite a different matter. Her love
dominates all, and she becomes the adorer of her man. And yet in
the midst of all this adoration her woman’s instinct never leaves
her, and if she feels that the man is taking her as a habit she
just slips off and leaves him to wonder if he is standing on his
head or on his heels. Many succeed by this method in keeping their
husbands for ever. If a man has a mistress she will in no way mix
up in his family life, but at the same time she will be respected by
him and by his friends as if she were his wife, provided she remains
shut up. Generally speaking, however, this is rare, and a man’s
mistress either lives in the reserved quarter or keeps open house
at her lover’s expense. Under these circumstances, though she may
have a few women friends, they are not of the best class, and even
the men who visit her house will only do so under cover of darkness.

The reader will at once ask:

“With polygamy, why is there any necessity for mistresses?”

I suppose it is the spirit of adventure, the desire for forbidden
fruit, which characterizes all intrigues of this kind, but it is
also the attitude of the woman who does not want to bind herself
and prefers her free life until the day she is too old to enjoy
it. Arab women are very capricious, and they love to have the man
dancing attendance on them, bringing them presents, and never really
the master of his own reason.

This atmosphere can only be created in an irregular situation, for
once she is his wife she has certain obligations and his authority
counts. Arab women are more than capricious, they are heartless
as long as they do not love. Certain European women are too, but
never to the extent of the Arabs. They will keep some infatuated man
hanging about them with just the hope of favors for months, even for
years. If they see that he is taking a pull at himself they will
give him just sufficient encouragement to haul him back, and then
drop him again into the depths of despair. And if the poor chap goes
mad or ruins himself it is treated as a triumph—another conquest.

But once in love the Arab woman is quite a different being, and
her devotion is without end. I have known a woman who had riches,
houses, position, adulation by men of note, everything a lovely
woman could desire, give up everything she had for a man she loved
and live with him in a state of complete poverty, with just enough
but no more. Before that man came into her life all were fair play
to her, and her moral scruples did not exist. After she had met that
man all the millions in the world would not take her from his side.

Women all the world through are capricious, and swayed by their
whims, and it is by these traits that the skilful ones cause men
to make fools of themselves. The art is dying out in England,
and is on the wane in France, but in Algeria it is at its height,
and sorry is the lot of the unwary one who inadvertently falls in
love with an Arab girl who does not return his love.

Though the same characteristics apply to the women of the reserved
quarter, it is not quite the same thing.

First of all, a few words about this part of the Arab town. It is,
of course, a creation of the French, as it is against all the laws
of the Koran for a man to live with any woman who is not married to
him legally or who is not a recognized concubine. In fact, it is to
avoid this that polygamy was instituted. However, with the French
conquest French civilization had to come too, and the _Quartier_
was created, primarily for the troops.

It is usually walled in, and entered by a single door which is
guarded by a sentry. Inside there is quite a little city—shops,
cafés, miniature squares, where the dancing takes place in the
summer. The women have their little apartments, where they receive
their friends to drink tea and give little dinner-parties. It is
an atmosphere of frank gaiety quite impossible to realize without
seeing it. Some of them have their babies with them, others live
with their mothers. The majority of the inmates are of the tribe of
the Ouled Naïl, but there are, of course, many girls from the local
tribes too, the great difference being that those who come from the
Ouled Naïl are not in any way lowering their prestige by living
this life. They have come with the full consent of their parents,
and one day they may leave and honorably marry. It depends a great
deal on the dowry. In the old days the girls always tried to collect
gold pieces, which they strung into necklaces, and one saw a woman
all dressed up and her neck weighed down with hundred-franc and
twenty-franc pieces. Now that gold is no longer current in France
the women convert all the notes they have into bits of gold, which
they have beaten into bracelets and ear-rings and tiaras. Some of
them manage to buy hoarded collections of gold pieces to make into
necklaces, while others have inherited them from their mothers.

However, the main point is to have the dowry in gold actually on the
person, so that there is no danger of its depreciating in value, and
when the girls leave the quarter to go to some private party in order
to dance, they are accompanied by a constable and by a soldier with
a rifle. The result of this system of buying gold has, of course,
made the girls very rich. Paper currency has depreciated, so that a
hundred-franc piece sells for a high price, and the money, though
not fructifying in actual interest, is a capital ever increasing
in value.

Of course these jewels are not common only to the girls of the
Quarter; all Arab women strive to have as much jewelry as possible,
but naturally they have other expenses to consider, whereas a girl
of the Quarter invests all she has in jewels, and keeps only a
small proportion of her earnings to buy her frocks.

[Illustration: An Arab Type]

[Illustration: Arab Women Veiled]

[Illustration: Girl of the Quarter]

The frocks of the Arab women of all classes are the same, and they
are disappointing. In fact, they are almost grotesque, and do not in
the least show off the wearer to her advantage. For daily use they
employ calico or print, tied round the waist with a ribbon, while on
the head there is a colored scarf. When they are all dressed up for
a party their outer garment is of silk or of taffeta, sometimes of
velvet, sewed about with ribbons and embroidery, and of all shades
of brilliant colors. The hair is long and smeared in unguents, and
plaited round the head, about which they wear two scarfs bound one
above the other, also of very striking hues. Those who have golden
tiaras fix them in front of the scarf head-dress, with golden chains
hanging down from the sides, passing under the chin and up the other
side. Round the neck are the necklaces of gold pieces, in the center
of the breast a round golden brooch, and about the waist a silver
or golden belt. Their arms are covered with bracelets, which are
rarely beautiful because they are too heavy; the same applies to the
anklets. What strikes one first as a jarring contrast are the feet.

In the first place, Arab women’s ankles are rather thick,
but, instead of wearing attractive Arab slippers associated with
the illustrations of the _Arabian Nights_, they buy themselves
cheap French shoes and encase their fat legs in cotton or woolen
stockings, which have no connection at all with the color-scheme
of the dress. They also spoil their figures by wearing layers
of coarse underclothing. A group of Arab girls a few yards away,
about to dance, is a picturesque spectacle, but their individual
appearance in those gaudy clothes is not attractive. And yet some of
the girls when young are lovely, their big black eyes especially,
and their mouths full of fun and inconsequent gaiety. With the
exception of the hair they keep themselves clean, and they attend
the Turkish bath regularly.

It is most amusing to stroll into the cafés of the Quarter at
night and sit down on one of the benches among the Arabs under
the flickering light of the oil-lamp or the hiss of the acetylene,
and watch the girls in their semi-party dresses dancing slowly up
and down the center. The _raïta_ squeals and the _tam-tam_ beats
in regular cadence while the dance proceeds.

There are all kinds of different steps and figures, and though
the _danse du ventre_, which is a hideous muscular distortion of
the abdomen, is always carried through, there are many other dances
which are pleasing to the eye, and the movements of the hands remind
one of the wings of a butterfly. Moreover, simple as these dances
may seem, there is a tremendous amount of technique about them,
and the poise of the body, and the movements of the feet, quite
apart from the hands, take long years to learn. A little girl will
begin her apprenticeship at the age of twelve, and at seventeen she
will be proficient. Some of the dancers become famous, and are as
well known among the Arabs as European stars.

There are also some Arab women who sing and play the mandolin.
Their voices are, on the whole, rather harsh, except in the sad
ballads of the South, which drone out into the plaintive notes so
hard to copy.

Since the introduction of the gramophone into Arab life the girls
who are known to be appreciated are paid large sums to make records,
and the result is deplorable, as the harshness of the voice is only
accentuated by the needle.

The saddest part about Arab women is the rapidity with which they
grow old, or, rather, mature. They attain the status of womanhood
between the ages of twelve and fourteen, and between fifteen and
twenty they are at their best. After that they suddenly seem to fade,
and all at once look near to thirty-five. But there it stops, and
they don’t get any older for ten or fifteen years; then another
sudden leap forward and a woman of fifty is a wrinkled old lady.

Such is the Arab woman of to-day, and such she will remain until
civilization finds its way in and destroys all the good traditions of
the past. The task will be a hard one, but the action of Mustapha
Kemal in Turkey, though it has probably shocked the Arabs, has
given them much to think about. However, for the time being the
life goes on as it has done for the past twelve hundred years,
and long may it do so.



                             CHAPTER XIII

                        ARAB MUSIC AND DANCING


I have talked a great deal about music and dancing in Algeria without
describing their characteristics. There are three very distinct
classes of music: that for dancing, that for ballads about war or
love, and that for religious chants.

These various forms of music have their respective instruments,
which, though few in number, differ considerably one from the
other. The first is the _raïta_: in shape it resembles a short
trumpet bored with holes, on which rest the fingers, and with
a bell-shaped mouth. The sound is created by vast quantities of
air being blown through a reed mouthpiece, producing a sound not
unlike the bagpipes, only much louder. In fact, I have rarely
heard one man produce such an ear-piercing and strident squeal as
the _raïta_-player, and sitting close up to the music is pain and
grief. This instrument is used exclusively for dancing, and it is
accompanied by a man with a _tam-tam_ or a _derbouca_.

The _tam-tam_ resembles in shape a very large tambourine, and is
played with both hands, producing a rather dry, rhythmical cadence.
The _derbouca_ looks like a large flower-vase with a round body and a
long neck. Over the farther end is stretched a piece of skin, and the
playing is the same as the _tam-tam_, but with a much deeper sound.

In addition to the above, one often sees a tambourinist; but the
usual orchestra for dancing consists of two men—the _raïta_-player
and the drummer, with his _tam-tam_ or _derbouca_.

The second type of wind instrument is the flute. This is either
the ordinary penny whistle made out of a reed and producing the
same sort of music, only softer, or the long flute, chiefly found
in the southern areas. The flute is the most interesting of all the
Arab instruments and the hardest to play. It consists of a long reed
hollowed out, about half an inch in diameter and from two to three
feet long. It has eight stops, but there is no sort of mouthpiece.

The sound is produced by the player blowing across the top of the
flute at some particular angle which I have never been able to
discover, and producing the softest, saddest, deepest note one can
possibly imagine.

To the most unmusical the sound of the long flute must appeal,
and when accompanying one of those love ballads of the far South
it is enchanting.

These two flutes are used to accompany all kinds of songs, but
chiefly those concerning the exploits of heroes and the love lays
which hold such a big place in all Arab melodies. Occasionally it
is used to follow religious chants, but not always.

The flute is usually accompanied by the _tam-tam_ or the _derbouca_,
which is played very softly. Moreover, the accompaniment to the
song is more often only heard between each verse, while during
the singing it is just a faint drone with a distinct time-beating,
and sometimes no music at all.

The religious chants, which are not, as might be supposed, sung in
the mosques but at the shrines of saints or in private houses, have
usually no accompaniment except the _tam-tam_. These chants consist
of either hymns in praise of some saint or _marabout_, or else
in long passages of the Koran telling one of our well-known Bible
stories. At first sight it would seem that such music without any
sort of instrument would be singularly dull, but when one hears the
singer bending over his _tam-tam_, pouring out a volume of sound,
keeping a wonderful time with his hands, one is carried away by
the rhythm.

At the end of each verse or group of verses there is usually a chorus
in praise of Allah or of Mohammed, which is taken up by the audience.

The performers in the cases of the dance-music and the ballad-singing
are professionals who either earn their living by playing nightly
in the local cafés or by wandering about the country earning their
supper as they go. Some of them are poets, and will extemporize
songs about the host or about his mistress.

There are also mandolinists and violinists, but these are usually
found among private individuals who perform for their own amusement
or for that of their friends. They play the same sort of music,
both religious and otherwise, and if one has a friend who owns
a mandolin a very pleasant evening may be passed with delightful
music. It is much gayer, and there are some airs which could almost
be used for modern dancing.

The violinists are disappointing from the European standpoint.
The player does not place the instrument to his shoulder, but holds
it upright on his knee and draws the bow across the strings rather
after the fashion of a man with a double bass, emitting a somewhat
corresponding sound.

At first Arab music seems all the same, and the unaccustomed listener
can not differentiate between the melodies, but little by little
the ear becoming accustomed, he can tell at once if the air is from
Oran or from Algiers, from the mountains of the Tell or from the
far South; and the beat of the religious chant is unmistakable.

There are occasionally companies of musicians who travel around
with a variety of instruments and singers, male and female, and
dancers. There are also those who sing only the Koran, and serious
_marabouts_ almost always have their private musicians. One also
sees troupes of actors, usually Tunisians, who give small plays
interspersed with music and dancing. The performance goes on for
hours and hours, and the audience sits spellbound without uttering
a sound of approval or disapproval. Occasionally a comic scene
provokes laughter, but generally speaking a dramatic performance
is carried through in absolute silence.

The dancing is as varied as the music. It is usually carried out
by women, who start learning at a very youthful age. The _danse du
ventre_, which is essentially of the North, or of Turkish origin,
is decidedly ugly. It is, however, much appreciated and takes
endless practise to learn.

The dance of the Ouled Naïls, on which is based most of the other
dances, is very picturesque, and the movements of the hands, like
the wings of a hunting hawk, and the feet, are a delight to watch.

Occasionally men dance too; sometimes in the cafés with a woman
executing strange figures, but usually alone or with other men. One
of the finest exhibitions of this kind I ever saw was at Ghardaia
one warm evening in April.

A great fire of alfa grass had been lighted in the market-square
illuminating the unsymmetrical arches; masses of men in white
squatted all round, while above, on the flat roofs of the houses,
could be discerned rows and rows of veiled women peering down on
the scene below like ghostly gargoyles. The music was the _raïta_
and the _tam-tam_, and even in the open air the volume of sound
produced by the musicians was sufficient to fill the whole square.

Suddenly a dozen or so men rose, formed themselves into two lines
facing one another, and then majestically, with slow steps, they
advanced toward each other; when they met they hesitated and then
retreated. It was like the opening of a quadrille. At first it
was all very solemn, and the figures consisted mostly of slow
rhythmical steps, then as the music inspired them, their bodies
seemed to stiffen and their feet to move more rapidly. Suddenly
and simultaneously, as the _raïta_ broke into a wilder air,
the two groups stopped for a second and then, raising their arms,
brandished their sticks in the air.

Again they advanced, but this time much more quickly, and as they
met struck the sticks of the opposing group; back they retreated to
the original post, again they advanced, and, passing through the
other group, took up a place at the other end of the square. The
fire blazed up and lit up the faces shining in the flickering light
as they looked forward with bright, excited eyes.

A group of men detached themselves and started dancing alone;
they moved slowly round the group of spectators, then as the music
rose they went faster and faster until they were spinning in a mad
whirl round the fire. Faster, faster, faster, until, with a gasp,
a dancer fell in a state of exhaustion and another took his place.

And so the dancing went on; the few Europeans who were present
gradually slipped away, but long after I was in bed I could hear
away in the distance the skirl of the _raïta_, and I could imagine
those wild men whirling madly round and round the market-square.

Another form of music and dancing seen in Algeria, but much less
common than that which I have described above, is that carried out by
negroes. The fact that a man is black does not confer any lowering
mark on him in Algeria. He is not the common coarse nigger, but of
the Senegalese and Sudanese type, and probably a blood descendant
of the Numidians who ruled parts of the country before the Arab
invasions.

The dances these men, and sometimes the women, perform are remarkable
chiefly for the fact that the dancers and the orchestra are one
and the same thing. Six or eight persons will get up, among whom
one carries a drum and others two or three heavy cymbals and
an instrument like an enormous iron castanet. The dancers form a
compact circle and begin slowly chanting, accompanying their voices
with the drum and the cymbals. Then gradually the voices rise, and
with them the clashing of the instruments, until the whole develops
into a wild war-song which increases in speed at every bar. The black
men dance round and round, first on one foot and then on the other,
perspiration pouring off their dark foreheads, their eyes starting
out of their heads; nothing stops them; in fact, once they begin it
is impossible to quell the dance until exhaustion has done its work.

I remember once going to a party at a private house where eight of
these dancers, six men and two women, had come to perform. They
started, and it was a wonderful sight to see them gyrating round
the pillared court, with the setting of Arabs all round and the
stars shining down from above. But after an hour or so of this, the
audience got rather bored, and an attempt was made to get them to
stop; this was, however, impossible, and on, on they went. Finally
the host got angry, and with difficulty the performers were pushed
into the street, still dancing and quite oblivious of all about them.

Our party continued, and some hours later, when I was walking home,
I suddenly came upon the negroes still dancing. It is true that
only a few remained, but these went on and on with their terrible
chant, and on and on they whirled, unable to stop, unable to think,
until their bodies gave out and they fell upon the ground.

Yes, dancing and music in Algeria is varied, and its charm, though
an acquired taste, is something quite unlike anything else, and
takes hold of the senses in a most extraordinary way.



                              CHAPTER XIV

                               RELIGION


With sudden contrast, we turn our attention to the most important
problem in the daily life of the Arab— religion. Now, it is a
curious thing that in practically all European countries religion
has not much sway over the general masses, and that frequently
it is subject-matter for controversy and discord. Even among
those members of the community who are still faithful believers,
the church is not really interwoven in the hum of daily life. Not
so in Algeria. Every Arab who has not been degenerated by Europe
into atheism— and it must be admitted that there are very few
of these—believes in Allah, believes in Mohammed, in the world
to come, with eternal damnation or salvation. But not only does he
believe it to the extent of practising the religion in the mosque
as European believers do in the church, but he continues following
the precepts of the Faith in every moment of his life.

After living a while with the Arabs it comes as a revelation quite
unexpected, and it makes one wonder whether Mohammed, thirteen
hundred years ago, had any idea what effect his preaching would have
on his followers; probably not. He always strikes one as a man who
was almost forced into the path which he followed by circumstances
about him. However, these pages are not the place to raise this
question. What is certain is the immense change which swept over
North Africa when the Arab invasions began in the seventh century,
bringing with them all the doctrines of the new faith into a land
full of rival beliefs.

There is less difference in Algeria between that period and the
present than there was between the sixth century and the days of
Carthage in all its splendor, and whether we are discussing the
Arabs of the north or of the Sahara, or whether the Berbers of
the Kabyle Mountains or those of the Mzab, there is one expression
which covers them all:

“They are Mohammedans.”

Not all Mohammedans are of the same denomination, but they are much
less divided than the different sects in England, and all with the
same fervent belief:


 _La ilahah ill Allah, Mohammed Rasoul Allah._


There is no God but God, and Mohammed is his prophet.

Mohammedanism is, moreover, in itself a complete solution to all
the problems of life, both temporal and spiritual. It is not only
a teaching of religious principles, but also the framework of all
social laws, and a person who follows its precepts will have not
only a clean soul, but also a clean body.

The ablutions, the forbidden meats and wines, the many postures
taken during the prayer five times a day, were all invented with a
purpose. The Arab was dirty by nature; he was told to wash before
saying his prayers; in cases where water lacked, to clean himself
with sand. It was known that pork was bad for people living in
hot countries; it was forbidden. The laziness of the Oriental
is proverbial; physical exercises were devised for him in his
daily prayers before Mr. Sandow and his disciples thought of the
present-day training.

He was told not to frequent women of easy morals; knowing his nature,
the task was made less difficult by allowing him more than one wife,
while at the same time, realizing the inconsistency of human nature,
laws were provided which enabled him to free himself easily from
the bonds of marriage if he felt that it was necessary.

To make him rise early in the morning the first hour of prayer was
ordained before sunrise; in the middle of the day there are prayers,
which prevent a too-long siesta. Realizing that women in religion are
the cause of much trouble, they were excluded from the mosque and
from anything to do with its rites. Furthermore, remembering that
two great religions had passed before, there could be no question
of ignoring them. One therefore finds practically the whole of
the Old Testament in the Koran, as well as the coming of Jesus
(Aïssa). Here the belief stops and states that God substituted
another man for the Christ to be crucified, while Jesus went straight
up to heaven like Elijah. The Koran further states that Jesus will
come again at the day of judgment, but that Mohammed will not.

These doctrines completed what Judaism and Christianity had begun,
and made them stronger by the precept of “Equality of all men in
the fold and fierce hatred for all outside it.”

Talking casually to Arabs, it is hard to realize this hatred, but it
is there at all times. We are not merely Englishmen, or Frenchmen,
or Italians—we are infidels, we are unbelievers, we are not chosen
to go to Paradise. We shall not sit by the river under the shade of
the trees and be fed on delicious meat and drink wonderful wines
which do not intoxicate, while women go about unveiled and we are
married spiritually to those we love.

That is the great barrier between Mohammedans and all other
creeds, and, being one of the great principles of the religion,
is unsurmountable. The reward, the great reward of the Faithful is
paradise— for all others it is hell.

As a matter of fact, the picture drawn of the life to come for a
good Arab is very attractive, much more so than our rather vague
golden city we read of. All that has been forbidden on earth will
be permitted above, and the faith in this is absolute.

The number of Arabs who do not follow all the principles of the
religion is few. Even those who drink wine when guests are present
rarely do so when alone, while those who do carry it to excess
are usually very low characters. The origin of the interdiction of
intoxicants is said to be because once at Mecca the _imam_ leading
the prayer was drunk and he went through the ceremony all wrong,
with the result that all the followers did the same as he did.
Hence a sacrilege owing to wine-drinking, hence the forbidding
of its use among the Faithful. As evidence of the evil caused by
drinking the following story is told with much solemnity.

A Mohammedan was once caught by two unscrupulous scoundrels who
said they would kill him unless he agreed to do one of three things:
drink a bottle of wine, rob his father, or murder the _marabout_. The
poor man chose what he thought was the least of these evils and
drank the bottle of wine, with the result that he also robbed his
father and killed the _marabout_!

Prayers are said either collectively in the mosque before sunrise,
at noon, at three, at sunset, and at eight at night, when the
_muezzin_ comes out and calls the Faithful in that high-pitched
voice which is almost a chant, or else they are said individually.
If they are said in the mosque they are led by the _imam_, who
afterwards reads the Koran, and sometimes a kind of sermon based
on the Holy Book is given by the _mufti_.

The individual prayer can be said anywhere—in the house,
on the roof, in the street. It is done without any sort of
self-consciousness or ostentation. The man just turns away from his
daily task, faces Mecca, and goes through all the forms of prayer.
It is extraordinary to take an Arab on a starless night in the desert
and see him always turn instinctively to the East. At first it is
a little disconcerting for a European suddenly to see a member of
the party get up and start this performance; he feels that there
ought to be some awkward silence; but not at all—the chatter goes
on and the prayer returns and continues talking as if he had never
left his place.

Some people maintain that many Arabs say their prayers publicly just
in the same way as did the Pharisees of the Old Testament, and that
if they had to commune with God in private they would not do so. I
consider this quite a fallacy, and from the age of fifteen, when a
boy is supposed to know the Koran and therefore be able to learn his
prayers, they pray before the world without the smallest thought of
who is looking and who is not. The actual prayer is a fixed formula,
and when it is over the supplicant turns his head first to the right
and then to the left saying “The blessing of God and His mercy be
on thee.” These words are addressed to the two guardian angels
who accompany all Mohammedans on earth, the angel on the right
noting all good actions, the angel on the left recording all the bad.

After the prayer, which refers only to the greatness and goodness
of God, private blessings may be asked for, but it is not usual
to bring temporal matters into this private communion with the
Almighty. If the supplicant is to be recompensed on this earth it
is not necessary to remind God of what He has already ordained.

What seems so simple and right in this religion is the absence of
any sort of intermediary in the shape of priest or minister. The
good Mohammedan can observe the whole of his religion from the age
of fifteen until he dies without ever setting foot inside a mosque
or speaking to an _imam_. The mosques are all very simple indeed,
with very little decoration, as pictures and statues are forbidden.

The pilgrim who has been to Mecca and Medina is much respected,
and has the prefix _hadj_ (pilgrim) attached to his name. Yearly
ships from Algiers transport bands of Arabs who have saved up to
do this journey. There have been cases of men who have walked all
the way across Tripoli and Egypt to perform the rites at the Kaaba
and to see the tomb of the Prophet.

It would take too long in this book to go into the various divisions
or sects which have created themselves in the Mohammedan religion,
as in all other faiths. It will suffice to mention some of the
main groups:

The Sunnites are orthodox;

The Shiahs, followers of Ali;

The Ibadites, followers of Abd Allah ben Ibad;

The Sofrites, followers of Abd Allah ben Sofar;

The Kharedjites are dissenters.

It was this last form of religion which the Berbers accepted and
which is practised to this day in all their centers in Algeria.
These groups are divided and subdivided into some seventy sects
which it would require years of study to examine, and, unless
one is a specialist in this matter, are of little interest to the
average traveler.

What is interesting, however, is to read a well translated edition
of the Koran, with a short life of Mohammed. This will give more
insight into the religious side of Arab life than endless treatises
on the matter. And it would be a good thing if more of our soldiers
who come into contact with the Moslems all over the British Empire
were more acquainted with these details.

[Illustration: Women in the Cemetery, Algiers]

[Illustration: A Beggar Woman]

[Illustration: An Arab Tam-Tam Player]

At first the French did not grasp the significance of Islam in
their North African territories; now that they have, they use it
to advantage, and they give absolute liberty on these questions to
their subjects. Even the orders of the White Fathers and the White
Sisters do nothing to try to convert the Arab. They realize the
little good it would do and the general hostility it would create.
They therefore set a good example, teach the boys and girls how
to work and lead a clean life, and, if one or two lean toward
Christianity, they help them; but it is rare, very rare to find
converts.

The Arab dislikes domination, but he realizes the advantages brought
by a civilized race who give him roads, laws, railways, commerce; yet
he will not tolerate his private life or religion being encroached
upon, and if this liberty is granted him he will accept all the rest.

Unfortunately there are missionaries, I hastily add well-meaning
missionaries, chiefly from England, who have settled in North Africa,
as they have in other Moslem countries, in order to convert the
natives. They are too few to do any real harm, but they are wasting
their time and their money on people who consider that their own
religion is far superior to any other and who see no necessity to
change it—a religion which preaches charity and which carries it
out, for it is by the rich that the poor live.

“After all,” said an Arab chief one day, “our religion is
six hundred years younger than yours, and therefore based on later
experience, but, even if it wasn’t, what would you say if a band
of Arabs, chiefly women, landed in England and tried to interfere
with your faith?”

There is no answer. It is folly of the well meaning, who would do
better to turn their attention to their own people, who as a whole
do not believe, or, at any rate, do not practise their beliefs in the
same conscientious manner as do the followers of Mohammed in Algeria.



                              CHAPTER XV

                         RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCES


Apart from the daily prayers there are various feasts which are
celebrated regularly by all good Mohammedans. They do not come at
regular dates as, owing to the fact that the Moslem year is lunar,
all the months begin ten days earlier each year.

In order of rotation these feasts are as follows: Race el Ame,
new year; Aschana, the tenth day of the first month, sometimes
known as the Feast of Moses; those who observe it are promised ten
times of all they have; Makante, or Mouloud, the birth of Mohammed;
Aïd Serrir, which is celebrated at the end of Ramadan or Mohammedan
Lent, and the Aïd el Kebir. The most important are the Aïd Serrir,
or Lesser Feast, in opposition to Aïd el Kebir, the Greater Feast
or Feast of the Sheep. As a matter of fact the Aïd Serrir causes
more rejoicing and lasts three days, probably because it succeeds
the Ramadan.

The austerity of this Ramadan fast has given cause to much
controversy; it is not for us to discuss its merits, but until one
has seen the people actually observing the rites it is difficult
to realize how strictly they are kept. The Ramadan starts the day
after the _mufti_ or _kadi_ in some definite center has seen the
new moon of the season with the naked eye, or, in the event of a
cloudy evening, on the report of some trustworthy person in some
other place. Far away in the South the local _muftis_ or _kadis_
are permitted to judge the moment for themselves, but generally
speaking the fast starts at the same time all over Algeria.

It ends as soon as the next new moon is visible, and sometimes,
owing to bad weather, the inhabitants of a town may fast one or two
days longer than people who live where the night has been clear.
From the moment the decree is sent abroad that the Ramadan has
begun all believers must observe the fast for thirty consecutive
days. During this period they must neither eat nor drink nor smoke
from two hours before the dawn until after sunset.

The time-table on the opposite page published for the Ramadan of
1926, which took place in April, gives some idea of the length of
time passed without nourishment or water:

The decisive moment of the evening is that at which the _imam_ can
no longer distinguish a white hair from a black, held at arm’s
length. A gun is then fired, cries of joy rise from the populace,
and the first meal is hungrily attacked. Those who are out on the
plain pull out a few dates which they munch until they get home.
From the firing of the gun they can eat and drink as much water or
milk as they like until two hours before dawn. As a general rule
they begin with a big dinner. Then they rest, after which they go
out and visit their friends or walk about the streets till midnight,
when they return home and have a second big meal followed by bed. At
first sight this penitence may not seem rigorous. Perhaps not for
those rich men who can convert the night into the day; but to the
average worker it is a terrible ordeal.

Fifteen hours or so with nothing to eat and nothing to drink!
This last privation is especially trying when the Ramadan falls
in the summer months and when consequently the period of fasting
is longer.

What is most astonishing is to see how strictly the rules are
observed, and even those who in ordinary times take wines and
spirits are not only completely sober for thirty days, but do not
touch any intoxicant for some weeks before the fast begins. Some men
suffer physically a good deal and their faces become pinched; others
who are heavy smokers develop jumpy nerves. Almost all become bad
tempered and easily offended and they work as little as possible,
their only incentive to do anything being the necessity to have
liquid cash to purchase their new clothes for the feast of the last
day. Even this does not rouse them much, and they usually end by
selling some of their household goods or their wives’ jewels to
supply the necessary funds. It is a great time for the Jews and rich
Arab merchants, who buy up all they can at low prices to resell to
the tourists.

[Illustration: calendar]

If by any chance the fast is not observed according to letter it
does not count, and it must be caught up after the Ramadan. For
instance, during this period a man may not touch his wife; if he
sees a woman and she creates in his mind any sort of emotion, it is
sufficient for the day’s fast to be considered as unaccomplished.
If he touches the palm of a woman’s hand, he can not go to the
mosque until he has washed all over. All is a matter of conscience,
and it would be quite easy for any one to retire to the privacy of
his room and eat a piece of bread or drink some water; no one would
be any the wiser, but it is a certain fact that it is not done.
Those few who do not observe the fast are thoroughly despised.

When the next new moon has been observed a final gun is fired and the
people rise early in the morning dressed in their new clothes to go
to the mosque. The Grande Prière takes place in all its solemnity,
and for an hour robed figures bow and prostrate themselves in regular
cadence. When it is over every one streams into the street and hand
in hand marches leisurely up and down the main ways. As friends or
relations meet the brotherly kiss is exchanged; jokes are passed
and gaiety reigns supreme.

The girls from the Quarter come out in all the gaudiness of their
multi-colored clothes; their jewels glint in the sunlight contrasting
with the white burnouses of the men.

At eleven the _muezzin_ calls to prayer from the minaret; the more
conscientious return to the mosque before the first midday meal
since the Ramadan moon.

The poorest household has scraped together enough to have something
extra to eat, and among the rich the meal is interminable. In the
afternoon every one is out again wandering hand in hand through
gardens and alleys, or sitting under the palm trees chatting and
smoking—chiefly smoking. Toward dusk the city takes on another
aspect. In the reserved quarter the streets are thronged with
soldiers and nomads; the strident skirl of the _raïta_ with the
beat of the _tam-tam_, and the dances, which have practically ceased
during the fast, rebegin. It is a gay spectacle, and it makes one
realize the joys of forbidden fruits.

In the European quarter too the younger renegades are flocking,
consuming excessive quantities of forbidden wine and beer. As the
night draws on, voices are raised, some in laughter, some in song,
others in anger, and it is rare for the feast to pass without several
nasty knife wounds, while broken heads are numerous. After all,
the fast has lasted long enough, the Ramadan must be celebrated,
and he who can not contain his emotions must suffer the quick flash
of the dagger or the clenched fist of the followers of the Prophet
liberated from the fast.

The Aïd el Kebir, which is the great feast of the year, falls two
months later. On this day every one who can afford it is supposed
to kill a sheep and divide it among the family. Those who are very
rich kill several sheep and give them to those who can not afford
it. The belief is that when the soul goes to enter paradise it
will have to follow a narrow path which consists of a razor-like
blade. The soul whose mortal self has killed many sheep will be met
by the slaughtered ones, who apparently have no thought of reprisals,
and will be carried across the knives. The gratitude of the sheep
seems a little unexpected.

The other feasts, such as the Birth of the Prophet, New Year’s
Day, the Aschana, are not observed with any great feasting. Candles
are lit in the mosques, the Grande Prière is said collectively,
and a little more food than usual is eaten.

Quite apart from the orthodox or dissenting religious observances
associated with the mosque, there are other rites, which are really
private affairs, observed by independent groups of men who venerate
some particular saint. They are really little clubs, and though all
its members are strict Mohammedans belonging to one of the sects,
believing in all the prophets, they are very proud of the particular
saint whom they venerate.

There are the followers of Sidi Abd-el-Kader, the great _marabout_,
second only to the Prophet; of Sidi-el-Hadj-Aïssa, who founded
Laghouat; of Sidi Abd er Rahmane, patron of Algiers, and many
others. Twice a week these members of the clubs meet, either in the
private mosque dedicated to the _marabout_, or, if it is fine, before
the edifice erected in his name out-of-doors. Here they drink tea,
which is either provided by themselves or is often sent by people
of the town who wish to find grace in the eyes of the saint.

The men sit round in a circle and sing religious songs in unison
while the time is kept by a man with a tambourine. On a clear
moonlight night it is a most impressive sight to see the earnest
faces of the singers as they sit rigidly intoning the long verses
of the chant, which is repeated in a chorus, rising finally into a
wild rhythm until it stops suddenly and unexpectedly. Visitors are
rare on these evenings, and they sit apart with their shoes off;
women occasionally come, but they are heavily veiled and are hidden
away in a corner.

The actual tombs of _marabouts_ are much venerated, as are also
the little domes erected at places where some holy man has rested;
candles are lit and offerings made in their names. Though actual
sacrificing of beasts does not take place in the way in which we
associate it in the Old Testament, there are many who vow that if
they are granted some favor they will kill a sheep in the name of
the _marabout_ invoked. When the sheep is killed it is cooked and
eaten by the supplicant and by any poor friends who like to come
in. Occasionally a bullock is slaughtered to bring rain.

There are other beliefs which would be considered by Europeans
to be mere superstitions, but they so form part of the religion
that practically every one admits them,—the power of spells,
the evil eye, the charms against disease. A woman with a headache
will wear a piece of paper with words written by a _marabout_
upon it, and believe that it will remove the pain. In fact, into
all the daily life religion is woven until it becomes part of the
people’s existence, and from the prayer said in public to the
abstinence from wine one can not keep away from it. Its simplicity,
its absence of all unnecessary intermediaries in communion with
the Almighty, make it very easy to follow. Its laws which, with
all their sternness, are yet adapted to the frailty of mankind,
seem to give one an assurance of its sincerity. Its recognition of
all the prophets we know of gives it a feeling of broad-mindedness,
and the picture of its future is easy to grasp.

There is one God and He is alone. God is all-powerful. “What He
has destined will take place,” and in their belief of the _mektoub_
the secret of the Arabs’ peace of mind is found. Nothing can alter
fate. And if things go wrong it is no good saying, “If I had done
this, or done that, I should have avoided this.” No; “Allah
willed it, and the puny human can do nothing against _mektoub_.”



                              CHAPTER XVI

                   “MEKTOUB” AND OTHER SUPERSTITIONS


Having now seen the principles of the faith as set out by the Koran,
we must turn our attention to the more superstitious side, which,
as in all faiths, has grown up with the course of time.

As stated before, the first great fundamental point which dominates
the whole of Islam and makes it unlike other beliefs is summed up
in that word _mektoub_—“It is written.” Generally speaking,
every Mohammedan is a fatalist, and believes that nothing can occur
which is not ordained; there is no free will and all is in the hands
of Allah. There are, however, certain philosophers who discuss this
point and who say that it is wrong to lay every evil action on the
back of the _mektoub_.

For instance, they say that a man who deliberately buys a bottle
of wine and drinks it has no right to say that God predestined
this. These philosophers are, however, in the minority, and ninety
per cent of the Arabs believe that they are powerless to avoid what
is fated.

The Arabs say, “When God created the world he took a handful
of dust in either hand, cast it to right and to the left. The
dust to the right was destined to be people who would always be
happy and inherit paradise; the dust to the left only contained
woes and eternal damnation.” “God created you, you and all
your actions,” Koran Sourate, XXXVII. That is to say that all,
good and bad, are decided and determined by the Almighty. Sins are
predestined and are divided into two categories, the greater and the
lesser. The greater comprise theft, adultery, usury, wine-drinking,
false witness. The smaller are the weaknesses of human nature, but,
whatever they may be, man is destined to commit them, and nothing
can prevent him from so doing.

That is why Arabs take life so calmly, never hurry, or get into
unnecessary tempers when things go wrong. They firmly believe that
what is written is written, and that no power but God can alter it.
Taking them as a whole, it makes them seem very happy, and it would
appear to be the only solution to the worries of modern life.

From this point of view are developed many other beliefs, and it is
the basis of the strength of the Moslem faith. Mohammed, though a
great religious genius and a reformer, was not a theologist, and
it is even curious to note the lack of dogma in the Koran. His
great merit was the way in which he created a great and living
organization. His successors developed the theological side of the
matter, but, if one examines the Koran itself, one is struck by the
absence of mysticism. It is, in itself, more a book of laws, such as
the Old Testament. The whole of the theology is really compressed
into two passages occurring in Sourates II. and IV., which, summed
up, convey that the true Mohammedan who wishes to be saved must
believe in God; the prophets or envoys of God, with Mohammed as the
greatest; the angels, the inspired books—that is to say the Bible,
with the Koran as the most important; and the Day of Judgment.

They further believe in heaven and hell, which are depicted very
roughly as places of happiness and torment. Above hell is a bridge
as narrow as a hair and as sharp as a knife-blade, across which the
souls of the dead departed must pass to enter heaven. The sinners
slip and fall into hell, while the righteous cross safely with
the aid of the sheep into heaven. Mankind is divided into three
categories—those who deny Mohammedanism are destined to eternal
fire; those who believe in one God, but who, being sinners, pass
through a state of purgatory before going into Paradise; those few
strict Mohammedans who go direct to heaven.

Hell is very hot; there is nothing to eat but _dari_, the bitter
fruit of a thorny desert bush, and only boiling water to drink.
Heaven is a glorious garden where youth always remains and where
the blessed lie on carpets beside ever-flowing streams beneath
the shade of fruit-trees, drinking a delicious wine which does not
intoxicate, while young girls, ever virgins, sit beside the water
and live in a state of contemplative happiness. In other words,
hell is an accentuation of all the hardships of life in the desert,
while heaven promises all those things which an Arab has never seen
on earth.

Quite apart from the Koran, and apparently contrary to its
principles, is the belief in saints. The origin of this cult is
difficult to find, as the whole basis of the faith is that there
is only one God. It is, however, generally supposed that it is
a relic of other religions which existed prior to the spread of
Islam. This theory is rather confirmed by the fact that more saints
and _marabouts_ exist in North Africa, where the Carthaginians and
the Romans held such long sway, than in any other Mohammedan country.
Other people will say that the worship of saints is necessary
owing to the inexpressible greatness of God—his distance from
all things human, which necessitates some kind of intermediary;
but this has little foundation to stand on, for even among the most
superstitious Mohammedans, who are always invoking some holy man,
you will always hear them murmur during their prayer, “There is
no God but Allah.”

The veneration of saints is in reality a respect for the life of
the person concerned. It may be that his asceticism and his charity
have raised him above others; it may be that his exploits in the
name of Islam have made him famous; it may merely be the fact
that he is easier to visualize than God—the fact remains that he
is venerated and that his aid is invoked in times of trouble. But
whether he be merely respected as an example of what a true believer
should be or whether he be actually called upon as a protector,
he is not considered as divine, nor in any way approaching the one
and only God.

Apart, however, from what we call superstitions of the actual faith,
there are countless others which do not come into the religion, and
which, while all have the same origin, differ according to countries.

A few words have already been said on this subject, but it is felt
that, in order really to understand the Arab, the question must be
further developed.

The belief in spells and witchcraft seems a contradiction in a people
wrapped up in religion, but it will never enter their heads that
bringing supernatural powers to bear on the matters of this world,
be it for good or for bad, is placing oneself on the same footing
with the Almighty.

They maintain that, as angels exist, djinns and other creatures
of the underworld are just as comprehensible, and can be invoked
in the same way to carry out requests. Again and again one will
meet people who will tell you that dragons live, and that there
are people who have seen them and have spoken to them! All sorts
of animals are supposed to bring good or evil luck, and amulets
with the feet of lizards, the feathers of the hoopoe, the tooth of
a jackal, can be seen attached round the necks of babies.

The Koran is always placed in the cradle of the newly born, and
there are people who keep pages of the Holy Book to hire out to
those who can not afford to buy one.

It would take far too long to go into all the details of these
superstitions which are held in reverence all over North Africa, and,
though at first sight they may seem to be much the same as those told
in more civilized countries, they are not really believed elsewhere
to the same extent as in North Africa. I will give an example of
a case of witchcraft which occurred only the other day in a family
which I knew intimately, a family educated and acquainted with the
way of the modern world.

A man tiring of his wife and wishing to marry some one else who
refused to share the home, divorced his first wife, who was devoted
to him. She made no protest, but, with the aid of certain learned
_talebs_, set about weaving spells about her ex-husband. The night
of his wedding the _taleb_ said to the woman:

“Prepare a great feast for all your friends, with music and
dancing, and at midnight your husband will return to you.”

She complied with his instructions, and at the midnight hour there
was a banging on the door, and the husband in a dazed state appeared,
imploring his wife’s forgiveness. She at first refused to see him,
and it was not until he had returned a third time that she allowed
him in.

I made an investigation of the case, and I talked to those involved,
who all corroborated the story. The husband told me that, just as
he was about to see his new bride, he felt himself impelled toward
his first wife. He struggled against the feeling, but in vain,
and before he knew where he was he had left his wedding and was
before the door of his late parents-in-law’s house. All this
was explained, of course, by the working of the spell, and any
contradiction of this was considered as the disbelief of an infidel;
the facts were there, and there was nothing further to be said.

I have known cases where some one has desired to spread discord
in a household, and in a short space of time the discord has
arisen without the mischief-maker speaking a word to the parties
concerned. I have seen men commit the greatest follies and trace
them to the intention of some other person who has invoked the aid
of a djinn.

To my mind the explanation is hypnotism—the effect of strong
will on the mind of some weaker person; perhaps auto-suggestion,
but certainly mesmerism carried out secretly.

This, combined with the absolute belief in fate, assures that
thorough absence of any sort of free will which makes the weaving of
spells easy, and it is difficult to make even the better educated
Arabs scoff at its possibilities. All is predestined, and the
casting of spells therefore can not be avoided.

What is the good of going into the matter further? It would only
lead to unnecessary controversy and a disbelief in God’s power.
_Mektoub!_



                             CHAPTER XVII

                             ABD-EL-KADER


It would take too long to cast even a cursory glance over the many
holy men venerated in Algeria, and it will suffice merely to touch
on the two most important. Some confusion appears to exist in the
minds of many as to who Abd-el-Kader really is. The name is spoken of
all over North Africa, and is often discussed at cross-purposes. The
fact is that there are two Abd-el-Kaders, both of great importance
to the Arabs, but as different one from the other as possible.

The first, whose _kouba_, or shrine, can be seen in practically
every town all over North Africa, and whose full name is
Abd-el-Kader-el-Djelali, was born in the twelfth century A. D. at
Djel near Bagdad. God said of him:

“If I had not sent Mohammed before thee to earth, I should have
chosen thee as my prophet.”

He is, therefore, venerated as only second to the founder of the
Faith. He was apparently a man of proverbial goodness, who spent
his life in protecting the poor and the oppressed, whose broadness
of mind extended to listening to the prayers of Jews, as well as
to Christians, and who was the most merciful of all saints. The
miracles attributed to him are innumerable, and the legends would
fill volumes, but to the practical mind the greatest miracle seems
to have been the range of his travels. Quite apart from the places
he visited in other countries, he seems to have sojourned in every
center of importance in Algeria.

With his roan horse he stopped in the cities of the coast, in the
villages of the mountains, in the oases of the Sahara, doing good
to those about him, helping those in distress who invoked him at
great distance. Space seems to have meant nothing to him, and in
every place where he rested a _kouba_ was erected in his honor,
and thither the faithful flock regularly and light candles in
the shrine and pray for his blessings, while on fine nights they
congregate and sing his deeds.

It is said that his death was caused by God selecting him to suffer
three-quarters of the diseases which fall yearly on the earth,
and that, when suffering and near to death, the angels came and
placed him between the third and fourth heavens, for the Koran says:

“God created the seven heavens, and placed them one above the
other.”

From this point of vantage Abd-el-Kader remains, and watches over
the sufferings of the Faithful.

The other Abd-el-Kader, already mentioned earlier in this book,
was a no less famous character than his predecessor, the _marabout_
after whom he was named. The son of Mai-ed-Din, who claimed direct
descent from the Prophet, he was born in the year 1808, and when
quite a boy made a pilgrimage to Mecca. During this pilgrimage it
is recounted that an angel in the form of a Numidian appeared to
Mai-ed-Din and prophesied that one day his son would reign over
all North Africa. The boy was intelligent, and spent much of his
time studying and interpreting the Koran; and when, therefore,
the French landed at Sidi Ferruch in 1830, he felt that his day
was at hand. His father had been appointed leader of the Holy War,
but it was felt that he had not sufficient personality nor prestige
to carry the Faithful to victory, and, remembering the prophecy of
the dusky angel, Abd-el-Kader was elected _emir_, and made his solemn
entry into Mascara on November 25, 1832.

For the next fifteen years his military career is one of the most
remarkable in history. His successes were no doubt slightly due
to the ever-changing principles of the government in Paris, but
a man of smaller personality would not have succeeded in not only
holding at bay, but in defeating an army containing veterans of the
Napoleonic campaigns and equipped with all the modern implements
of war. Furthermore, he was an able diplomatist, and employed all
kinds of intrigue to compromise with the French when he felt that
he could not meet them successfully with the sword.

His renowned piety and his descent from Mohammed raised him in the
eyes of the Faithful to a position above all his followers, and
one of his greatest achievements was the uniting of all the tribes
of Algeria in a common cause. Even when reverses lost him some of
his adherents, he was always able to gather them together again at
the most critical moment and turn upon his astonished enemy, who
thought that his end had come. General after general was sent in his
pursuit, but returned with the same tale to tell: an elusive enemy,
all mounted, which retreated before an advancing column until it was
exhausted or on ground suitable for their maneuvering, then a rapid
encircling movement, wild attacks on horseback, and the destruction
of the expedition. The French would then try pacific measures and
make a truce. Abd-el-Kader accepted these overtures, and employed
wise emissaries, which allowed him time to reconstruct for further
victories. Now and then he was badly beaten, and, evading capture,
would flee with a few faithful followers to the mountains or across
the Moroccan border. The tribes which fought for him would disappear,
disowning their leader, and for a time there would be peace. Then
the French would make some blunder, expose some lonely garrison to
attack, and the _emir_ would be up and at them. One small victory
would be sufficient to bring all the diffident tribes flocking
about his standard again, and the wearying war would recommence.

[Illustration: Arab Band and Dancer about to Perform in a
Southern Town]

[Illustration: Pilgrimage to One of the Shrines of Abd-el-kader]

[Illustration: Arabs with Flutist Waiting to See the Caravans
Going North]

What strikes one most in all his career of victories, of reverses,
of days of triumph, of moments of desertion, is the perseverance
and the faith of the man. At no time was he sure of his people, at
all times he was certain of the fate that awaited him at the hands
of his enemies, and yet he continued fearlessly to the end. His
mobility is almost unbelievable. In a country where roads were
unheard of, where the land was overgrown with thick brush, among
towering mountains and flooded rivers, he moved with the utmost
rapidity. His victories at Mascara in the far west, at Constantine
in the east, in the plain of the Metidja, and at Aïn Mahdi in the
south give a slight idea of the enormous area covered.

Moreover, it was not merely an army of lightly armed horsemen
who swept over the land behind the youthful general. His _smala_
consisted of thousands of camels, with tents and jewelry and
armories, and the families of all the great chiefs, who, though
they were kept well in the rear, were always present to celebrate
the victories.

It was finally Bugeaud, the veteran of Soult’s army in the
Peninsular War, who succeeded in conquering Abd-el-Kader. The
old Marshal realized that it was useless to employ the methods of
orthodox war against this elusive enemy, and he therefore decided
to create mobile columns to pursue the rebels. In the year 1843
a terrible blow was dealt to the _emir’s_ prestige. His great
_smala_, which had now become a sort of perambulating capital, with
schools to teach the children and _kadis_ to administer justice,
was surprised by the Duc d’Aumale near Taguine and completely
destroyed.

In spite of this, however, the struggle was kept up, and, after
taking refuge in Morocco for a short time, Abd-el-Kader reappeared
again. But, though he won a few more victories, his end was near,
and in December, 1847, he asked for peace, specifying, however,
that the French, in return for his surrender, should allow him to
retire to some other Mohammedan country. His terms were accepted, but
unfortunately were not kept by the Government of Louis Philippe. He
was taken to France, and imprisoned first of all at Toulon and then
at Pau, and finally at the Château d’Amboise. Finally, in 1852,
Louis Napoleon, then Prince President, visited the exiled _emir_
and granted his wishes. He was transported to Damascus, where he
lived in peaceful retirement until his death in 1883.

These pages are too short to go into all the detail of the
astonishing career of one who wished to be the hero of Arab
independence in Algeria, and to those whom the subject interests
let me recommend the excellent work of Colonel Paul Azan.

Some people have wished to compare Abd-el-Kader to Abd-el-Krim of the
present day. It would take too long to discuss these points here,
but it can be safely said that there is no comparison possible. In
the first place, the caliber of the two men is very different; the
intelligence of the hero of a hundred years ago was far superior
to that of his Moroccan cousin, and, though possibly Abd-el-Krim
may have had the same dreams as those which inspired Abd-el-Kader,
he never held the same prestige in North Africa. Abd-el-Kader was
alone, with ill-armed followers fighting against a trained army,
and beating them in the open over an area as large as France,
while Abd-el-Krim, supported by all kinds of European adventurers,
merely held at bay the armies of two European nations where the
conformation of the ground made his task comparatively easy.

Abd-el-Kader will always remain a great figure, not only in the
history of North Africa but also in that of Islam, as one who
defended the Faith against the invasion of the infidel and who died
a friend of his former enemies.

This work is not a history nor a political treatise, but merely a
handbook for tourists and students of the country, and the name of
Abd-el-Kader has only been used to clear up any misunderstanding
which may arise when the name is raised: the one Abd-el-Kader,
saint and reformer; the other warrior and defender of Islam.



                             CHAPTER XVIII

                            ARAB EDUCATION


Generally speaking the Arab of Algeria is uneducated, and though he
is lazy, this lack of education is not fundamentally his fault. In
the first place, the instruction he obtains from his own people is
singularly primitive. The Koran decrees that all children shall
be taught their religion; at the time of its compilation this
involved reading and writing of Arabic, but as in Algeria the
original pure language has disappeared, and its place has been
taken by this mixture of Berber and other tongues which have crept
into it during the course of the various invasions, its object as
a channel of education has disappeared.

The language of the Koran has, however, not changed in the least,
with the result that to read the Holy Book an Arab must learn a
completely new language, richer perhaps than any other in the world
and full of grammatical rules which take time to fix in the mind.

It stands to reason, therefore, that the number of people who can
talk this language are in the great minority, but the order of the
Koran must be obeyed. What, therefore, is the result?

A little boy is sent to the local _taleb_ or Arab teacher at the age
of seven, and he is supposed to remain there until he is fifteen
or sixteen. Here he learns the Koran in the old tongue by heart,
reciting in chorus with the other pupils the verses and chapters
without the smallest idea what he is saying. Occasionally he finds
a teacher who will take the trouble to explain the scripture and
give a few comments on what he is learning, but usually the lad
leaves his school with the Koran engraved on his mind like some
incomprehensible poem. Naturally he forgets all this very quickly,
and though his family teach him his prayers, which are extracted from
the Book and are translated, this is all he knows of Arabic. The
rest of the sense of his religion is picked up by hearsay, and it
may seem astonishing to a stranger to note how much he does know
about the laws of the Prophet. It is not, however, as astonishing
as might be supposed if one realizes what I have said before,
that the whole of his daily life is interwoven with religion, and
that if he did not know all this it would be just as if a European
remained all his life ignorant of the simplest laws of his country.

The girls are not taught anything by the _taleb_, as, though the
Koran implies that all children should attend the school, the Arabs
consider that if their daughters were thus educated they might get
to know too much, and as an old _kadi_ once said to me, “A woman
who could read and write would find it too easy to communicate with
her lovers.”

At home a few have to say the various prayers, but usually their
only instruction consists in weaving burnouses and carpets. They
also are instructed in the art of cooking; their apprenticeship on
these lines is very thorough, and they would beat any professional
in a carpet-making competition. Their cooking is, of course,
entirely Arab, and is often excellent, especially the pastry and
the cakes. The rolling of the _kous-kous_ is their speciality, and
though in European households only men act as cooks, they have to
hand over the preparation of the _kous-kous_ to women.

It will be seen, therefore, that as far as the Arab teaching goes,
little boys and girls of an Arab family are practically ignorant of
anything except the Koran by heart and household duties. There is,
however, a French law which orders all parents to send their male
children to the local school. This law is enforced more or less
according to its locality. Generally speaking, in the north the
children are sent to school as the parents realize the benefit
gained by a knowledge of the Roumis’ affairs; the Kabyles are
an exception, and they do all they can to escape from this foreign
imposition.

In the south, too, education is avoided by the nomads, for no
natural dislike, but merely because the parents of the children
consider that they are more useful at home helping them with their
work than in learning to read and write. As, however, there is a
law about school-attending, it would seem difficult to evade it,
and whereas in the case of the nomads it is quite an easy matter,
the people of the oases have to try to get round the schoolmaster.
This seems incredible at first unless one knows the mentality of
the French _fonctionnaire_ far away in the desert. Isolated from
his kith and kin and living on small pay, he does not feel really
bound to educate all the little wanderers who, he knows, will not
profit by his labor.

Those who do attend school are taught to read and write, geography,
French history, and a little arithmetic. They usually leave their
studies at fourteen and remember nothing a few years after, except
the reading and writing. Those who stay on can develop their studies
until they reach a standard which permits them to go up for the local
examination enabling them to get small scholarships in secondary
schools or at Lycées. Those who do very well are educated free at
the École Normale, and on leaving are posted as teachers in the
French schools. For others there is the Medersa and all the legal
situations mentioned in a previous chapter.

These pupils have to learn literary Arabic at the local school, and
on this one subject they are, generally speaking, very thoroughly
educated.

Quite apart from the official masters, there are the White Fathers
and White Sisters. These good people have posts in all the far-flung
posts of the French colonies, and their devotion to duty is an
example to all. Founded by Cardinal Lavigerie about 1865, their work
in North Africa is beyond all praise, and they have done more to
pacify the country than any soldiers or politicians. They do not try
to convert their pupils, but teach them some trade or occupation,
at the same time instilling into their minds principles of good
living and moral obligations. The White Fathers produce some
wonderful leather work from their workshops, and the Sisters’
carpets are the best examples of Arab workmanship one can find.
They also run a small school where they teach all elementary matters,
including religion. The Arab children do not usually attend these
classes but the Jews do. I have talked to Jewish parents on this
apparent contradiction of their principles, but they have replied
that the teaching of the Sisters is so much superior to that of the
lay schools that they prefer their children to receive it, and the
parents can always counteract at home any of the Christian doctrines.

The Lycées in Algiers, and for that matter in France, are open
to all Arabs who like to pay to send their sons there. Some Arab
chiefs make a point of doing so, but it is noticed that the boys
do not really reap the benefits of this education but return to
their homes without much more knowledge than their brothers who
have studied in the local schools, and with all the vices of the
Europeans with whom they have come in contact.

What does strike an Englishman is the enormous proportion of
Arabs who talk fluent French. In India it is the officer and the
official who have to learn Urdu to make themselves understood among
the natives; in Algeria it is the native who must learn French.
This is carried to such an extent that in some of the _communes
mixtes_ of the north the little Arab boys are not learning their
own language as a channel of conversation.

The south is different, as only a few nomads can say a word of
French, but in time the language of the conqueror will impose
itself into the farthest recesses of the Sahara. It is another
example of the results obtained by an administration which at first
sight seems a contradiction to all sense, and which yet produces
wonderful results.



                              CHAPTER XIX

                         SPORT AMONG THE ARABS


The Arab who has not become softened by life in European towns
thinks more of sport than of anything else. His greatest ambition
is to own a horse, and the possession of a breech-loading gun is a
dream he rarely realizes. With his old muzzle-loading blunderbuss,
however, he does wonderful shooting, and rams down the charge with
amazing rapidity.

Game of all kinds abounds in Algeria—partridge, hares, woodcock,
bustard, pigeons, quail, wild boar, gazelle, moufflon, and occasional
panthers in the mountains. I will discuss the various methods
of shooting the animals as employed by the Arabs, as, with rare
exceptions, sport in the country is organized by them. Small game
is either walked up or driven; usually driven, as the areas are
so wide and open that it is difficult to approach within range of
the birds. Hares can be walked, and they make very pretty shots as
they dart round the tufts of alfa; the bustard seems to be a bulky
target and does not appear to fly very fast, but is not too easy
to hit. Dogs are taken out, but they are badly trained, and it is
preferable to leave them at home and rely on native boys to pick
up the game.

The most interesting way of hunting the small game in the south is
mounted, with hawks. The breed is a kind of small falcon, and unlike
those trained in India and other countries, which once captured
are kept as long as they can fly, these hawks of North Africa are
caught in the autumn and are released again in the spring as soon
as the molting season begins. What is still more curious is that
the same birds are found again the following year by the falconers,
with their young, to be trained for the first time. A hawk is an
expensive luxury, and costs four or five hundred francs to buy, while
a falconer must be mounted, clothed, fed, and paid a salary. But
it is a noble sport, and perhaps one of the most picturesque in
the world.

A meeting-place is fixed, and the party rides out in twos and threes,
or, in the case of the rich, send on their horses, and motor there in
comfort. When every one is assembled a long line is made, converging
at the two extremities so as almost to make three sides of a square;
the falconers, with the birds, capped, perching on their turbans or
shoulders, ride in the center. The horsemen slowly advance. Suddenly
there is a shout—a hare has got up; the line steadies its pace,
for it is against all rules in any way to hunt the hare until the
falcon has got to work. This does not take long, however, for in a
second a bird is uncapped and is soaring rapidly up into the air,
a second bird has followed it, perhaps a third.

Up they go, flying swiftly above the hunted beast. Suddenly the
first falcon swoops down toward the earth, then up again. He has
missed, but before the hare has got over this first escape the
second falcon comes down; if he misses, the third is there; and,
with cries of delight, the Arabs ride up to see the prey held firmly
in the falcon’s talons as he pecks savagely at the head.

All this may take five minutes or half an hour. If the hare gets a
good start or if the falcon does not see it, at once there is gallop
across country, driving the hare in as straight a line as possible
by hemming him in on either flank. It is advised in this case not to
try to guide the horse, but to let it pick its way among the tufts
and holes in the mad pursuit across the rough ground. Many hawks
are often loosed, and one may see eight in the air at the same time.

The prettiest sight, I think, is to see a hawk tackling a
bustard. The bird gets up heavily, and at first flies low, apparently
slowly, but not too slowly for the hawk, whose wings twinkle high
up in the sky. After a minute or two the bustard decides to rise;
in doing so it loses distance, and the hawk, at the critical moment,
stoops and with a graceful upward movement seems just to skim over
the large bird’s back, turning on itself again like an aeroplane
looping. There is a little shower of gray feathers, the bustard
seems to stagger, and then spins down to earth, while the falcon
remains high above, marking the place where lies the body.

More often than not, the quarry gets away, and it is then a little
difficult to gather in the hawks. The falconers, with loud cries,
wave the carcass of a dead hare round their heads until the birds,
one by one, return and are capped till the next hunt.

The shooting of bigger game is contrary to all British ideas of
sport. The art of stalking is practically unknown.

The wild boar which infests the Atlas range, and especially the
mountains of the coast, is driven through the thick undergrowth
and killed with a shotgun at short range.

The gazelle of the Sahara is hunted in different ways. The most
common method is on horseback. A party of five or six will ride
out on to the plain where gazelles are known to be pasturing. As
soon as the animals are sighted the horsemen approach cautiously,
endeavoring to place themselves on the flank of the herd. The
moment the hunters are seen, up go the heads of the gazelles, and
in a second there is a wild stampede. At the same time the horses
leap forward and the pursuit begins.

If the preliminary maneuvering has been well carried out the line
of horsemen will be galloping one behind the other parallel to the
gazelles, and little by little the distance separating the hunters
from their quarry is lessened.

Suddenly as the leading horseman comes within range he drops the
reins on his horse’s neck, raises his gun and fires. His companions
follow suit and an intermittent broadside continues until the herd
breaks up into terrified groups fleeing in all directions.

The party halts, retainers who have been following hurry up and cut
the throats of the dead gazelles, as even in sport the laws of the
Prophet must be observed.

It is an exhilarating sport but it needs a little practise to hit
anything when both hunters and hunted are at full gallop. It is
moreover recommended to use a high-backed Arab saddle and also to
ride at the rear of the line, as excitement often makes the Arabs
shoot carelessly.

There are others, merely hunting for food, who go out before dawn
when the herds are all lying down, approach as near as possible, and
then blaze away as soon as it is light enough to see. Some sportsmen
hunt them with the native greyhound, but, as this entails much
leisure with often no results, the sport is dying out. I have
seen gazelles hunted from a motor-car. The vehicle goes bumping
across the desert until a herd is seen, and approaches as near
as possible. As soon as the animals get the wind they are off,
and the car is off after them. As in the case of the hunting on
horseback, the gazelles at first go much faster, but they are soon
overtaken and the car rushes along beside them while the occupants
discharge their guns into the terrified herd. It is a massacre,
but the shooting is not so easy as it sounds and the driver of
the car must have courage and judgment. Sometimes it is impossible
to get level with the gazelles. In these cases the object may be
achieved by the mere tooting of the horn! Nine times out of ten
this will cause the gazelles to stop, the car then stops too, and
the tooting continues at intervals until—marvelous to relate—
the animals begin approaching to see what the noise is. At this
moment the heathen kills just as many head as he wants.

There are few dishes more delicate than a roast haunch of gazelle,
and the cutlets melt in one’s mouth.

The moufflon—which is not really a moufflon at all, but a sort of
goat resembling very closely the animal which is known as the sharpu
in Kashmir—is very little hunted. In the first place, he lives in
very inaccessible mountains, chiefly in the Aures above Biskra and
in the Djebel Amour near Laghouat; secondly, he is getting scarce,
and thirdly, his meat not being very tender, is not sought after. If
the Arabs see one they shoot it with a shotgun regardless of sex
or age; and the European who wants to stalk must understand the
game thoroughly himself, be a good mountaineer, and merely employ
natives to guide him to the likely spots. It is one of the most
astonishing things to see how completely ignorant the Arabs are of
all questions of wind or light; their only idea seems to be to rush
up to the beasts as quickly as possible and kill in quantity.

But, if the sportsman will take trouble and get into touch with
some of the rare Arabs who enjoy this kind of shooting, he will
have some excellent sport and get quite good heads.

Panthers are very rare nowadays, and keep away in the highest
peaks where there are forests or thick undergrowth. Only when it is
very cold do they come down to lower levels and kill a few sheep.
The moment their presence is known all the neighboring villages
are up in arms, and the wretched beasts have not many days to live.

Jackals and foxes are also shot, as they do a great deal of damage
to flocks, and their skins are tanned and sold. Hyenas frequent
the plains of the Northern Sahara.

On the whole, however, the Arab who is at heart a good sportsman
considers that any form of hunting not connected with a horse is
more a means to obtain food than anything else. There are, of course,
the great chiefs who will organize regular shoots for their friends
as is done in Europe, but it is not very general.

Horse-racing is encouraged, and, though it is carried out in rather
a wild method, with little attention to handicapping, it is very
highly thought of. Every Arab knows how to ride, be he a soldier,
a merchant, or a cook, and the smallest boy will mount his steed
without fear or hesitation at the first opportunity.

What strikes one, however, is the little care the average man takes
of his horse. He very rarely grooms him, he feeds him on any sort
of fodder available, and when in camp he hobbles him in a way
which is almost cruel. He uses a heavy saddle based on a wooden
framework, and the bit, though light, is often rusty. It is nothing
for a nomad to do thirty miles a day on an animal which has never
smelled a handful of oats in its life. In spite of this, however,
the horses seem to thrive, and those who are properly cared for
answer to the treatment in an incredibly short space of time.

All along the coast, sea-fishing abounds, but it differs in no way
from the same sort of fishing all over the world. The river-fishing
inland is not worth speaking about, but it exists, and the rather
bony fish which is caught often makes a pleasant contrast to the
eternal meals of mutton and game.

This, roughly speaking, is the sport of Algeria. There are, of
course, private individuals—European farmers—who do a certain
amount of preserving, but they are in the minority, and rarely ask
others than their neighbors to share in their shoots.

Game exists everywhere, and, if the sportsman will take trouble,
he can have as good fun with gun and rifle as in any country,
but he must do it all himself.



                              CHAPTER XX

                              THE NOMADS


The nomads are the descendants of the original Arabs who invaded
North Africa in the seventh and twelfth centuries. Here and there
they have been slightly Berberized, but generally speaking they
are quite a separate type from the inhabitants of the rest of
Algeria. Tall, and tanned by the sun, they look fearlessly before
them as they move with that easy gait of men born and bred in
the open plain. Their feet and hands are shapely, and though not
actually good-looking they have very fine faces, with an expression
of great calm.

Their clothes are much scantier than those of their brethren of the
towns. Usually there is just a _gandourah_ tied about the waist
with a leather girdle, bare legs, the feet encased in untanned
leather boots, a very rough turban on the head, and a threadbare
burnous. Over the shoulder is slung an antique muzzle-loading gun,
while in their hands is always a long staff.

Their womenfolk go about unveiled and have little pretention to
beauty, which is probably due to the hard life which they lead. They
wear simple frocks, sandals and a kind of turbaned head-dress made
of many scarfs wound one above the other. Their hair is thick and
plaited round the head, leaving two coils to hang out on either side.

The accent of a nomad is quite different from that of the other
Arabs; it is deep and guttural, much softer than the tongues of
the mountains and of the north.

The hardest thing to realize when one meets these people is the
fact that none of them ever possessed a permanent home or actually
resided in a house. They were born under the tent, they were brought
up there, married there, and they will die and be buried under a
little heap of stones. Their whole outlook on life has been the open
plain, the sky, the storm, the rain, the fierce sun of the Sahara;
even the visits to the market towns have been fleeting. The family,
which means everything, has been centered round the group of tents.

These tents are not, as might be supposed, gorgeously decked
residences or even the tents we associate with shooting expeditions
in India. They consist of a kind of very large blanket made of coarse
camel’s and goat’s hair. This blanket is placed on posts and
pegged down on three sides leaving the fourth open. On the floor
are placed rugs and carpets, and in the case of a rich nomad one
may sometimes see colored hangings on the walls, but this is rare,
as simplicity is preferred.

When the man is married the tent is divided into two by another
blanket and the man lives on one side and his wife and children
on the other. When the camp is struck the posts are removed, the
blanket is rolled up with the carpets and the whole is placed on
the back of a camel or donkey.

On some of the camels one may occasionally see what are known as
_bassours_. They are a kind of palanquin consisting of a framework of
wicker hoops covered over with drapery, and inside which travel the
women and children. The men either walk or ride horses or donkeys.

In the old days, before motor-cars had come into being, the caravan
of some southern chief moving to his summer quarters in the north was
a very noble sight. It consisted of some hundred camels bearing all
his family and his household goods. The _bassour_ of the important
ladies was draped about with the brilliant trappings of his tribe and
was surmounted by a banner above which shone a brass crescent. All
the men rode beautiful horses richly saddled, and the flocks spread
themselves about the caravan as far as the eye could reach.

Occasionally one sees this sight nowadays, but very rarely, and
only in the far south where roads have not penetrated. To-day the
Arab chief sends his family by rail or by car, and it is left to
the shepherds to travel in their old-fashioned and picturesque style.

There are, however, real nomads of great wealth who own hundreds
of flocks and whose caravans are necessarily very large, but they
do not go in for any kind of pomp. It is a most astonishing thing
to meet one of the old heads of families, dressed so simply that
he might be a humble workman, and realize that he is the owner of
thousands of sheep which represent a fortune not to be sneered at in
Europe. Here he lives, however, all his life on the desert with his
fifty tents or so, his family and retainers growing up about him,
but without the least desire to better himself or live in a house.

Most of the _caïds_ of the south live this way, and those who
inhabit the towns are exceptions, and are merely there for business
reasons or because contact with Europe has made them soft.

The camp of my shepherds, which consists of eight tents, comprising
some fifty persons, is a very typical example of the average group
of nomads. It moves according to the pastures; that is to say,
it remains in a place as long as there is enough grazing in that
area and then it moves on to the next feeding ground. The camp
forms the center or headquarters, and in it dwell all the women and
children. At dawn the shepherds get up, count the sheep and disperse
into the Sahara, where they remain with the flocks until the evening,
when they return to the camp. The sheep are again counted, and the
evening meal is taken in each separate home.

[Illustration: _Photographs by Mr. Julian Sampson_
A Water Carrier in Laghouat]

[Illustration: Algerian Cavalryman]

[Illustration: _Photographs by Mr. Julian Sampson_
Head Shepherd, the Author, the Kaïd Madam and the Calipha]

[Illustration: Caravan Moving North]

When I am there the head shepherd, and perhaps the head man
of some neighboring camp, dine with me, and then all the other
shepherds come and sit round my fire to smoke or tell stories till
bed-time. The women, though unveiled, rarely appear and they are so
silent that one hardly realizes they are there, but they prepare
a very excellent meal and with apparently no materials weave all
the tents and clothes for their menfolk.

In the winter we move only a few miles at a time, from pasture to
pasture, but when it begins to get hot and the grazing scarce the
whole camp is packed up and we set out for a long journey to the
mountains in the north. It takes a fortnight or so to cover the
two or three hundred miles to our summer quarters. Here the area is
much more restricted, and the camp remains much longer in the same
place until the time to move south comes round again in the autumn.

Market-day in the villages of the Tell during the summer months
is a most interesting sight. All the tribes are there—Larbas,
Chambas, Ouled Naïls—outnumbering the regular inhabitants,
and one hears the deep voices of these people from the Sahara,
and in the evening the southern pipe is played in all the cafés.

The rich chiefs who live in the oases usually have their country
homes in the mountains, and those who have not are usually related
to the local magnates and spend the summer with them.

There are, of course, a great many nomads who never leave the south
at all, but wander about all the year in the Sahara. The pasture is
very scarce, but there is just enough for the sheep and they get
all the benefit of the first autumn rains. Nomads have prejudices
about moving out of their own areas and prefer to remain in a
country they know.

It is unfortunately difficult to get to know these people well.
They are timid of strangers, and as they can not speak one word of
French the visitor must have a very fluent knowledge of Arabic to
make himself understood. They are suspicious of being exploited,
very quick of temper, and where honor is concerned do not hesitate
to use the knife or the gun. They are very childish in their jokes,
and if they see that one means no ill they soon become attracted and
friendly. Their women are, generally speaking, chaste, and though
there are intrigues, which usually end in some one getting murdered,
they are the exception.

A little story of an incident which occurred in a neighboring camp
to mine will perhaps illustrate the mentality of these people.

A rich nomad possessed a good-looking wife who was much admired by
a _sheik_ who, owing to business reasons, lived in an oasis. The
_sheik_ owned flocks himself, and he often had to pass the night
near the camp where dwelt the object of his affections. He courted
her on the sly, and though the lady regularly rebuffed him he was
in no way deterred. One night it so happened that he had to sleep
in the camp of the rich nomad, and he lost not a moment to press
the lady to grant him his requests. At first she refused, but after
a while she seemed to relent, and told him to wait till she made a
signal and then to creep under the blanket which divided the men’s
section from the woman’s, and come to her. The young man was in
his seventh heaven, and when all was quiet he was duly called, and
crept toward his lady-love. When he was quite close she whispered
to him to take off all his clothes. He complied with alacrity, and
when he was in nature’s garments the woman turned to him and said:

“So this is how thou repayest the nomad’s hospitality!”

The young man gazed at her speechless.

“I am now going to wake up my husband,” she continued, turning
to where the old man slept.

In a moment the young _sheik_ was on his knees imploring mercy,
begging forgiveness, swearing fidelity, trembling at the thought
of the fate which would surely await him if the threat were carried
out. The woman watched him disdainfully for a moment.

“Coward!” she said at last. “Had I seen that thou wast prepared
to meet thy fate like a man I should have respected thee and perhaps
accorded thee a favor; as it is thou art not even worthy of the
knife of my man; thou canst go!”

The lover made as if to take his clothes.

“Nay, nay,” she said, smiling, as she laid her hand on the
bundle, “a craven needs no garments. Go; quick, quick, or I shall
rouse the whole camp!”

The youth looked at her, and seeing the look of determination,
slunk out on to the plain, found his horse, and was obliged to ride
naked to the oasis; and there is no humiliation greater for an Arab
than to be seen without any clothes on.



                              CHAPTER XXI

                            SHEEP-BREEDING


Having talked about the nomads we must now cast a glance at their
occupation. Of all the many industries in Algeria, sheep-breeding
is the oldest, as perhaps it is in all countries where pastures
are unlimited and where lack of communication makes it difficult
to set up big commercial towns. Moreover, the Arab is essentially
a shepherd by instinct, and living a wandering life with no fixed
abode but his camel’s hair tent, it is immaterial to him where
his sheep pasture, and it is amazing to note the vast tracts of
country crossed by a flock during the course of the year.

Messieurs Bernard and Redon say in the _Histoire, Colonisation,
Géographie et Administration de l’Algérie_:


“The Moghreb (original name of Algeria before the Phœnician
settlements) is especially suited for the cultivation of cereals,
vines and olive-trees, and for sheep-breeding. . . . the Numidians
were excellent horsemen who lived by pillage and by the produce of
their great flocks.”

Further, speaking of the invasion of the Hillals in the twelfth
century, they say:

“The newcomers were fierce nomads who did not invade as did
the first Arabs, in small groups, but in hordes, millions of men
followed by equally vast flocks.”

The greatest sheep-breeding centers are in the southern part of
the department of Algiers, some two hundred miles from Algiers,
and right away to the south as far as Ghardaïa.

There is also a certain amount of breeding in the southern tracts
of Oranie and in Constantine, but the inhabitants of these areas are
more interested in cereals, and the Arabs of Biskra are specialists
in dates.

The district known as the Sersou, on the high level above the Sahara,
must not be forgotten as one of the finest pasture-lands of Algeria,
but the majority of the flocks there have come up from Laghouat
and Ghardaïa to escape the intense heat of the summer.

Many people who have only visited the country in a superficial or
tourist manner, are filled with incredulous surprise when they are
told of sheep-farming in the Sahara.

“But what do the sheep eat and drink?” they exclaim.

It is difficult to explain this to those not versed in the
constitution of a sheep, but when one realizes that in winter a sheep
can go for three months without drinking, and finds nourishment
and water in the rough scrub which grows all over the Sahara,
it is not surprising that these great flocks thrive and that the
sheep grow as fat as their cousins in Europe.

Presumably if an animal is brought up to live on scrub and do
without green grass it has no taste for other nourishment, and
there is little doubt that if a camel was let loose on the Scottish
moors it would be unable to assimilate the rich food owing to the
formation of its digestive organs.

However, whatever the best diet for a sheep may be, the result
is enormous flocks all along the northern belt of the Sahara,
which are a source of great revenue to the Arabs. Few Europeans
have ventured into this business, in the first place, because the
Frenchman has not that adventurous spirit which characterizes the
British colonist, and in the second because unless one knows the
country and its people well it is difficult to enter on a venture
of this kind alone. But those who have had the courage to start
are delighted and amazed at the results.

First of all the original capital required is comparatively small,
three hundred to five hundred pounds being sufficient to buy
the first flock; and second, the return is large and very rapid.
Given an average year, the investor can count on a regular annual
thirty to sixty per cent. net for himself on his money after paying
all expenses, including the remuneration of his Arab partner.

The expenses are negligible; they need hardly be taken into
consideration. They consist of market fees (only at the big markets
where there are tens of thousands of sheep for sale), shearing
fees, and a small pasturage tax when the flocks are in the north.
The shepherd of each flock is paid in kind. That is to say, he
is given an old burnous (Arab cloak), a few measures of barley
and twelve to fourteen lambs each year. No further expenditure
is required, and though losses occur occasionally from drought,
there is never a hundred per cent. mortality.

Since 1900 there have been only two of what are known as famine
years. During those two years sheep died at a rate of from fifty
to sixty per cent., but this is a very exceptional occurrence.
Curiously enough years like this which are disasters to some are
windfalls to others. The people who suffer are those who have
not sufficient reserve funds to be able to hold out during the bad
period and who are obliged to sell out. Those, therefore, who are not
entirely dependent on the sale of their sheep to live, buy up from
the poorer breeders at negligible cost. When there is a mortality of
thirty per cent. it is considered very bad, but this happens perhaps
once in seven years, and even then one has the remaining seventy
per cent. from which to continue breeding. The average mortality
does not exceed ten per cent. and it has been known as low as three.

The system of working the flock is for the European capitalist to
enter into an agreement with an Arab: a chief of some tribe or some
native of good reputation owning flocks of his own. Through him all
the purchases are made at the various markets, or direct from the
nomad tribes as they pass through the district. He is responsible
for all dealings with the Arabs for the pastures, for the selection
of shepherds, in fact for all the technical work to do with the
natives, which no European could possibly cope with.

At the end of each year the profits are estimated and after sharing
expenses, half goes to the Arab partner. This may sound excessive,
but when one considers that he is responsible for the whole of the
breeding, and that without him it would be impossible to do the
business without being robbed of eighty per cent. of the profits,
it is not too much. Moreover, in the unlikely case of dead loss the
Arab partner bears half. There have been one or two rare examples
where Frenchmen who know the country well, and who can speak the
language, have launched forth on their own; they have found that
after a year’s work the flock has been mysteriously stolen by some
migrating tribe and that it can not be found. What redress has the
Frenchman? He can have the shepherd imprisoned if he can find him,
but this won’t return him his sheep or his money. On the other
hand, when an Arab loses a few sheep he has every redress possible
from his colleagues and friends, the chiefs of the district, who
will set all the tribes in such a hum that it is not worth while
for the robbers to conceal the spoil long.

The way these nomads track a lost flock across hundreds of miles
of stony areas baffles all comprehension. I have seen a man
track thirty-five strayed sheep from Chellala to Ghardaïa, over
two hundred miles of the most desolate country, and never make a
mistake until he reached the sheep. During the tracking he crossed
the spoor of some thousand other flocks, but he hardly hesitated in
his relentless march, whereas I could not see as much as a mark on
the stony ground. I remember at one moment I expressed my amazement
at this apparent witchcraft. The Arab chief, my partner, laughed.

“Look,” said he, “what do you see on the ground?”

I peered down and, after a long scrutiny, I said doubtfully. “It
is something like the print of a man’s foot, but I am not sure.”

The Arab smiled.

“It is the print of an unmarried girl of the tribe of the
Chambas,” he replied without hesitation.

In amazement I looked at him.

“But how?” I asked.

“I can not describe to you the difference between the print of
an unmarried girl and a woman without having the two prints before
me,” he replied, “but I know.”

“But the tribe?” I exclaimed incredulously.

“There is a date-stone beside the foot-mark,” continued the
Arab, “which only comes from the palms which grow in the land of
the Chambas.”

I said no more. That night we came to a group of nomad tents.

“Ask them who they are,” said the chief, smiling.

I hailed them and a voice from the dark said, “Chambas!”

No, I do not think that half the profit is too large a remuneration
for the Arab partner. . . .

At the end of each working year, that is October till September,
the final settlement of accounts takes place. If so wished the
entire flock can then be sold. Moreover, this can be done at any
moment, and it is a point to be noted that the money invested is
never immobilized, as there is always a market for sheep, and like
other commodities the price follows the rate of the dominating
currency on the money-market. If the wisest course is followed,
merely selling the produce (lambs, wool and butter), leaving the
original flock intact, it will be found that in a good year the
capital will be reimbursed at the end of the first season, while
the flock remains as profit to go on breeding from. If from this
moment one contents oneself with the sale of butter and wool only,
which bring in ten per cent., and one keeps the lambs, one will see
the original flock multiply itself into many flocks in an incredibly
short space of time.

The Arabs among themselves never keep any regular accounts, but
gage their fortunes by flocks and keep as little ready money as
possible. When they want to buy a horse or a motor-car or a wife,
they send so many flocks or portions of flocks to the nearest
market and pay their bill with the proceeds. If some of them ever
realized their livestock, they would find themselves on a footing
with some of the big fortunes of Europe with every luxury at their
disposal. But they prefer to remain living quietly in their Arab
centers, content with the mercies of Allah, opposed to all thoughts
of the future, for after all, Allah is almighty, Allah will provide,
and if he does not, _mektoub!_



                             CHAPTER XXII

                            OTHER PRODUCTS


Apart from the breeding of sheep on the Hauts Plateaux and in the
Sahara, we also find cattle-raising in the Tell and in the coast
hills of the department of Oran, while horse-breeding is carried
on all along the southern slopes of the Atlas. The cattle are not
very big, and would compare sadly with any European breed, but they
bring in a comfortable little revenue to the breeder and suffice
for the needs of the country.

Horses are more in the hands of the Europeans, who have created
some quite good centers for improving the strain, but generally
speaking, the fiery steed associated with pictures of Arab life
is conspicuous by its absence, and, though one can get an average
mount for the asking, a really fine horse is hard to buy.

The breeding of camels, mules and donkeys is entirely in the hands
of the Arabs and is of little interest financially.

Algeria is, however, essentially an agricultural country and has been
so ever since the days of the Romans. Unfortunately the richness
of its soil and the abundance of sunshine is handicapped by the
lack of regular rain, and the farmers live always in fear of drought.

Dams have been made across some of the big river-beds which are
full of water in winter, but they are not so complete as in the
days of the Romans. Two thousand years ago Algeria was the granary
of a great empire; now in good years it exports a vast proportion
of its cereals, but in a bad year it has to import. Wheat, barley,
oats are grown all over the department of Oran, and in the center and
the south of Constantine. There is also some grain in the department
of Algiers, and little by little the sowing is extending. This is
due a great deal to the energy of the manager of an American firm,
the International Harvester Company, which has proved to the Algerian
farmer the amount that can be done to improve production by using
modern methods and perfected machinery.

The vine, though it does not cover nearly so large an area as the
cereals, is considered as of almost greater importance.

It is some fifty years since the first Frenchman came to Algeria in
search of soil not infested by phylloxera and attempted planting
vineyards. The results were so amazing that more and more people
hurried over the Mediterranean, and in twenty years the land was
producing ten times the amount of wine as at the start. This,
however, nearly led to disaster, as there was suddenly a glut of
wine on the market and the prices dropped to nothing. However, the
system was soon reorganized, and Algiers now exports a seventh of
its production to the mother country. This wine, being stronger
in alcohol and in color than French wine, is used for blending
purposes. Many of the Burgundies and Bordeaux which do not come
from some specific vineyard are half Algerian, and practically
three parts of the _vins ordinaires_ served in French cafés come
from over the Mediterranean.

In Algiers itself there are certain well-known _crus_, such as La
Trappe de Staoueli, a plain wine, Medea, and Miliana from the hills.

In Oranie, too, there are one or two small wine-producing districts,
such as Mascara; but practically all the vineyards are in the
department of Algiers, and center round the plain of the Mitidja
and the adjacent hills. All modern improvements for pressing and
fermenting have been brought in, for as the picking takes place in
the heat of summer, the fermenting is a very delicate operation.

Phylloxera has been practically stamped out and though drought is
feared, it has not the same disastrous effects as on the cereals,
owing to a certain amount of irrigation.

The great danger is a sirocco just before the _vendange_. It seems
unbelievable, but I have seen entire vineyards withered up in six
hours under the blast of this terrible hot wind from the south.
One can actually see the leaves turning brown and the bunches of
grapes shriveling, just as if a fire had been lighted beneath the
vines. Luckily this only happens once in a while, and the average
years are good.

The wine is strong and rather heady, coarse in comparison to the
French wines, but very well suited to the rather special food of
the country.

In the same district as the vine we find the mandarin, orange,
and lemon plantations. Protected by cypress-trees, the golden
fruit is grown in large quantities, and exported daily during the
winter months.

A curious herb known as geranium is also grown on this fertile
plain. It is made into perfume, and supplies the base for cheap
scent. A great deal of it goes to England, and, curiously enough, the
only other country where it is cultivated in quantity is Mauritius.

All along the coast east and west of Algiers we find the
market-gardens for early vegetables. The expert labor is chiefly
supplied by Majorcans and Sicilians, and during a good year it is
a most profitable occupation, as the markets of Paris and other
big centers are supplied from these tiny seacoast gardens.

Next in importance comes the tobacco industry. The best plantations
are along the coast east of Algiers, in the lower levels of the
Kabyle country, and, again, in that wonderfully fertile plain of
the Mitidja. Provided one can obtain the suitable soil, it is one of
the most profitable products to exploit—little cost, and none of
the worry or expense incurred by the Regie, as in France. Moreover,
it is quite a high-class tobacco, and some of the cigars are really
quite good smoking, while the pipe tobacco and the cigarettes can
be offered to the most _difficile_. It is much healthier smoking as
there are no foreign matters or mixtures, but just the pure leaf,
which differs according to district.

Figs are grown in great quantity in the Kabyle Mountains, and are
exported. In the prolongation of the same mountains and all along
the coast to Tunisia the cork forests abound. This industry is much
developed, and English and American firms vie with the Algerians
to obtain concessions and export the cork to their own countries.

The olive-tree is indigenous to Algeria, and grows wild on all the
mountains. In certain centers the trees are grafted, and the olives
are plucked and oil extracted from them.

Apart from the fruit-bearing trees, however, the forests of Algeria
are few and far between. Here and there one comes upon magnificent
cedars and pines, but it is not a wooded country, and a great deal
of the timber is imported.

There are people who maintain that Algeria was once covered with
forests, and that the same state of things could be reproduced. I am
not of this opinion; in the first place, because of the absence of
practically any coal, and second, by the fact that the country is,
and always has been, essentially agricultural.

There are minerals of many kinds in Algeria, but never in great
quantity. Iron, zinc, lead and copper have been found, but they
are not worked, merely taken out of the ground and sent to Europe.

A little oil has been tapped in Oranie, but up to the present not
in sufficient quantity to make its development interesting from
a commercial point of view. The same can be said of the small
coal-field discovered near Colomb Bechar, in the south of the
same department.

The most interesting product of the soil is phosphates, which are
found in great quantity in the department of Constantine, whence
they are exported daily from the ports of Bougie and Bône.

Hot springs abound in Algeria, and, with the exception of Hammam
Rhira and Hammam Meskoutine, are not developed. It is a pity, as they
have excellent healing qualities, and those people with rheumatism
who have frequented the baths at Hammam Rhira are delighted with
the results.

Before leaving this subject we must once more turn our eyes to
the Southern Territories, in order not to forget two of the most
important industries of the country: the date-palms and the alfa
grass.

Unexpectedly the date worthy of exportation thrives only in certain
restricted areas where the temperature and rainfall are exactly
suited. However, when this occurs the owner of a palmery can count
on a very substantial income.

The alfa grass, which grows wild all over the Sersou and Hauts
Plateaux, is divided up into concessions, owned chiefly by British
firms, and it is exported to be made into paper.

This is already a very dull chapter, and I will not weary the
reader with any further dissertation on commerce, but I hope that,
after reading this _résumé_ of the products of Algeria, he will
realize what a rich country it is, and what a future of prosperity
lies before it. The Phœnicians guessed its value; the Romans
realized it; the Arabs forgot it all; and the French are beginning
to complete what the Romans began. Well may they prosper!



                             CHAPTER XXIII

                                ALGIERS


Now that we have before us an outline of the history, geography,
administration and customs of the country under examination, it
seems opportune to say a few words about Algeria from the point of
view of the tourist.

The traveler visiting this country will either journey direct by
sea to Algiers or else will take the overland route via Paris and
Marseilles, which is the more rapid. In either case he will arrive
by sea.

His first impressions of Algiers, rising out of the Mediterranean
like a white bubble in a sea of sapphire, will be the best he will
have of this once Turkish city, now a vast commercial town and
only a little less noisy than Marseilles. The sight of the Arab
quarter, piling itself up in a pyramid of white and blue roofs
above the European houses, with the fresh gardens of Mustapha away
to the left and the Turkish forts in the foreground, is a vision of
delight. And though, once landed, the smell of Oriental people and
the red-fezzed porters may rouse for a moment a sense of the East,
this atmosphere will not last long.

Algiers of to-day is essentially a big commercial town of over
two hundred thousand inhabitants. Owing to the configuration of the
ground it has spread east and west, giving it a sea-front of some ten
miles. Inland the houses have crept up the hills as far as possible,
but in many places it is too steep to attempt building, and one-
or two-storied villas are the general rule. Most of these villas
are lamentable modern constructions, but there are a few which date
from the old Arab days, and in which there are a multitude of lovely
marbles and tiles of the period. These villas were occupied after
the French conquest by followers of the victorious army, and later,
when Algiers was discovered as a winter resort, they passed into
the hands of English hibernators.

In those days the life on the Mustapha Hill was brilliant and
amusing. The English colony was composed of well-to-do people who
spent half the year in these Arab villas, while those who had not
permanent residences settled in the few local hotels. An English
club flourished, and a real society existed. But all this is gone.
The facilities of transit, the mechanical age in which we live,
and newly acquired wealth have dispelled all this pleasant life.

The English hibernators who inhabited the picturesque villas have
in many cases been supplanted by foreigners, and those who remain
are not much given to entertaining, so that it is rare for the
outsider to get more than a glimpse of the multi-colored tiles.
Great hotels have sprung up, rivaling one another in a second-rate
atmosphere of the Riviera; Swiss waiters do their utmost to keep
up the illusion, but the lack of elegance handicaps them.

If, therefore, the visitor is not seeking gossip and bridge in
overheated drawing-rooms, or the company of summer boarders from
Bexhill and the relics of our great Indian Empire, he will do well
to stay just long enough in Algiers to collect his breath, and then
penetrate into the interior and see the real life of the country.
If, however, he is not of an active nature, he can find excursions
round about Algiers, but it will be at the cost of submitting to
the gala nights of the Mustapha hotels, of the unsyncopated music
of lamentable orchestras, while the middle-aged ladies of fashion
sit round criticizing the few youthful or well-dressed creatures
who have strayed by accident into this mediocre society.

Algiers is not Algeria, and its people are wisely called
“Algerois,” as against “Algeriens.”

The commercial city about the port is interesting from the point of
view of any one desirous of examining the development of a growing
city. Eight great banks do a brisk business, which alone speaks for
the trade passing through Algiers. The harbor, which is now being
more than doubled in size, will, when completed, rival the largest
ports of the Mediterranean. The biggest battleships and liners of
the world can berth comfortably in its shelter, and there is rarely
an hour in the day when merchantmen are not approaching or leaving
its quays. Everywhere there is an atmosphere of booming trade,
and it is undoubtedly a fact that, if Algiers had an independent
government with an independent exchequer, the franc would be a good
deal nearer par with the pound sterling than it is at present.

The visitor has, however, probably not come to this sunny country
to go into statistics and business opportunities, and it will
be sufficient, therefore, if he drives through the town with the
knowledge that he is in the midst of a trading-center which in a
few years will stand on a level with Lyons and Bordeaux.

The “sights” of Algiers can be done easily in one day, as they
are all concentrated about the Kasba (literally fort, but here the
name given to the Arab city). The most interesting building to see
is the Governor’s winter palace, formerly the residence of the
dey, and until a few years ago occupied by the Governor-General. It
is now used for official receptions, as government offices, and
for exhibitions. A great deal of the original building has been
spoiled by the improvement put in by the military engineers, but
there remain some lovely tiles and woodwork which, apart from their
many historical associations, make the visit worth while.

[Illustration: A Street in the Kasbah, Algiers]

[Illustration: Mosque of Sidi Abd-er-Rahmane]

[Illustration: Café Outside Grande Mosque, Algiers]

The Archbishop’s palace opposite is a typical Arab house with some
fine tiles, while the Public Library, once the house of Mustapha
Pasha, is one of the finest examples of Moorish architecture and
contains more beautiful tiles. While speaking of these tiles it would
perhaps be well to say a few words about their origin. During the
period of Turkish rule in Algeria, when the corsairs roamed the
Mediterranean, it was the custom to bring the prisoners back to
Algiers. Some of them were held for ransom, and the ransom imposed
either took the form of money or of tiles from the countries whence
came the prisoners. If among the prisoners who were captured there
were found artisans who understood building or the creation of
these tiles, they were employed in constructing and beautifying the
houses of their captors. Hence in all these Arab villas one finds
Florentine, Milanese, Dutch and Persian tiles. In one of the villas
of Mustapha there is even a record of the capturing of an English
sailor who was kept by the Turks for some years.

The Grande Mosquée, built in the tenth century A. D., differs
little from other mosques. The Mosque of Sidi-Abd-er-Rahmane is
worth a visit as the resting-place of the patron of Algiers.

The actual Kasba is a picturesque series of narrow streets climbing
up the hill from the Winter Palace to the Fort l’Empereur:
so-called because it was here that Charles Quint for a brief moment
made his headquarters. It is very dirty and smelly.

If one can obtain access to a private house one will have an
interesting peep at a simple interior contrasting vividly with the
riches of the palaces, and from the roof one will obtain a marvelous
view of the Arab city. A visit at night is also recommended, when
the dirt will be invisible and the flickering lights in the dark
streets and the Moorish cafés, with their musicians, carry one
away from the modernisms of the great commercial town which throbs
so close. In both visits it is recommended to start from the top
and walk down toward the sea.

The Admiralty or headquarters of the French Navy in Algeria lies
to the north of the harbor. It used to be the headquarters of the
pirate chiefs, and it was in its lofty chambers that the raids and
expeditions were planned, while below, in the shelter of the tall
breakwaters, the fleet waited for its orders. There are some very
fine tiles and rather massive architecture, also a series of powder
magazines, dungeons, and a remarkable torture-chamber, outside which
is an inscription telling it is the site where Christian hostages
were blown to pieces at the mouth of the cannon.

In one of the cells Cervantes was imprisoned. The visit to the
Admiralty is, however, impossible unless one knows a naval officer on
duty in Algiers or has a pass from one of the government officials.

The Jardin d’Essai, a little to the east of the main city, is
interesting if one has not seen Kew, and the Arab cemetery above
the Kasba discloses a pretty view of the hills behind Algiers; but,
generally speaking, Arab Algeria will not be found in Algiers. And,
though some of the buildings are very lovely, they are all relics
of the barbarous rule of the Turkish conqueror, and they do not
represent anything appertaining to the country.

With the inrush of commerce Algiers has lost its charm, and there
are no other compensations. Even the climate is disappointing. The
winter is wet, and, though there are glorious days of sunshine,
the atmosphere is relaxing. December is a good month, as are also
March, April, and May; the others are either too wet or too hot.

Let the tourist, therefore, make up his mind to spend his holiday
traveling, or even in repose in one of the Sahara oases, and he
will return to his home with an impression of light and freshness
and with a sensation that he has thrown off all the cares of the
modern world. If he will take the humble advice of one who knows
the country, he will follow in the tracks of the journey described
in the next chapters, and, if color and contrasts appeal to him,
he will probably return in the succeeding year to these entrancing
scenes which never weary the eye.



                             CHAPTER XXIV

                            TWO EXCURSIONS


Before setting out on the long journey through Algeria, two short
excursions from Algiers seem worthy of mention. The first is an
afternoon drive to the easterly point of the bay of Algiers. The
distance is barely twenty miles, and though there is nothing in
particular to see there, the drive along the coast from Maison
Carrée is delightful, and the view from Cape Matifou of Algiers,
shimmering white in the distance, is enchanting. Practically
no tourists ever go there, and though in the summer the little
fishing-village of Laperouse is inhabited by Algerian families who
can not holiday in France, in the winter it is deserted.

It is recommended to drive out via Maison Carrée, Fort de l’Eau
(the Algerian ape of Deauville in the summer) and the village of Cape
Matifou. A mile farther on a sharp turn is taken to the left, and in
a few minutes one reaches Laperouse. Passing through the village a
rough road leads one to the point on which stands the lazaret used
for the quarantine confinement of pilgrims returning from Mecca.

If there is a storm in the Mediterranean, the sea dashing itself
against the cliffs is a magnificent sight, and the view of the spray
bursting over the rocks to the east makes one realize how restless
is this inland sea. From the cape one should return to Laperouse,
take a look at the little fishing-port, very quiet during the winter
months, and then, asking the way to the ruins, picnic in the old
Roman bath which overlooks the miniature bay, so blue and calm even
when the breakers are roaring against the point.

The ruins are those of Rusgunium, originally a Phœnician center,
and later converted by the Romans into a summer watering-place.
Unfortunately, with the exception of the baths, practically all
vestige of the houses has disappeared; this is not modern neglect,
as the stones and mosaics were taken by the Turks to build Algiers
of that day.

If the weather is fine it is strongly recommended that one stay
until the sunset, as the spectacle of the sun disappearing behind
the hills of Algiers, making of it a great brazier of flame,
compensates one for the drive back in the dusk. But really to
appreciate Laperouse it must be visited on a summer day. The heavy
atmosphere of Algiers is left behind, and one finds oneself in a
sea of light and freshness. The water lazily laps the cliffs and
ripples up on the golden sand. It is never too hot, as the breeze
comes from over the sea and, bathing on the hottest day, one can
not stay in the water for more than half an hour. The nights are
cool, and the twinkling lights of Algiers across the bay, while
the summer moon flashes in the tranquil sea, equal a vision from
the _Arabian Nights_.

The second excursion is to the west of Algiers to Tipaza and, if
time permits, as far as Cherchell. It is advised to do it in two
days, as there is much to be seen and little time to appreciate
all in a short winter’s day. If, however, time is pressing,
Cherchell can be omitted and Tipaza alone visited.

The actual distance is some fifty miles, and the road runs
delightfully along the coast all the time. The way is bordered by
endless vegetable gardens, for it is along this part of the coast
that all the _primeurs_ are grown for the Paris markets.

Castiglione is a pretty little village on the sea coast, as is
also Berard, but as in the case of Laperouse they must be imagined
in the summer full of holiday-making Algerians. A little beyond
Berard can be seen a strange-looking object on the top of the hill,
resembling a very large beehive. It is in reality a mausoleum
known as the _Tombeau de la Chrétienne_. To visit this it will
be necessary to leave the car and climb up a steep path some six
hundred feet above the sea. On reaching the pyramid one is struck
with a certain similarity with its cousins in Egypt and, in fact,
there is reason in this resemblance. One hundred and twenty feet
high, with a diameter of one hundred and eighty feet, it is composed
of great blocks of stone rising in tiers, and is said to have been
built by Juba II. Juba II, it will be remembered, was the son of Juba
I, defeated by Cæsar at Thapsus in 46 B. C. The boy was taken to
Rome and brought up most carefully by Octavia, Cæsar’s sister,
and was ultimately married to Cleopatra Selene, the daughter of
Antony and Cleopatra. In 43 B. C., when the Roman Empire was finally
established and the second triumvirate had divided the territory
among its members, Octavius restored the old kingdom of Numidia,
and in 30 B. C. appointed Juba II as its king.

Cæsarea, now Cherchell, became his capital, and for fifty years
was the most magnificent city of North Africa. The _Tombeau de la
Chrétienne_ was constructed as the mausoleum for his wife.

There is no real evidence for this story, and many will say that
the tomb is much before the time of the Romans. However, the fact
remains that this edifice is quite close to the capital of Juba’s
kingdom, and that there is another monument practically identical
in construction near Batna, in the department of Constantine,
which is known as the tomb of Syphax, another Numidian king, and
that they both have a certain resemblance to the Pyramid of Cheops.

The road continues along the seacoast, delighting the eye by the
contrast of the sapphire blue of the Mediterranean lapping the deep
red rocks fringed with brilliant green scrub. Eucalyptus woods are
passed until the road runs down to the little fishing-village of
Tipaza. The Hotel du Rivage is an excellent inn nestling against
the red cliffs, while the garden runs down to the miniature port,
little changed since the days of the Phœnician traders.

If time is not of importance, a few days spent here in peace and
quiet will not be regretted. Originally a Phœnician settlement,
Tipaza became in the first century of our era a Roman summer resort
for the rich settlers in Cæsarea (Cherchell). All that could be
done to make it a center of luxury and pleasure was carried out with
infinite care. The temples, the forum, the villas were designed to
harmonize with the beauties of nature.

Thanks to private enterprise much of the ruins has been unearthed
and one is able to reconstruct this town as it was. Sarcophagi of
great beauty have been found, and mosaics in a very good state of
preservation have been placed in a small museum by the hotel.

The joy of the place is not so much the actual finds, but being able
to realize again the pleasant atmosphere which must have reigned
among the wealthy Romans as they walked up and down the forum,
which dominates the bay, or dined merrily in the villas looking
down on the rippling sea.

Later, when Christianity appeared, there must have been a very fine
church to the west of the original town, whence one gets a delightful
view of the sandy shore which runs along toward the towering heights
of the Chenoua Mountains. Here, too, the heat-oppressed Algerians
come in summer to escape from the damp atmosphere of the white city,
and the bathing is wonderful.

Cherchell is some twenty miles farther along the coast. The drive
itself is not very interesting, and the town, after Tipaza, is
disappointing. There is, however, a very excellent museum, and to
those interested in the statues of Rome of that period the visit
is worth while. Otherwise the return journey from Tipaza can either
be made by the same way in the golden glory of the African sunset,
or else inland through the vine-clad hills via Marengo and Kolea.

These are the two excursions, but this chapter can not be closed
without reference to the Trappist monastery at Staoueli. This is
only twenty minutes in a car from Algiers and is worthy of a visit.
The Trappist monks have been expelled, but their monastery, with
the great vats in which they made the still famous wine, remains.
The monastery is in the hands of Monsieur Lucien Borgeaud, a
gentleman of Swiss origin who has continued pressing the grapes as
did his holy predecessors, only on a much larger scale.

A visit is welcomed, and in addition to seeing the old building
founded by the Trappists at the time of the French conquest, it will
be interesting to see how wine is made and the modern improvements
put in by this enterprising Algerian.

There are, of course, many pretty drives involving part of the
day, such as the Gorges of Palestro and the entrance to the Kabyle
country, the Ruisseau des Singes, beyond Blida, Dellys, and the
Phœnician city of Tigzirt, on the coast, but as they form part
of the greater journey to be dealt with in the next chapters
their description is purposely omitted. Suffice it to say that
all the neighborhood of Algiers is enchanting, and that life in
Algiers itself, lived in one of its old Moorish villas surrounded
by a lovely garden, would be as delightful if it were not for the
relaxing climate.

But if we are to appreciate the real charm of the country do not
let us tarry too long near the white city.



                              CHAPTER XXV

                               A VOYAGE


Though perhaps the journey described in these pages is longer than
many tourists would wish to undertake, it is rather set out with
the idea of giving a notion of the amount that can be seen in a
comparatively short space of time and under the easiest conditions.

The trip can, moreover, be divided into separate excursions as
indicated in the table of distances at the end of the chapter. It
is better to do this journey in a private motor-car, which enables
one to rest at will, eat by the roadside, and take photographs. But
if the traveler has not the means to progress in this luxury he will
find public conveyances at moderate prices on practically every route
mentioned. Sometimes it will be the train, sometimes the motor-bus,
and though in some cases he will be obliged to travel by rather
a roundabout way or occasionally wait a few days for the bus,
his journey will always be assured in comfort.

Generally speaking, there is a daily or even bi-daily motor
service on all the main roads of North Africa; and it is only in
the far south that the bus does not have a regular time-table.
Otherwise the times of departure and arrival are as fixed as for a
train. The motor-busses are covered and very comfortable, and to the
individual who is entertained by strange faces and gay chatter about
all that is going on in the country through which he is traveling,
the motor _diligence_ is a delightful entertainment. In fact,
if the traveler is bent on studying the country and its people,
he will do so much more advantageously in the public conveyance
than in the isolation of the private car. However, if he is only on
holiday or a pleasure trip the motor is recommended, and it is with
the idea of traveling thus that this imaginary journey will be taken.

It is presumed that the period chosen for the tour will be between
December and April—January, February or March—and let it be
borne well in mind that North Africa in winter, even on the edge
of the Sahara, is not a warm country. The thermometer does not
actually drop very low, but the biting air of the mountains and the
sharp dry winds of the rolling plain or the Hauts Plateaux and the
Sahara make heavy coats and rugs essential.

Once south of Laghouat and at Touggourt the temperature is definitely
warmer than in the north, but hot days can not be depended on before
this latitude is reached. It is true that on the edge of the Sahara
the sun heat in the middle of the day makes it impossible to go out
bareheaded, but the nights are very sharp. Once into the Sahara the
nights are also cold, but in the day it is pleasantly warm, and the
overcoats and rugs can be put away; but the return journey across
the Kabyle Mountains may be done in a snowstorm. The great thing
to remember about Algeria is that it is a country of extremes. The
morning may dawn in a downpour of rain and at noon one may lunch
in the garden dressed in white. Crossing the mountains during the
winter one is practically certain to find rain, but once on the
Sersou it is almost always fine.

The Hauts Plateaux are bitterly cold, but as soon as one has come
down on to the Sahara the temperature is very pleasant, and it rarely
rains; when it does, it pours for a few hours and then clears up.

Therefore, the warmest wraps for the journey in the north, English
summer clothes (not Indian or tropical) for the south. All evening
dresses, etc., can be left in Algiers, as there is never any occasion
to dress up, even when invited by an Arab chief. It is advised to
travel light, and linen can usually be washed by the Transatlantic
hotels in forty-eight hours. The question of hotels brings me to
another point.

The hotels of Algeria can be divided into two categories—those
which belong to the Transatlantic Company and those which do not.
The Compagnie Générale Transatlantique has opened up the whole of
North Africa by their circular and inclusive tours which run into
the wildest parts of the Sahara. In order to accommodate their
customers they have built hotels in all these remote spots, and
these are certainly very well organized. In all the more frequented
places there are other hotels for the accommodation of commercial
travelers and Arabs, and though they are usually quite clean and
the food eatable, that is about all that can be said for them.
There are usually no bathrooms and there is nowhere to sit except in
the public café. Here again let it be said that for the traveler in
search of copy the hotel with its Arabs and people of the country
is a source of perpetual entertainment, but with few exceptions it
is rough—very rough, and sometimes dirty.

The prices, of course, correspond to what one gets, but to the
holiday-maker the Transatlantic hotels can not be too highly
recommended. Good food, clean beds, running water, hot baths,
perfect service, reliable information on all that can be done and
not done, seem to warrant the fairly high charge, and yet not high
when one realizes the difficulties which confront the hotel manager
in getting all this modern comfort in the wildest districts.

It is, however, recommended that one see the Transatlantic Company
in Algiers to make certain that there will be accommodation as,
if they are booked up with heavy tours, their own travelers will
naturally have preference over independent tourists.

The cost of the trip, quite roughly, will work out as follows:

1. For the private car owner staying at the Transatlantic hotels, one
hundred to one hundred and fifty francs per person per day. Petrol,
etc., in addition. If a car is hired it works out at about two to
three francs a kilometer plus the board and lodging of the driver,
which is about thirty-five francs a day.

2. For the traveler by public conveyance staying at the local hotel
fifty francs a day will amply cover his living and expenses.

Train fares are not dear, and the bus fares, though they vary,
do not exceed ten centimes a kilometer.

Equipped now with knowledge for the journey, it only remains to trace
the itinerary, which will be quite easy to follow on the accompanying
map. This information can be supplemented by the guide-book, and
in referring to the guide-book I always speak of the _Guide Bleu_
which, with the exception of a few slips, is really very reliable.

                     ITINERARY OF PROPOSED JOURNEY

                   1. _By private car_
                                                       Kilometers
  1st day    Algiers/Bou Saada                            250
  2nd day    Stay Bou Saada                               —
  3rd day    Bou Saada/Laghouat                           222
  4th day    Stay Laghouat                                —
  5th day    Laghouat/Ghardaïa                            200
  6th day    Stay Ghardaïa                                —
  7th day    Ghardaïa/Touggourt[1]                        200
  8th day    Stay Touggourt                               —
  9th day    Touggourt/Biskra                             216
  10th day   Stay Biskra                                  —
  11th day   Biskra/Timgad                                190
    (It is advisable to sleep at Batna.[2])
  12th day   Timgad/Constantine                           190
    (If Djemila, described in Chapter XXXIV, is to be visited it
    can be done from Timgad via Sétif or from Constantine.)
  13th day   Constantine/Bougie                           259
  14th day   Bougie to Algiers by 4 alternative routes:
         _a._ Bougie to Michelet                          147
         and thence to Algiers via Tizi Ouzou             154
         _b._ Bougie direct to Algiers via.
                Bouira and Palestro                       300
         _c._ Bougie direct to Algiers via.
                Azazga and Tizi Ouzou                     300
         _d._ Bougie/Tigzirt                              250
         and thence to Algiers via Dellys                 155

                  2. _By public conveyance_
  Algiers/Bou Saada                                       250
    (Motor-bus takes some 10 hours.)[3]
  Stay Bou Saada                                          —
  Bou Saada/Djelfa (bus)                                  112
    (Stay the night at Djelfa, leave at six o’clock next morning
    in bus.)
  Reach Laghouat at nine-thirty a. m.                    110
  Stay Laghouat                                           —
  Laghouat/Ghardaïa (bus)                                 200
  Stay Ghardaïa                                           —
  Ghardaïa/Touggourt                                      200
  (The bus runs once a week [Nov. 1926]. Verify this.)
  Stay Touggourt                                          —
  Touggourt/Biskra (train)                                216
  Stay Biskra                                             —
  Biskra/Batna (train)                                    120
    (If Timgad is to be visited a car must be hired at Batna for
    the 70 kilometers run to the ruins and back. One can sleep
    at Timgad or at Batna.)
  Timgad/Constantine (car and train)                      190
  Constantine/Bougie (bus service not regular)            259
  Bougie/Michelet
    (No bus service direct. If Michelet is to be visited the
    train must be taken to El Kseur and thence to Tizi-Ouzou by
    bus; from Tizi-Ouzou bus to Michelet and from Michelet bus
    to Tizi-Ouzou and train to Algiers. If Michelet is to be
    omitted there is the train direct from Bougie to Algiers.)[4]

Various alternative trips will be set out in the succeeding
chapters where they seem opportune. The distances have been marked
in kilometers as the guide-books and maps are all scaled in this
way. For the information of those who are interested in miles,
however, one hundred kilometers equals sixty-two miles.

For all details regarding routes and motors the traveler is
recommended to apply to Captain de Malglaive, at the Anglo-American
Automobile Company at Mustapha Supérieur, who is always informed
as to the state of the roads, accommodation, etc.

FOOTNOTES:

 [Footnote 1: It is advisable to ascertain the
state of the road between Guerrera and Touggourt, as there is much
sand in this part. On principle it is wiser to start just ahead of
the motor-bus as the route is very desolate and there is no possible
means of repairing serious breakdowns.]

 [Footnote 2: If time is short, Constantine,
Bougie and the Kabyle can be omitted. From Timgad one can get
to Sétif via Corneille. By leaving Biskra early one can do
Biskra/Batna, see Timgad, and be at Sétif in one day—210
kilometers. From Sétif to Algiers the road is good and
straight—300 kilometers.]

 [Footnote 3: If this bus journey is thought too
excessive, there is no necessity to go to Bou Saada. The train can
be taken direct to Djelfa in one day, and then next morning the
bus lands one at Laghouat at nine thirty.]

 [Footnote 4: I have not marked the number of
days for the journey by public conveyance as, being much slower,
it is correspondingly more tiring, and the traveler will probably
wish to linger longer in the different centers he visits.]



                             CHAPTER XXVI

                               BOU SAADA


Leaving the ugly suburbs of Algiers, the car turns on to a broad,
straight road bordered with plane-trees. On either side stretch
interminable vineyards, while ahead the blue slopes of the Atlas rise
up from this great plain of the Mitidja. Little French villages
are passed and long, white buildings, now closed and silent, which
will be in a whirl of activity in August and September when the
grapes are being pressed.

In an hour or so l’Arba has been reached and the steep slopes
covered with rough scrub and cork-trees. Up, up the road climbs
toward the bare crests of the range. Algiers and the Mitidja are
lost to view, and the eye wanders over a great expanse of mountain,
cultivated here and there with patches of cereals, and now and then
a vineyard.

The air is fresh, and the clouds seem ominously close. At Sakamody
the watershed is reached, three thousand feet above sea-level,
and a wonderful panorama of hills and rivers and forests spreads
itself before us.

The road is now running steeply down toward the silvery stream at
the bottom, and, reaching Tablat, an iron bridge is crossed and away
speeds the car through a fertile valley. If lunch has been carried
in the car there are some delightful fields near Bir Rabalou—at the
one hundred and third kilometer—where one can picnic in peace. For
some reason there is an abundance of tortoises in these fields.

If one is depending on the hotel one must push on to Aumale, where
a rather second-rate inn will provide a correspondingly second-rate
lunch. Aumale is well over two thousand feet above the sea; it is
a modern garrison town and quite uninteresting.

Shortly after Aumale the road starts sloping down toward the
flat country parallel to and east of the Sersou, and after thirty
kilometers the village of Sidi Aïssa is reached.

At this point two vast errors are made by guides, tourists, and
even by many Algerians; and, as stated in a previous chapter, it
is the duty of the author to destroy legends invented for the ears
of the credulous.

The first of these stories is that Sidi Aïssa means “Our Lord.”
Translated literally this word signifies “the Lord Jesus,” but,
though the Mohammedans venerate all the prophets from Moses down to
Christ, this Sidi Aïssa is not the founder of the Christian faith.
The person after whom this village and many others are named is
Sidi-el-Hadj-Aïssa, the great _marabout_ who founded Laghouat in
the eighteenth century. Of this later.

The second story, which is perhaps served up more frequently, is
that at Sidi Aïssa the desert begins. It is an excusable legend,
and let it be said at once that the author himself has fallen
into the trap. It is an absolute fallacy, but Bou Saada and its
neighborhood is one of the most amazingly natural fakes in the world.

Sidi Aïssa is at one thousand eight hundred feet above the sea
and is on the same latitude as Boghar, which is perched on the
southerly slopes of the Atlas of the Tell. Bou Saada is actually
north of Djelfa, which the traveler will visit in two days and
which is at over three thousand feet.

“But what of this?” exclaims the reader.

Well, this—that the approach to Bou Saada is as desertic as any
scenery he will see, and that many oases of the south have that same
first aspect of the Sahara created by Bou Saada; and yet to reach
the beginning of the great wastes which run away to the Soudan and
the Niger, ranges of mountains and forests south of Bou Saada must
be crossed, which in winter are often covered with snow.

Bou Saada is an oasis, of that there is no doubt, but why it
springs up in a country which is only a few miles from forests and
vegetation is not to be explained. Perhaps it is one of the great
jokes created by Allah for the benefit of the Compagnie Générale
Transatlantique—and a very profitable joke too! However, the
important point is that the traveler, on leaving Sidi Aïssa, can,
if he wishes, feel that he is entering the desert, but he must
not believe it. It is an impression which can not be forgotten,
just as if a boat had been exchanged for the car and one had put
out to sea. The hills and trees to the north seem to be the land,
and the great expanse of stone and scrub spread out before one is
the sea. To the west barren mountains rise up with almost flat tops,
reminding one of billiard tables built by some dead race of giants.
The world has suddenly changed as the car rushes on along the
straight, even road.

No one is in sight, no habitation—just the wide plain. If the
Sahara proper is to attract one the attraction will come now. There
is no question about this: the expanse of desert either takes hold
of one’s mind or else it merely bores.

However, bored or enthralled, the first aspect of Bou Saada must
seize one and make a thrill pass through the brain. The road suddenly
bends to the right, the sand-dunes appear all golden in the evening
light, a city of rosy mud houses nestles against a russet hill,
fifteen thousand palm-trees bow ever to the lilt of the wind.

Such is the first glimpse of Bou Saada, “the father or place of
happiness,” and indeed so it must have been before the days when
motors made a week-end visit possible. The Transatlantic hotel is
comfortable, and constructed in harmony with the place, and though
the rest of the life is as great a fake as nature has made it,
it has great charm.

On arrival let the visitor hurry to the bastion below the military
hospital to see the glory of the sunset— those amazing lights
which he will see again in the south, but of which his first
impressions here will never be forgotten. A mantle of gold-dust,
the palm-trees in the breeze, herds of sheep and goats returning
from their pasture, stately camels plodding along into the city
accompanied by solemn Arabs: a vision of enchantment.

The return to the hotel, through the quiet streets in the rapidly
increasing dusk, while the _muezzin_ calls the Faithful to prayer
from the mosque, is such a complete contrast to the scenes of
twenty-four hours before that one wonders if one has only traveled
a hundred and fifty miles.

Yet it is not the Sahara, and at night, after dinner, when one is
obliged to fall into the hands of the clamoring guides to be taken to
see the dancing girls of the Ouled Naïls perform their weird steps,
it is not the real thing. Not the real thing inasmuch as the dances
are organized for the tourist and do not go on continuously for the
native population, but as real as possible as far as it concerns the
actual dances and the fact that the girls all belong to the tribe
of the Ouled Naïls, in the center of whose area Bou Saada lies.

Another disillusion to the veteran guide is impending, but in a
merciful spirit the truth about the Ouled Naïls will be kept till
the next chapter. As, however, the traveler has not yet been to
the far south, he will appreciate this evening in a quaint little
room hung about with gaudy carpets, or, if it is fine, perhaps on
the roof, watching the girls dance slowly up and down before him to
the squeal of the _raïta_, or to the deep notes of the reed flute,
while the time is kept by a rhythmical beat on the _tam-tam_.

The stars are flashing overhead in a black sky and peace seems to
have settled on the world, a peace which will gradually increase
as the journey progresses into the Sahara.

Next morning it is advisable to take one of the small boys outside
the hotel (not a regular guide) and, descending into the river-bed,
walk along between the tall palm-trees until the end of the oasis
is reached, and then, crossing a belt of rough scrub, climb up
on to the golden sand-dunes. A great expanse spreads out before
one till, away in the distance, can be seen the beginning of the
Aurès Mountains. It is a land of strange mirage effects, and, if
the sun is hot, visions of palm-trees and green lakes will appear
and shimmer away again before the eye has grasped the picture. If
the country has taken hold of one, an hour’s contemplation in
these golden dunes will pass quickly.

After lunch there is an interesting little excursion to be made
some eight kilometers up the Djelfa road to El Hamel. The car
should not be overloaded, as there are three or four kilometers
to do off the main road up to the gates of the town. Built on the
side of a barren hill, it has a wild look, and its tall walls
give it an imposing aspect as the car climbs up the steep road
to its gates. El Hamel is interesting because of its _zaouïa_
and Mohammedan college for those studying the Koran with a view to
becoming _muftis_ or _imams_. Up to 1904 it had the peculiarity of
being under the patronage of a female _marabout_, Lalla Zineb, and
her tomb, much venerated, can be seen in a very lovely mosque. At
present there is a charming _marabout_ who is always glad to see
visitors. He will show one round and offer coffee in his rather
gaudy reception-room. Though it is not usually known, _marabouts_
accept, and often expect, gifts of money, ostensibly given for the
_zaouïa_; it must be presented with a speech explaining that it
is a charitable donation.

There are many other pleasant excursions round Bou Saada if time
warrants a long stay but, if not, there are more interesting things
to see in the south which will entirely eclipse this false little
oasis.

I say false and at the same time it is an almost unjust epithet,
as, though the place is infested by conducted tours, they have not
yet succeeded in removing its original charm, or making of it a
middle-class fashionable resort like Biskra.

N. B.—Should it be impossible for the traveler to carry the
journey on to Laghouat and the far south, there is a track across
country to Biskra, some two hundred and fifty kilometers. Thence
the journey can be carried on as laid down in the itinerary.

The track starts on the way to El Hamel, and it is well to have
some one who knows it in the car, as there are no signposts and
it is very desolate. Moreover, it must not be attempted in wet
weather or after a storm, as there are many dried-up river-beds
which rapidly become torrents, and there are no bridges.

Otherwise it is an interesting journey, and the first sight of the
Sahara near Tolga is arresting.



                             CHAPTER XXVII

                    THE FIRST GLIMPSE OF THE SAHARA


Leaving Bou Saada by the same road taken the day before to visit El
Hamel, though without turning off down the track which passes the
holy city, the car climbs up into a rolling country of alfa—that
tall alfa or esparto grass which grows so abundantly all over the
Sersou and the Hauts Plateaux, and which is used extensively by
British firms to make paper.

Large concessions are leased for lengthy periods, the grass is cut
and collected by Arabs between November and March, and brought to
convenient centers on camels. Here it is pressed into bales and
despatched by motor transport or by rail to the sea, where it is
shipped to Europe: a profitable business, but somewhat lonely for the
European superintendent who lives at the pressing depot on the plain.

The country traversed during the first part of the journey is
very wild. Hills limit the broad horizon, bare of all vegetation;
they are the Mountains of the Ouled Naïls, and this time it is
impossible to refrain from speaking the truth about these people.
Now, it is generally believed that the women of the tribe of
the Ouled Naïl (which, incidentally, means _children of him who
has succeeded_) are all ladies of easy virtue, and that in every
dancing-place in North Africa this tribe supplies the performers.
It is, moreover, stated by many that prostitution among them is a
form of religion. Both these ideas are false.

In the first place, this occupation or trade did not exist as such
before the French conquered the country. The real facts are these:
the confederation of Ouled Naïls is the largest in Algeria; it
comprises twenty-one tribes and occupies a very wide area, running
all the way from Djelfa to Sétif in length, and almost as broad in
depth. It stands to reason, therefore, that in a great many of the
towns visited by travelers the Ouled Naïl women are found in their
own homes, or in the towns just bordering thereon. Outside their
own lairs, however, dancers of this tribe will be found exercising
the same profession among their cousins of other confederations. The
first reason for this is, again, the fact that they are so numerous
that they have migrated outside their own haunts, and even outnumber
the other women. The second reason is that prostitution among the
Ouled Naïl tribe is not considered a dishonor. This is greatly
due to the astonishing laziness of the tribesmen, who are quite
prepared to live on the earnings of their women. In any other tribe
a mother will bring up her daughter with the idea of marrying well,
having a home, and settling down to rear children herself. A mother
among the Ouled Naïl people will not discourage her daughter from
going as early as possible to the nearest town to earn her living
in order to provide a large enough dowry to make a good marriage,
or retire into prosperous inertia. Most astonishing of all is
the fact that bridegrooms are forthcoming, and that the method
employed to raise the money is not considered dishonorable. Among
the tribesmen of the Ouled Naïl, moreover, these girls are so
weary of the life they have led that they make excellent wives.

There are naturally many families of great respectability, whose
daughters are as closely kept as those of other tribes, but they
are not in the majority.

All this may sound very crude, but, as I have previously endeavored
to show, whatever may be the rights and wrongs of the question,
there is none of that sordid atmosphere associated with the same
thing in Europe.

About half-way between Bou Saada and Djelfa the mountains are left,
and a broad expanse of plain, sparsely cultivated, takes the place
of the alfa. In the distance a group of poplars appears, behind
which lies a walled village. The car passes through a menacing
gate and turns into a long, uninteresting street planted with
sad trees. Of all the cities in North Africa Djelfa is the most
lamentable. There is nothing to redeem its dull squalor, not even
a possible climate. In winter it freezes; in summer the heat is
unbearable; in the spring an icy blast blows from the mountains;
in autumn it rains and snows.

It would be the test of affection between a man and a woman to
pass six months in this place and remain on speaking terms. If the
traveler is wise he has lunched on the broad plain before reaching
this wretched town, as, if not, he must suffer a meal in the very
tumble-down hotel, which does its best, but which fails from want
of support. Djelfa must be left as soon as possible.

The car turns to the south, passes through another fortified gateway,
and is soon speeding away on the straight white road which leads
to the Sahara.

More alfa, more bare hills, more broad horizons. At the fifteenth
kilometer the _col des caravanes_, the highest point on the road,
is reached, and, away, away, the road can be seen like a long ribbon
unrolling itself toward the blue skies of the great south.

The caravanserai of Aïn el Ibel, the Spring of the Camels, is the
next landmark; once the nightly lodging in the days of the diligence,
it is now only used as a place to drink coffee if one is frequenting
the public car. The country is very lonely and desolate. It is a
land of sheep-breeding, and, though the traveler coming straight
from the green fields of Europe looks doubtfully at the gray scrub
about him, he will have his doubts removed when he sees the great
flocks feeding peacefully on either side of the road.

Calm-faced nomads, tall of stature, watch over them, and in the
distance a few black patches indicate where the camp has been
temporarily pitched. Camels too are everywhere, and have replaced all
forms of more modern transport. Caravans of these ungainly beasts,
bearing bales of wool and alfa, with here and there the _bassours_
in which the women travel, plod slowly along.

There is a sensation of something new in the atmosphere—the people
of the north have been left far behind, and at every revolution
of the wheels one seems to be speeding into the past. The flocks,
the camels, the tents, the tall shepherds are the same as they were
twelve hundred years ago, and even the rumbling motor-lorry which
keeps the south supplied with sugar and coffee does not affect them.

A few palm-trees appear, growing about a white caravanserai,
while mud houses cluster in a dip. It is the miniature oasis of
Sidi Maklouf. The road turns sharply to the right, runs down into a
dried-up river-bed, and then stretches straight away to the south.
The barren hill on the right looks like the edge of a saw; ahead
there is a distant horizon in a haze of blue; the eyes would like
to be there and see what is beyond.

Again the road bends, this time to the left, a dark mass appears,
which, gradually getting more distinct, reveals itself as
trees—palm-trees in thousands. Rosy rocks break the horizon, a
white column leaps to the sky; it is the minaret of Laghouat. The car
passes through the sandy bed of a broad river, usually a trickling
stream, but sometimes in the autumn a roaring torrent, making access
to the oasis impossible. The road slips through plantations of
tamarisk, and in a few moments an avenue of plane-trees is entered.

Gardens and quiet little villas are on either side, until, reaching
the fortified walls, the car draws up before the Transatlantic
Hotel, nestling picturesquely amid the tall palms. There is an
atmosphere of peace and quiet, and a welcome which is pleasant
after the long journey.

The interior of the hotel does not belie the exterior, and, when
one realizes that it was once the _bash agha’s_ Turkish bath,
the charm of the surroundings is complete.

An English tea awaits one, and when it has been consumed let the
traveler climb to the rosy rock near by and get his first glimpse
of the Sahara. If it is a clear evening the sunset effect will be
a vision never to be forgotten.



                            CHAPTER XXVIII

                         THE OASIS OF LAGHOUAT


The first view of the Sahara is perhaps one of the most amazing
things in the world. The northern part of the oasis is divided from
the southern by a barrier of rocks, and, as one tops the cliff,
a sense of awe fills one as one contemplates the immensity of the
vision spread out. The mind, unaccustomed to such spectacles, rushes
back and tries to compare the scene with anything it has ever seen
before, but it fails hopelessly, and remains in wonderment before
this wide panorama. And yet, as one gazes at the plain—which
seems to roll out from the sand in the foreground to an endless
expanse of stones, until it merges into the sky and is lost in
an infinite horizon—one can not help being reminded of the sea
on a calm evening: the oasis is some tropical island, with its
palm-trees growing almost down to the water’s edge; the golden
sand lapped by this tideless ocean, and then the sea—away, away,
far away—until the next island.

“Island” is really the only descriptive word for an oasis
in its ocean of desolation. It suddenly springs up and suddenly
disappears. Unless the water changes its course, nothing human can
cause a tree to grow outside its perimeter, any more than anything
could be raised out of the sea.

Laghouat is a very typical oasis of the south. From the rocky
eminence can be seen the town, clustering on either side of the rocky
barrier; the mosque on an eminence in the center, modern and rather
gaudy, but not unpleasant to look at; the very unprepossessing
Catholic church, rather like a wedding cake; and the two oases,
north and south. The town itself is comparatively modern, having been
rebuilt on the site of the old city which was utterly destroyed by
the French in 1852 to punish its heroic defenders for having held
out so long against them.

There are two versions as to the origin of the name Laghouat.
The first suggestion is from the Arab word _“gaouth,”_ or more
exactly _“rouat,”_ meaning a house in a dip with a garden,
and which has been contracted into “El aghouat.” The second
is “El-aghouat,” of which the derivation is _a mountain the
ridge of which resembles the teeth of a saw_. Both are plausible
suggestions, as all the houses have gardens, and the mountains in
the neighborhood give one very much the impression of saws.

Prior to the eighteenth century there is very little information to
be had concerning Laghouat. It was evidently an oasis frequented
by nomads, but there does not appear to have been any definite
settlement. In 1700, however, Sidi-El-Hadj-Aïssa, a very saintly
_marabout_, collected the tribes of the district about him and made
it clear that it would be in their interest to group themselves
in one body, and it must have been at this time that the present
Confederation of the Larbas came into existence.

Sidi-El-Hadj-Aïssa, who is the patron of the oasis, is a figure
of great importance in the Moslem history of Algeria, and he is
venerated throughout the country, more especially as a prophet.
Concerning the truth of his foresight it is not for us to criticize,
but the facts are worth noting. It appears that after creating this
center and making of the divided nomads one people, they did not
show the desired gratitude, and as punishment the _marabout_ laid
a terrible curse on his followers. In the curse he prophesied the
downfall of the city, internal war, and the French invasion. And,
though it is too long to go into, it is curious to note that all
the details of the prophecy occurred.

He made a further prophecy which is kept a great secret, to the
effect that Algeria would be delivered by a great chief who would
rise in Morocco and finally become Khalifat of North Africa.

I leave it to the reader to draw his own conclusions, but the fact
remains that the French did invade Algeria, and that events in
Morocco seemed at one time to indicate a fulfilment of his words.

The town reconstructed on the site of the old city may be more solid,
but it could not be less beautiful. Straight streets running at
right-angles, plain and drab—it is the typical architecture of
the modern southern town. There is a certain picturesque atmosphere
in the quarter bordering on the southern oasis, but it is very poor
and dirty.

The people live in small houses, and ply their business quite
humbly. Modernisms have not crept in, and the shopkeepers do not
worry the visitor to buy. When the day’s work is over they repair
to their gardens—the gardens which have made Laghouat famous. Every
man who can afford it has his own piece of land in the oasis. It may
be an acre, it may be three, but, all the same, it is his garden
and he is proud of it. Surrounded by high walls, it is planted
with palm-trees, peach-trees, vines, apricots, figs, oranges,
pomegranates, pears, medlars, and, in fact, all kinds of fruit.

The oasis being at a comparatively high level, the date-palms do
not produce a very marketable fruit, such as is found at Biskra in
the south, and in Laghouat a palm-tree only brings in fifty francs.
All the other fruit-trees, however, bear abundantly, too abundantly,
for, there being no railway, there is no outlet, and in early summer
peaches can be had for one franc the dozen, and apricots are given
away. Some people even find it too much trouble to carry the fruit
to market, and they merely eat what they can and use the rest
for manure.

Vegetables are in almost the same position, and are sold for
negligible sums. It is astonishing to realize that such fertility
exists so close to the wastes of the desert. There is a wonderful
opportunity for an enterprising man with capital who comes to
Laghouat with a fleet of lorries and bears away the fruit and
vegetables to Algiers. The purchase of the raw material will cost
him next to nothing; it is merely a question of transport. A jam
factory in Laghouat would pay a hundred per cent., but let it be
hoped, for the sake of the peace and beauty of the surroundings,
that no enterprising capitalist will come and spoil a land of pure
delight, where living is so easy and so cheap.

To produce all this vegetation, however, there must be water, and,
its absence being conspicuous in the south, it may interest the
reader to hear how an oasis is watered.

The whole of southern Algeria is crossed by rivers, which in the
winter have a certain amount of water, but which in the summer are
dry, and are in reality only drains to carry off the rain which
comes down from the hills after storms.

The real rivers of the south follow the water-courses, but they
flow underground, and it is only when they rise to the surface that
they form an oasis, and, as the Arabs say, the palm-trees spring
up with their feet in the water and their heads in the flames.
Anywhere along these courses wells can be sunk and the water tapped
at a depth varying from one hundred and twenty to twelve hundred
feet, and in some cases there are broad underground lakes, known
to the natives as Behar Tahtani—_the sea of the underworld_.

[Illustration: Sand Storm Getting up on the Sahara]

[Illustration: Waterfall of Boiling Water, Hammon, Meskoutine]

[Illustration: Arab Falconer Setting Out to Hunt]

Wherever, therefore, the river rises to the surface and forms an
oasis the land becomes very rich, and all vegetation is of the most
luxuriant. Sand mixed with irrigated earth is excessively fertile,
and produces everything from roses and strawberries to jasmine and
lemons. Cereals would thrive and cover endless acres if there was
enough water. Water—that is the question of daily life in the
great south. You may cross endless wastes of desertic plain with
only a few tufts of alfa grass here and there, and suddenly come
upon a great oasis, green and fresh in the watered land. But it
ends as abruptly as it began, and, although you may find yourself
standing in a garden of flowers and fruits and green grass, two
hundred yards away is the blasted desolation of the Sahara.

The distribution of water, therefore, is done very methodically.
There is, of course, the underground layer, in which rest the roots
of the palms, but the surface water for the lesser vegetables is
another matter. There is always a point where the water actually
comes to the surface in the form of springs, and, of course, the
river-bed which, during the winter rains, is running with water,
sometimes after big storms is a raging torrent overflowing the land.

The water is, therefore, captured at these points and carried into
the oasis by means of channels called _seguias_, so inclined that the
water is always flowing round the gardens. The oasis is, moreover,
divided into areas, and the areas receive the water at regular
intervals. A garden has so many minutes, according to its size,
and it is calculated that the whole surface under cultivation is
flooded for its appointed period once every seven days. The system
is ingeniously worked by sluices, padlocked by the water controller
of the area, who, when the appointed day occurs, lets in the water,
while the owner of the domain diverts it into the necessary quarters
on his own land, according to its need. At the end of the appointed
time the controller closes the sluice-gates and floods the next
garden. Rain is considered as an extra, and whatever the weather
the water-day is continued.

Apart from gardening, which is the hobby of all good Laghouatis,
there are other industries. Carpet-making and weaving, the occupation
of the women of the south, is very important here, and some of the
best burnouses and other woolen goods originate in Laghouat; and,
of course, there is sheep-breeding; this is the great occupation
in the northern Sahara, and a source of substantial revenue.

Some of the Jews are goldsmiths; they are also cobblers, and they
embroider leather to make into bags and saddles.

A walk in the evening in the dancing-girls’ quarter will remove
all the theatrical atmosphere which the same thing in Bou Saada
has created. The streets and coffee-houses are thronged nightly
summer and winter alike; the squeal of the _raïta_ and the beat
of the _tam-tam_ never cease, and if one strolls in and sits down
on a bench the performance will not change because of the entrance
of the tourist. The women continue dancing slowly up and down the
middle of the room, while the men sit in serried ranks and stare,
sipping their coffee or mint tea. There is no charge except for
the cup of harmless beverage which costs five sous. Sometimes a
dancing-girl will hold out her hand, and will be delighted with a
packet of cigarettes or a franc, and occasionally the band makes
a collection, but there is none of that grasping rush to exploit
tourists associated with those more popular centers.

There is little else to describe in the oasis, as the atmosphere
of the past is impossible to realize for those who live in great
cities. The lack of traffic, the blueness of the sky, the tall,
feathery palms, the dignity of the Arabs, the silence—especially
the silence—are things which must be seen and felt to be
appreciated.

It is a setting of peace, an atmosphere of calm—a solution to
the worries of modern life.



                             CHAPTER XXIX

                               THE MZAB


The journey south to Ghardaïa is very desolate; even the tufts of
alfa have practically disappeared. The road runs straight across
the flat plain, with nothing to relieve the eye except occasional
groups of dreary trees known as _pistachiers_. Flocks of sheep
graze by the roadside. The nomads’ tents stand out like black
patches on the stony ground. Sometimes a herd of gazelles will
be seen in the distance, bustards rise and flap languidly away,
hares abound. It is a great country for hawking.

If the day is hot, mirages will spring up and disappear as
quickly. It is not a picturesque journey to the land of the Mzab.
Half-way, the caravanserai of Tilrempt is reached; it is a long
white building standing in a dip surrounded by _pistachiers_. A very
worthy “mine host” will greet the traveler and regale him in
this desert home with one of the best meals he will taste in Algeria.

A visitors’ book will be presented to him, with which he can
regale himself joyously for half an hour before committing himself
to the pages as a further joy to those who follow. After Tilrempt
the country becomes more and more desertic, even the alfa has
completely vanished—only rough scrub, and little of that. Then
suddenly, at the one hundred and fiftieth kilometer, the oasis
of Berriane appears, a splash of vivid green in the middle of the
wilderness. The sensation of the verdure, after miles of desert,
is most refreshing. Berriane is the first city of the Mzab, and
one is at once struck by the originality of the architecture, quite
unlike anything that has been seen up till now. The minaret of the
mosque reminds one of an obelisk.

But this haven of green is soon left behind, and more desolation
begins. Not even the scrub, only stones and rocks and strips of
sand. It is a merciless, arid desert, the kind of scene which must
have inspired Doré to illustrate the Inferno of Dante: nothing to
relieve the eye for miles around.

Ghardaïa is reached unexpectedly. One appears to be in the middle of
the desert, when all of a sudden the road turns sharply to the right
and dips down a steep hill. It is as if one were descending into
the crater of a volcano. As the car reaches the flat there suddenly
appears the cone-like minaret of Ghardaïa, as it piles itself into
a kind of heap of houses on a little hill. To the left is the equally
heap-like city of Melika. It is an impression never to be forgotten,
a new world quite unlike anything seen before. But then the people
of the Mzab are a race of their own, and the confederation of cities
is quite unique. The Mzab is the Mzab, and it can be compared to
nothing— it is the most original place in North Africa.

The first question to decide, however, before penetrating into
its desolation and studying the inhabitants, is, _Who are these
people?_ And, curiously enough, the question is not easy to answer.
It is obvious to the simplest minded, on seeing these small,
squat men—with their smooth, round, white faces, fringed with
dark beards—that they are unlike any one else seen in Algeria.

They are as different as the Spaniards from the Germans, as the
British from the Italians. There are various theories put forward,
of which the most picturesque can not really be said to be founded
on any sound basis: it is that these strange people are the lost
tribe of Israel. In support of this theory we have the mystery
of their origin, and their very Semitic appearance; but, though
it would be pleasant to write a romance on the subject, it would
certainly have little merit outside fiction.

The second suggestion is that they are the direct descendants of the
old Phœnicians. People who oppose this idea bring forward the fact
that when Scipio destroyed Carthage he killed or deported all the
inhabitants. Against this, however, it must be evident that there
were Carthaginians in other parts of North Africa who escaped this
fate, and that Phœnician influence is found at a much later date.

In the Mzab itself there are certainly things very closely
connected with Carthage. The triangular decoration of the houses,
the pictures of fish, of the crescent moon, of the sun and the
stars are not Arab. The door-knockers represent the sun, and there
are many of phallic shape. But, in spite of these rather conclusive
evidences, the general idea is that the people of the Mzab are pure
Berbers. In support of this theory we have the fact that they are
Abhadites—that is to say, the last group of people created by the
great Kharedjite schism. What is certain is that the known groups
of Abhadites at Oman, Zanzibar, Djebel Nefarsa and the island of
Djerba have the same customs and language as the people of Ghardaïa.

The question then arises, why are these people in this desolation
of the Sahara, on no natural highway, and in no trade center, where
all the water comes from wells dug by the inhabitants, where it
rains about once every ten years? Why have these men voluntarily
condemned themselves to this life of trial and struggle? Those
learned on the subject maintain that this exile was conceived in a
moment of despair and as an act of faith, that in settling themselves
in this merciless desert they wished once and for all to flee from
the persecution which was always meted out to them by the orthodox
Mohammedans, and keep their form of religion and race intact.

It seems difficult to contradict this theory, all the more so when
we have evidence that they were driven from the Atlantic coast and
Tiaret in Oranie to Ouargla, an oasis some two hundred kilometers
south of Ghardaïa, and that, after barely two hundred years in this
oasis, they were again driven out by the Arabs. Weary, therefore,
of suffering, they determined to settle where no one would come and
molest them, and, as the only solution was to find a place naturally
hostile to invaders, they chose the Mzab. This took place about
A. D. 1070, but already in the year 1000 a reconnaissance had been
made in the direction of the Mzab and had founded a kind of refuge at
El Ateuf. When, therefore, the general emigration north took place,
the remaining six cities which form the confederation of the Mzab
soon sprang up—Bou, Noura, Melika, and Beni Sgen about A. D. 1048;
Ghardaïa 1053; and some hundred years later Guerrera and Berriane,
thirty miles outside the group adjacent to Ghardaïa.

Unlike most oases of the south, where water comes gushing out of
the ground and is directed by artificial channels to irrigate the
gardens, there was no surface water at all on the site chosen by
these people to found their cities. Every palm-tree planted, every
seed sown had to be watered artificially from wells, and if one looks
at the broad oasis, with its thousands of palm-trees, and when one
realizes that when the Mzabites first came the land was as barren
as that seen from the road, the feat performed leaves one amazed.

The system of drawing water has, moreover, not changed since those
days. The well is sunk and a kind of tank is built beside it, with
channels leading out to the parts of the land to be irrigated.
A sloping path is constructed, down which walks a camel with
a rope tied to its neck, while at the other end of the rope is
a skin resting at the water-level. When the camel gets to the
end of his walk the skin reaches the surface and by an ingenious
contrivance pours its contents into the tank; the camel returns
to the well, thus lowering the skin to the water again, and the
process recommences. The creaking sound of the pulley drawing up
the skin has a certain curious charm reminding one of Egypt.

Occasionally, but very occasionally, the rain comes, and to meet
this possibility barrages have been made across every little valley
in order to form small lakes. Beside every path or rock, gutters
have been constructed leading to one center where the water can
be stored. A rain-storm in the Mzab is worth untold millions to
its inhabitants.

And yet the Mzabite is not a farmer in any sense of the word, and
unless he is himself forced through poverty to work in the garden
he will avoid all contact with the soil and employ Arabs to look
after the land. He is essentially a merchant, living in his shop and
opposed to all outdoor life, all sport or anything military. This
antipathy to war again raises the question as to whether he is really
pure Berber. His cousins the Touaregs, the men of the Aurès and the
Kabyle Mountains, the people of the Riff, are all born warriors. Why,
then, has the Mzabite never been able to defend himself?

To my mind it confirms the theory that originally he was a
Carthaginian who became Berberized. Moreover, his round, squat
appearance is much more that which one would associate with the
prosperous trader of Carthage than with the wild men of the Riff.
All their instincts are for business. One sees these fat little
men plying their trade in Algiers, in the towns of the Tell, living
humbly and simply until the day is ripe to return to the Mzab. For
return they must, and this because no woman is ever allowed to
leave the confederation of the seven towns, and, as no Mzabite
may marry an Arab or vice versa, he is obliged to go back to his
home to continue the family. The family to him is of the highest
importance, and though they are, generally speaking, a democratic
race, they are very proud of their lineage, and their aristocracy
holds an important position.

Their habits are decidedly conservative, and are very noticeable in
the strictness with which their women are kept. They do not go to
market, and it is very rare to see one in the street. The children
are terribly shy, and at the approach of a stranger they flee and
at once hide in the houses.

They observe their religion most conscientiously; as it is the
Abhadite dissension it is very strict, and it is carried out to
the last letter, and, whereas one finds a good many Arabs breaking
the laws of the Prophet as it concerns wines and spirits, it is
excessively rare to see a Mzabite drink.

Their mosques are much more respected than those of the orthodox
Mohammedan; no one can be buried in them, and they are sanctuary to
all criminals. Their cemeteries are venerated, and one sees on the
tombs pots and plates, offerings to the dead, which again carries
one back to a more subtle origin than that of the ordinary Berber.
They sacrifice camels and oxen and sheep at appointed times,
chiefly for the purpose of bringing down rain, but also for more
daily occurrences, such as the laying of a foundation-stone.

As stated above, their commercial instincts are extraordinary, and
it is said that Ghardaïa and the adjacent towns conceal millions
of gold pieces. It is certain that in 1921, the year of the great
famine, these people had enough money to buy all they needed, and
they did not suffer half as much as the other tribes of the south.

They keep themselves very much apart from all other people, and
they consider the Mzab as a holy corner of the earth. The Arabs who
live in this wilderness are kept quite separate, with a quarter and
a mosque of their own, and, while mutually despising one another,
are usually the servants of the Mzabites. The Jews likewise who are
found in Ghardaïa itself, not only have a reserved quarter of the
town but they also wear a peculiar dress, and are treated with the
utmost contempt. In fact, in all ways the people of the Mzab are
quite different from any other race in North Africa, and the study
of their history and customs would give material for a lengthy
book. It is hoped, however, that these few pages will enable the
traveler to realize that he is no longer among the simple Arabs of
the great plain, but in the midst of a strange people whose origin
will always remain a mystery.



                              CHAPTER XXX

                     GHARDAIA AND ADJOINING TOWNS


During the journey south we have passed Berriane, the outpost of
the Mzab, and of later foundation than the other towns. Guerrera
is on the journey to Touggourt; the remaining five towns of
the confederation are before us in this kind of desolate rock
crater. The most important and the largest of them is Ghardaïa,
lying at the foot of the military _bordj_, where it is necessary to
pass the night. On a rocky eminence to the east is Melika, further
on, the holy city of Beni Sgen, and out of sight, but only a few
miles distant, are Bou Noura and El Ateuf.

To the south again there is another oasis called Metlili, which
some people erroneously comprise in the confederation of the Mzab,
but though in many ways it has Mzabite characteristics it is in
reality a town of the tribe of the Chambas, nomads who inhabit a
vast area of the Sahara beyond Ghardaïa.

The first thing that strikes one as one looks at Ghardaïa is the
way the houses pile themselves up into a heap, rather like a giant
ant-hill which is, in its turn, surmounted by the minaret made of
mud, resembling an obelisk with little holes in the top. Moreover,
if we turn and look at Melika and Beni Sgen we are struck by the
same similarity of construction which we saw at Berriane and which
we shall see in all the towns of the Mzab.

The origin of these cones is easy to find. As each town was founded,
the group of elders whose duty it was to carry out this rite first of
all built the mosque on a hilltop; this mosque was at the same time
a store for food and arms as well as a fortress. Consequently the
people grouped themselves on the slopes beneath. This again is
evidence of the great antiquity of the race, for is it not known
that all early religious orders frequented heights and that nowadays
theosophists refer a great deal to the influence of high places on
their mysticism? The effect is very curious, and even if the aspect
of the people does not create an impression, their architecture
surely will. Descending from the eminence on which is situated the
_bordj_, a narrow street will be followed, which suddenly leads out
into a broad square, surrounded by unsymmetrical arcades. If the
_caïd_ is at home he will probably permit the visitor to mount to
his roof and look down on this animated center and up toward the tall
minaret. In the middle of the square is a kind of stone stage where,
on certain days, justice is administered, while close by will be seen
a curious group of stones set out in a horseshoe formation. This
strange circle marks the site where the elders of the city first
sat down in the open plain a thousand years ago to found Ghardaïa.

Leaving the square, the route to take is up a narrow street leading
direct to the mosque. The houses almost meet, and in certain places
the alley is tunneled through the habitations. A narrow passage
leads up to the mosque, and if one has a competent guide a dark
chamber can be visited which is a place of ablution, but which,
in days gone by, was the scene of political conspiracies. The
mosque itself is quite unlike anything one has seen before. The
pillars are neither Turkish nor Roman, the architecture has no
sort of connection with any known style. In the wall are holes to
place shoes before going into the sanctuary to pray; hanging from
the roof is a skin full of water, the greatest sign of charity in
this country where water is more valuable than gold.

Above, a kind of cage covered in with wire netting, reminding one
of a chicken-run or rabbit-hutch, leaves one wondering. A hundred
guesses will not elucidate the mystery—it is the lost-property
office!

Climbing on to the roof, a panoramic view of the town spreads itself
below. To the east the Jewish quarter, with a curious pyramid-like
synagogue; to the west the Arab quarter, with an insignificant
mosque; to the south the more modern buildings, with the house of the
White Fathers, while away in the distance can be seen the beginning
of the great oasis, brilliant green against the barren hills.

If one is lucky one may see from here the strange sight of a man
selling his house. There he stands on the roof while the would-be
purchasers squat round making bids.

The walk can be continued through the narrow streets past wells
three hundred feet deep with the eternal skin dangling at the end
of a long rope. A visit is recommended to the Convent of the White
Sisters, who teach the little girls to weave carpets in the patterns
peculiar to the country, and if souvenirs are wanted it is advised
to buy them here. Likewise at the house of the White Fathers leather
goods of the country can also be had at moderate prices.

Returning toward the fort a series of cemeteries will be passed,
as well as a broad open space, where on special occasions the
public prayer takes place. A morning will suffice for Ghardaïa,
and the afternoon can be devoted to the other cities.

The most interesting place to see is the holy city of Beni Sgen and
its oasis, but as this will not take the whole afternoon part of the
time can be devoted to Melika, Bou Noura or El Ateuf. I would suggest
Bou Noura. Melika involves a very steep climb up a cliff and El Ateuf
a motor drive over a very bad road. Moreover, all these cities are
much alike. What strikes one most is their poverty in comparison
with Ghardaïa; all the rich merchants are there, and even the
inhabitants of the other towns come to the capital to do business.

After visiting Bou Noura, therefore, a walk can be taken in the
oasis behind Beni Sgen. A wide area of verdure relieves the eye,
and though the palm-trees are squat like the inhabitants, it is
a very refreshing place. There is a barrage of brick drawn right
across the oasis to catch any stray water which some unforeseen
storm may bring. Here the wells and the method of working them may
be seen at close quarters.

Beni Sgen should be reached about the middle of the afternoon, and
this for a reason to be explained later. Of all the curious towns
in this strange country the holy city is the most curious. It is
entirely walled in, with three gates piercing the walls at the north,
the east, and the west. No Arab, Christian or Jew is permitted to
linger within its keep after sunset; no smoking is allowed in the
houses nor in the streets; even the French school is built outside
the wall. At the entrance of the northern gate the skin of water
hangs in sign of charity.

Climbing up a steep alley one comes to a tower; the key is usually
available, and, entering, one can ascend the winding steps which
lead one successively to three stories which at one time were
guardrooms. From the summit one obtains a magnificent view of the
town itself as well as of the oases of Ghardaïa, Melika and Bou
Noura. Immediately below the tower is a little cemetery where one
will note the offerings to the dead in the shape of plates and
jars. To the east are two broad platforms for the public prayer.

[Illustration: _Photograph by Mr. Julian Sampson_
The Market-Place of Beni-Sgen]

[Illustration: Channel for Watering the Garden of an Oasis]

[Illustration: Street in Bou Saada]

As the afternoon draws on, flocks of goats can be seen wandering
slowly in from the barren hills. They have a public shepherd,
paid for by the town, who is responsible for the animals up to
the gate of the city; at this point he leaves them and the goats,
separating themselves, go independently up the narrow streets to
their respective homes. When they reach the door they butt it with
their heads or tap with their hoofs until they are let in.

The doors of the houses in the Mzab, and especially the locks,
are very curious. The door itself is usually made of heavy planks
studded with nails and closed with a lock usually associated with a
prison gate. This, however, is a modern institution, for the native
key is unique in the world. It consists of a piece of wood about a
foot long, at the end of which is arranged a pattern of nails. This
piece of wood is pushed into a kind of deep slot running from the
doorpost diagonally toward the door. From the wall and running into
the door is a wooden bar or bolt on which is a pattern of nails
corresponding to those on the wooden key. The proprietor slips in
his piece of wood until its nails coincide with those inside and
then he pulls, the bar gives and it is possible to open the door.
It is, I suppose, the origin of the latch-key, as no two combinations
of nails are the same, and it means absolute safety to the designer
of the piece of wood.

At each turn the traveler is experiencing something new, and though
he has seen a series of strange customs common to all the cities of
the Mzab, the most curious, which is peculiar only to Beni Sgen,
has been left to the last. For some reason, which at present it
has been impossible to fathom, there are practically no shops
in the holy city, and everything is sold by auction. This sounds
quite incredible until, climbing down the steep streets, one comes
suddenly into a triangular “square” about fifty yards long.
At one end on a raised platform sits the _caïd_, surrounded by
his counselors, while all around squat men of venerable countenance
dressed in white robes.

In the middle of the square are a few goats, some camels, a mule,
a heap of charcoal, while the auctioneers solemnly carry round the
goods to be disposed of, stopping before each person to hear his bid,
which is said in a whisper. So he proceeds round and round until
the required price is attained. He may be selling a costly carpet
or a bottle of pickles, a piece of firewood or some embroidered
shoes—it is all the same. The goods can pass only to the highest
bidder. Moreover, as the price can only be raised half a franc at a
time it often takes days to acquire the object required. Sometimes
one sees a man riding round the square on a mule or a donkey which
he wishes to dispose of, but it is all the same, and the richest
Mzabite can not alter the procedure for untold cash. The spectacle
of this auction market is one of the most impressive sights in all
North Africa. An atmosphere of an old world, long past and forgotten,
is before us, and as one looks at the faces of the men one can not
help being reminded of scenes from the Bible, and the legend of
the lost tribe springs up unconsciously.

The colored burnous of the Arab has vanished, the bustling merchant
of Ghardaïa is no longer before us, there is calmness of demeanor,
a whiteness of clothing which speaks of ages and ages in the dim
realm of history when Europe was a land of wild beasts and the
Britons painted themselves blue.

At times one is almost inclined to cry out:

“But this can’t be real, this is got up for me, it is part of
Wembley; in an hour all these men will be settling down to chops
and beer in the nearest pub!”

But it is not so. Every day, except on great feasts, year in and year
out, for two hours before sunset these silent old gentlemen assemble
before the _caïd_ and purchase what they can by auction, and when
it is over they repair to the mosque before retiring to their homes
to eat a silent meal prior to returning to bed. The Mzabite is not
a gay personality, and he takes life very seriously. Unfortunately
some of their more ancient characteristics have disappeared by
the appointment of civil _caïds_. In the early days of the French
conquest of Algeria these people surrendered to the invader before
they had even thought of pushing as far as the Mzab, and they still
have a separate treaty with France, making of the country a sort of
independent little republic exempt from all obligations to the main
Government. They kept all their religious dignitaries who ruled
the whole confederation as they had done for centuries before,
and the _caïd_-ship was not imposed on the tribe till after the
whole of Algeria had been pacified. Lately the French seem to have
rather forgotten their old friends and have voted conscription. This
caused great consternation until it was discovered that there was a
subparagraph permitting a Mzabite to send an Arab in his place to
serve. The authority to spend a thousand francs to find some poor
loon to shoulder the rifle brought back the smiles to the smooth,
round, white faces, and the placid atmosphere returned to the busy
shops of Ghardaïa and to the silent streets of the holy city.

Generally speaking nothing has changed since the foundation of the
cities, and even if in some far-off day the railway reaches the
Mzab it will probably only have the effect of stimulating trade.
The haunt of the children of Carthage will remain as it was when
their forefathers imposed their commerce on the whole of the
Mediterranean basin as they are now beginning to impose it on the
easy-going Arabs of North Africa.



                             CHAPTER XXXI

                     GUERRERA AND THE SAND DESERT


To cross over from the rock desert of the Mzab to the sand of
Touggourt it is advisable to be very certain of the reliability of
the car, and, if possible, to go accompanied by another vehicle. The
country to be traversed is terribly desolate, and, except when the
mail bus runs, once a week, it is very seldom that one meets any
traffic; if one has a serious breakdown one must wait in the desert
for the passage of the _diligence_, which may be some days.

Water—plenty of water—and some food should be carried, a rope and
a spade to help one out of the sand, and all necessary spare parts.

The road on leaving Ghardaïa is the same by which one arrives,
but, after following it for ten kilometers, one turns sharply to
the right along the desert track. There is at once an impression
of desolation and loneliness—no more telegraph poles, no more
milestones, little to mark the sides of the road. At first the
flat-topped hills are on either side, then gradually they give way
to great rolling expanses stretching away, away on all sides; even
the scrub has disappeared; it is the first real impression of the
Sahara, and, though the noisy rush of the car makes one forget the
solitude, the silence and loneliness appal one at any stop one makes.

Some twenty kilometers along the track another track branches off
to the right. It must not be taken, as it leads to Ouargla, to
the Hoggar, to the far south until it reaches Timbuctou. A little
farther on, as if nature wished to fool the traveler, one suddenly
sees a splash of green winding about among the stony plain. It
looks like some lovely river shaded by trees, and, though there is
no water running between its banks, it is a river making its way
below the surface of the ground, to spring up later at some oasis.
But it is soon left behind, and the country becomes more and more
desertic, though, curiously enough, it has not such a cruel aspect
as the land about Ghardaïa. The hills are of a delicate rose color
and the lines less hard; it is the prelude to the sand.

The road starts climbing, then all of a sudden, as it tops the
rise, the oasis of Guerrera appears, solitary in the middle of
these pink hills. It is the most impressive sight of the whole
journey. Battlemented walls surround the town, as it piles itself
into a pinnacle surmounted by the cone-like minaret. At its feet
lies the oasis, with its thirty thousand palm-trees bowing in the
breeze. It is one of the most amazing spectacles any traveler can
wish to see—an impression of desolation, of solitude, of green
vegetation, of a town of a past age.

There is quite comfortable accommodation in the _bordj_, and, though
the food is almost entirely Arab, it is cleanly cooked. In the
itinerary set out at the end of Chapter XXV it has been suggested
that Guerrera should be passed through on the way to Touggourt,
without stopping, but, though it differs little from the other six
towns of the Mzab, its oasis, its remoteness from civilization,
make it well worth a longer break in the journey.

On entering the town by one of the turreted gates, one is first
of all struck by the business and bustle of the people. Arriving
here out of the desolation of the Sahara, one almost expects to
see savages or, at any rate, dark people living in a primitive
state, but not at all; the houses are solidly built and are clean
and well-kept; the people are gracefully robed in white, shops
abound, and practically every one speaks a little French. It is the
civilization, the business instinct of the Mzabite, the inherited
perseverance of the Carthaginian which permits these squat little
people to thrive in this lost city of the Sahara.

But the most beautiful place is the oasis. Unlike those we have seen
before, there are none of those high walls which screen the gardens
and which prevent our seeing anything behind them. Here there are
no walls, the palm-trees grow all about, with vegetables and grass
at their feet; vines are trained from stem to stem, and give an
impression of virgin forest. Little paths and sun-baked alleys
lead one past wells and fruit-trees until, coming suddenly out of
the shade, one finds oneself on the desert again. A small group
of palm-trees cuts the horizon, and then, away, away, the Sahara
as far as the eye can reach. The sun sets in an orange radiance,
wrapping the palm-trees in a mantle of gold-dust; the breeze springs
up and rustles through the oasis; peace and silence are everywhere,
and one is tempted to remain in this quiet for a few days. It is
free to the traveler to do as he pleases, but our journey must be
accomplished, and sooner or later we must push on toward the east.

After Guerrera the road continues across this rose-colored
landscape. It is impossible to describe it adequately, photographs
do not give the impression of delicate color or of the limitless
horizon, neither can the mind of him who has not been in the real
Sahara visualize the vast expanse of sky which seems to cover
the world.

Some fifty kilometers before reaching Touggourt one comes into the
sand. It is an impression as different as possible from anything
which has been passed up to the present. Soft white dunes rise up
before one, curling back and looking like great waves of the Atlantic
about to break into foam. In all directions this sea extends without
any sort of break, and one realizes a little what it must be to
lose one’s way in a desert where there is nothing to guide one,
nothing to differentiate one dune from another.

If the wind is not blowing, it is a pleasant drive through this
area of sand, but if it is, the drifting grit blinds, gets into the
engine, and covers the track, and it is practically certain that
sooner or later the car will stick and that it will take infinite
trouble to free it.

Touggourt itself is a typical southern town, of little interest
beyond its situation in the sand; moreover, it has lost a good deal
of its charm by the presence of the railway and the consequent
invasion of tourists. Hotels have sprung up, and the streets are
infested by guides. It is one of the great date centers of Algeria,
and the sweet luscious fruit eaten in England at Christmas-time
comes from the one hundred and seventy thousand palm-trees which
form its lovely oasis. If one is here in November one can see the
Arabs swarming up the trees in a miraculous fashion and cutting off
the bunches of golden dates, which are let down to earth by means
of a rope slung over one of the branches.

In March and April one will see a still more curious sight, the
fertilization of the palm. The flower of the male tree is carried
to the top of the female by an Arab who places it in a cleft in
the head of the tree while he chants religious airs. A date-palm
does not bear fruit for twelve years, but when it does it goes on
for over a hundred, and those who own palmeries in the areas which
produce the right kind of fruit are excessively rich.

One night will suffice to see Touggourt, and the sunset over
the sand-dunes is a spectacle never to be forgotten, while if a
caravan from the south arrives it affords a wonderful impression
of a period of the past. It is hard to realize that in this sandy
country the only really adequate mode of transport is the camel.
Some men ride horses, but even then they have a hard time, whereas
the ship of the desert, with its spongy padded feet, its nostrils
and eyelids hermetically closed to the dust, and its endurance
without food or water, prove that it was created for this purpose,
and that traveling by any other means is hazardous. It is not a
very rapid conveyance, but one can average a good twenty-five miles
a day and be certain of reaching one’s destination.

Further south one finds the _mehari_, or trotting white camel, which
moves along at a great pace, but it is reserved almost entirely
for the Meharistes, or French African camel corps, who guard the
lonely caravan tracks of the Sahara.

On leaving Touggourt the road follows the railway through a country
of sandy patches which gradually get stonier as it progresses
north. Pleasant little oases are passed, as well as salt lakes which
are usually practically dry but which give excellent mirage effects.

We are now in the confederation of the Zibans, one of the most famous
tribes of the south, and to-night we shall be at their headquarters,
the world-famed city of Biskra.



                             CHAPTER XXXII

                                BISKRA


With the aid of a railway an English novelist inadvertently made
of Biskra what it is to-day. I say inadvertently because there is
not the least reference to Biskra in the whole book, and I am sure
that Mr. Hichens was the last person to wish to create of a Sahara
oasis a kind of Dieppe-on-sand. Neither would this town have been so
thronged with trippers had it been miles away in the desert without
a railway, but it is so easy to get into the train at Algiers one
night and detrain the next day in time for lunch in the Sahara that
more people come here than to any other place in the south.

Of course, from the point of view of the country, the change
has brought in a great deal of money and the town has an air of
fat prosperity unknown in the other places we have visited. Arab
guides are paid the wages of colonels and the hiring of camels is
as expensive as a motor-car. The cafés of the Quarter charge what
they please and the numerous Palace hotels have corresponding prices.

It is a curious place and well worth a visit. It is difficult
to decide which arrival is the most attractive—possibly that
from the south, because the oasis is the first thing seen. It is
an impression of palm-trees, three times as many as at Laghouat,
and as one approaches in the evening, the golden light seems to
envelop their feathery heads in a mysterious radiance as the wind
rustles through them.

From the northern approach the coloring on the rocks and hills will
perhaps be as wonderful, but there is not that same feeling of the
Sahara because the town masks the oasis.

The largest hotel is the Royal, and from its tower a wonderful
panorama of the desert is spread before one. Unfortunately it is
difficult to keep up this atmosphere long, as it is impossible to
close one’s eyes to the Anglo-Saxon hibernators who have brought
with them their knitting and their bridge and their crossword
puzzles, while the foreign waiters in their starched dickeys
jar horribly after the silence of the Great South. Moreover, if
one steps into the street superb guides in sky-blue robes assail
one—flight north seems the easiest course only to find a gallery
of curiosity shops stocked with gaudy merchandise from Syria. Again
fleeing from the oily merchants toward the sounds of a deep flute,
one finds oneself in a coffee-house, as dirty as in the other cities,
with the only difference that the mint tea costs five francs. Again
in a wretched state of persecution mania one turns south again and,
seeing a brilliantly lighted building of Moorish architecture, one
hurries in; lights dazzle one, the sounds of bad dance-music strike
the ear mingled with monotonous cries of _“Rien ne va plus!”_
It is the casino, but, just as one is about to depart again into
the night in search of a haven of refuge, the curious scene arrests
one’s steps.

Of all the _habitués_ of casinos in the world I think that those
collected in that of Biskra are the most remarkable. The Biskra
casino has no kind of pattern or atmosphere; it is just an amazing
jumble like the background of one of Mr. Piccasso’s pictures. The
hall is full of cheery French inhabitants of Biskra sitting at little
tables drinking beer, laughing, and occasionally dancing gaily to
the noisy band. A few solemn Britons join in the fun, while Arabs of
serene countenance sit and watch without showing the smallest trace
of emotion. At the gaming-tables a party of travel-stained tourists
belonging to a Transatlantic tour are learning the mysteries of the
play under the supervision of the company’s guide in his khaki
uniform plastered with medal ribbons. Two or three Anglo-Saxons
in dinner-jackets, with their consorts in smart evening gowns,
contrast vividly with the robes of the Arab chief whose turban,
unlike those we have seen up to the present, is bound about with
much thicker strands of camel’s hair and crossed and interwoven
in a fashion peculiar to the district.

In a kind of theater, a music-hall show is taking place, partly
composed of the usual French turns, partly of Arab music and
dancing. If one is lucky one may hear the great tenor Mahi-ed-Din
sing the ballads of the Tell. The audience is as mixed as in the
other room, but it is gay, and in spite of oneself one is drawn
back to this scene each night. It has the great advantage over
the native quarter in having no pretensions. It is as genuine as
possible and is certainly unique.

The only peaceful spot in the whole of Biskra is the famous Jardin
Landon, erroneously supposed to be the Garden of Allah. It is
unknown who first spread this story, and it was certainly not the
fault of the author that the legend arose. The Garden of Allah is,
of course, the desert; the land from which Allah has removed all
vegetation and life in order that man may not come and interfere
with his solitude, and where He can walk in peace. The restful
garden in question is a wonderful plantation of tropical trees and
flowers. It was created by the Count Landon de Longueville, and it
gives the impression of a conservatory in the open air. Paths run
about through passages of trees; green grass grows in abundance,
and the ceaseless noise of water ever running through the _seguias_
is as soothing as soft music.

It is a question as to whether the impression of sunset lights is
best seen from its wall or from the tower of the hotel. Both views
are enchanting, but perhaps that of the garden is more vivid, as it
is closer to the desert and to the herds of camels and goats passing
slowly across the dried-up river bed which is the continuation of
the Mzi we saw at Laghouat.

This long, long river which bursts up here and there to create oases
is said by the natives to rise in the Djebel Amour Mountains above
Laghouat and, flowing right across the desert to Southern Tunisia
and Tripoli, finally to disappear in the Nile.

If one has not come up from Touggourt and one is anxious to get
an impression of the sand desert, there is a tract of land to
the southwest, the other side of the oases, which is really worth
seeing. It is a natural fake, like Bou Saada, and a photograph of
the proud traveler sitting on a hired camel can safely be labeled
as having been taken in any part of the “Grand Erg.”

The Village Nègre is worth a visit, and if a horrible curiosity
appeals to one, the dervishes who eat scorpions and glass and pierce
their faces with nails can be seen without difficulty.

Not far away is the oasis of Sidi Okba, which is a good example of
a southern town for those who have cut across from Bou Saada. It
is famous for its mosque, where lies buried Sidi Okba, who was
killed here in his last battle against Koceila, the Berber chief,
in the year A. D. 682.

As far as sightseeing, this is about all Biskra can produce. If,
however, one is in this cosmopolitan oasis in the early spring
when the races are taking place, an entertainment is provided
which will not be forgotten. The Arab chiefs in this district are
wealthier than most of their colleagues, due to the richness of
the date-palms; and owing to the proximity of Europeans, they are
given a great deal more to entertaining than others. The _bash agha_
of the confederation of the Zibans keeps open house, and even in
the deadest season never dines alone, but calls in his friends from
the street to share his repast. At the races he outdoes himself in
hospitality, and it is entirely owing to him and to his relations
that the meeting is such a success.

The races consist of three quite separate performances. The first are
so-called flat races, which consist of a wild gallop round the course
for Arab horses of all ages and sizes, mounted by turbaned bandits
who just go “all out” for the first place. No pulling here.

The second are the officers’ steeplechases, where one sees some
nice horses and some quite good racing.

But the third event, which in reality embraces the whole affair,
is the _fantasia_. The Arab chiefs from all the surrounding land
muster their tribesmen, who all come mounted, armed to the teeth,
and as wild as children at a birthday party. This kind of irregular
cavalry is known as the _goums_, and in time of war it is levied to
fight for France. During 1915 a contingent was fitted out and sent
to Flanders, where it behaved heroically. At the Biskra races the
_goums_ make a very brave show, too, in their flowing burnouses,
sitting bolt upright in their high-backed saddles, their guns across
the bow and the curved scimitar beneath the left saddle-flap. There
is a mounted band consisting of two men with _raïtas_ and one with
a _tam-tam_, while at the head of the column rides the _caïd_,
clothed from head to foot in scarlet and purple, his feet in
embroidered red leather boots resting on massive silver stirrups,
while beside him rides a retainer bearing the banner of the tribe.

It is a splendid and majestic sight to see these wild men of the
south passing slowly before the improvised grandstands. After the
orthodox racing is over, and after the _bash agha_ has entertained
endless guests at lunch and tea, it is the turn of these nomads
to show what they are worth. There is a stir in their ranks,
then suddenly two men dash down the course at a furious speed. As
they approach the stand they rise in their stirrups and fire their
guns and fly on. The women, in gaudy taffetas, raise high tremulous
cries. Two more men follow, and then another two; then one man alone
who carries two long guns which he fires together, tossing them
in the air as he disappears in a cloud of dust. A larger group of
horsemen flash past, the air resounds to the crack of the guns and
the cries of the women, but they are gone before one has realized
that they have passed.

A pause. Then all of a sudden a tall figure in scarlet and gold
is seen detaching himself from the other _goumiers_; he sets his
horse in motion and comes whirling down the course; behind him
rides his standard-bearer, so close that he seems to touch. Behind
him again four retainers in blue burnouses gallop in hot pursuit.
As the _caïd_ approaches the stand he turns sharply and, aiming at
the center of the crowd, fires. The color-bearer dips the standard,
while the retainers, bending forward, draw the curved scimitars
which flash in the setting sun as they wave them above their heads
and sweep on in a whirlwind of dust, while the cries of the women
rend the air.

Oh, it is a brave spectacle, the _fantasia_, and makes one realize
how far separated are we in Europe from these wanderers of the south.

There is an Arab proverb which says that “Love lasts three seconds,
the _fantasia_ three minutes, and misery lasts for ever!”



                            CHAPTER XXXIII

                                TIMGAD


The road, on leaving Biskra, runs due north over a land which
usually looks barren, but which in periods of rain produces a
plentiful crop of cereals. Very soon a ridge is topped, and Biskra
and the Sahara are lost to sight. Some people will heave a sigh
of relief at leaving for the last time these desolate expanses;
others will look back longingly, and these will return sooner or
later. Once the Sahara has gripped the heart there is nothing in
the world which will free it from its hold.

Just over fifty kilometers from Biskra the oasis of El Kantara is
reached, and of all the beauty-spots in North Africa it is one of
the most attractive. It is really better to approach it from the
north, descending from a high level toward an apparently unbroken
barrier of rock. Some trees proclaim the few houses which cluster
about the little Hotel Bertrand, nestling under the towering cliffs
while the river gurgles at its feet.

Then suddenly a cleft appears in the rocks, and the road and the
railway creep out side by side into the plain beyond. It is the
complete contrast of the north and south—of winter and summer. On
one side of the mountain the soil is dark and fertile, and on the
other it is rosy and desertic. The Arabs say that all rain stops
north of the Gorge of El Kantara.

Arriving from the south the first thing we shall see will be the
oasis: a long array of palm-trees shading a river which is more
than often full of water. If time permits, it is well worth the
trouble to cross over an iron bridge and visit the curious little
villages. There are some interesting Roman remains and a series of
views of the palmery, which, even if one is not an artist, furnish
material for beautiful photographs.

Proceeding through the Gorge of El Kantara, which incidentally
means the bridge, we come to _the_ bridge, built by the famous Third
Legion which garrisoned this part of North Africa. Unfortunately
it has been badly restored, but the stones used by the Romans are
still there.

The Hotel Bertrand is a restful place, a paradise for painters, and,
if one is interested in climbing or shooting the elusive moufflon,
there is plenty of this sport in the district.

The road climbs on, winding up the steep gradient on to the cereal
plains of Batna. The tall peaks of the Aurès Mountains rise up,
covered with pines and cedars, and in winter often deep in snow. It
is a great contrast after the Sahara. The rest of the road is
uninteresting, as is also the modern town of Batna, where one will
find all comforts as usual at the Transatlantic Hotel.

The traveler will, of course, make his plans before starting,
but it seems opportune to put in some suggestion for the visit to
Timgad. If time presses it is advised to leave Biskra early, lunch
at Batna, or, better still, picnic at Lambèse, go to Timgad, and
return to sleep at Batna. If time is not of importance it would be
far pleasanter to leave Biskra later, spend some time at El Kantara,
lunch there, sleep at Batna, and spend the whole day at Timgad,
and sleep again at Batna.

Or, if Roman ruins do not attract one, go to Timgad in the morning,
lunch there, leaving about three in the afternoon, and arrive at
Constantine for dinner.

As stated in the note at the end of Chapter XXV, it is possible to
do Biskra, Batna, and sleep at Sétif in one burst, which permits
one to be in Algiers the following day.

The road from Batna to Timgad runs over a rolling, inhospitable
country dominated on the right by the frowning Aurès Mountains. The
first place of interest is Lambèse, the Roman Lambæsis. It was
founded at the end of the first century as the headquarters of that
amazing Third Legion which garrisoned North Africa at that period.
It is one of the best existing examples of a military camp, with
its magazines, parade ground, officers’ quarters and military
church. It has also an amphitheater and a few temples, but their
remains are not so interesting as in many other Roman cities. The
prætorium, or rather its entrance, built of massive blocks of stone,
is in a very good state of preservation; through the middle passed
the main roads which ran straight across North Africa—north,
south, east and west. Traces of this masterpiece of engineering
are continually being unearthed.

Leaving Lambèse, the same scenery continues, a triumphal arch is
passed, a few relics of Roman houses, then at the thirtieth kilometer
there appear in the distance two tall pillars, which seem to leap up
out of the plain to a great height and stand pointing to the sky in
solitary grandeur. Straining the eyes, one soon discerns buildings
and more pillars. A great arch defines itself—we are arriving at
the dead city of Timgad. Two thousand years ago the Emperor Trajan
decided to found a settlement for the Roman soldiers who had fought
in the Parthian campaigns, and he commanded that Thamugadi should
be built by the men of the Third Legion.

Thus Timgad did not grow up according to the needs of the settlers,
but was conceived and born in its entirety. For this reason it is one
of the most perfect examples of a Roman town of the period. Some
writers have called it the African Pompeii, but, though the
drifting sand preserved it as did the ashes Pompeii, this is the
only thing analogous about the two places. Pompeii was a seaside
resort, a town of pleasure and luxury; Timgad was an outpost of a
mighty empire. Everything was done to make it resemble as much as
possible the settlers’ homes in the mother country, and it must
have been a strange sensation for the Berbers of the Aurès who
ventured down from their mountain homes to see all the civilized
organization going on in the middle of this desolate land. Timgad
was, however, never an important nor even a large city. Its area
did not exceed one hundred and fifty acres and, though it is
interesting to us because it escaped the total destruction meted
out by the Vandals and Arabs to most of the other Roman cities,
it never created anything in particular.

Entering by the northern gate, we find on our right the big
baths. Built with the utmost care and paved with marble brought
from Italy, they contained every improvement of the day, and were
practically identical with the baths of Caracalla at Rome. They
are in a high state of preservation, and it is most interesting to
examine the various devices for bringing in water and for heating
the many chambers.

Walking up the street from the baths, one passes what must have been
shops; only the lower parts of the walls remain. The first building
of interest discloses itself on the left. There is a pillared portico
and a kind of altar with shelves around; the inscription suggests
that it was the public library, but this is not certain. It may
have been the shrine of the Lares—household gods.

[Illustration: The Bridge of the Third Legion at El Kantara]

[Illustration: _Photograph by Mr. Julian Sampson_
An Arab of Tadjmout]

The street now leads into the Decumanus Maximus, the main
thoroughfare. Graceful columns line either side, leading into what
must have been large houses. The paving-stones, placed diagonally
to prevent their being worn away by the chariots, are nevertheless
deeply rutted. Between the chinks can be seen the drain which ran
beneath the middle of the way. Immediately opposite this intersection
are the steps leading up to the forum: a white-paved court with many
pillars, some fifty yards long, with at one end a tribunal where sat
the judge. There must have been many statues, but they are no more.

Just below the forum, on the north side, are the public latrines
which, with their carved hand-rests, are interesting and worth
examining.

On the south side of the forum there is a charming inscription:
_“Veneri, lavari, ludere, ridere—occe est vita!”_ “Hunting,
bathing, gambling, laughing—this is life!”

Climbing out on an eminence above the forum, we come to the
theater. The auditorium is hollowed out of the hill and is in a fine
state of preservation. The seating accommodation makes the modern
play-goer think, as from every stall the stage is fully visible
and the acoustic properties are faultless. Looking across from the
theater can be seen the tall pillars we first espied from the road;
they are the ruins of the Temple of Jupiter on the capitol. The
pillars are immense, fifty feet high, with each capitol three feet,
making a total of fifty-six feet. In the middle was a gigantic
statue of Jupiter, now in the Louvre in Paris. There is nothing so
drearily desolate, so terribly silent, as the two pillars of this
temple. It seems as if they stood there to warn the people who pass
of the vanity of human things.

Near by are some interesting villas of a more luxurious conception
than those we saw before. The rooms are more numerous and spacious,
and there is a reservoir for keeping fish.

On the hill behind the capitol, stand the remains of a Christian
church, with a baptistery of which the mosaics are in a perfect
state of preservation. Leaving this Christian church, we now
retrace our steps, leaving the capitol on the right, and make for
the triumphal arch of which we have already caught a glimpse from
the Decumanus Maximus. Before reaching it there is an interesting
market-place. The large court is surrounded by a colonnade, and
the stone counters of the shops are just as they were at the time.
Opposite the market-place is a small temple, but what strikes the
attention at once is the triumphal arch of Trajan. It has three
openings, and niches for statues, and is certainly the most imposing
monument of Algeria.

Hence we can wander back through narrow streets to the gate by which
we entered, and near which stands the museum which is well worth a
visit. In addition to all sorts of curiosities such as hair-pins,
needles and implements for dentistry of the time, it contains some
of the fine mosaics which have been unearthed from the houses and
pieced together. If we look at them for a moment and imagine what
they looked like up there near the capitol, we can get a small
idea of how charming the residences must have been. There are also
drawings of what it is supposed Timgad was like in the days of its
glory, and certainly, if the artist was not carried away by his
imagination— and there is no reason to suppose this—it must have
been indeed a noble city. And yet its aspect now leaves the traveler
with a feeling of sorrow. The silence is, first of all, appalling;
the atmosphere of desolation is impossible to convey in words,
and, as one sits in the forum or on the stone steps of the theater
and tries to conjure up the gay figures who once frequented these
now silent spaces, one is filled with an unspeakable awe. All this
luxury, all this amusement, all these habitations—for what? For
the future planned by Imperial Rome, since it is evident that no
nation would have built the great town, with all in it, as a mere
pastime. They intended to stay; they believed in their unshakable
greatness; they believed in the power of the sword.

But Rome fell, as had fallen other empires, and as others will
also fall. And Timgad is left to the jackals and to the hyenas,
to a few intelligent excavators, and to the host of chattering
tourists who rush through these ruins of a glorious past without
a thought for the cultured race who once lived there.

“Vanity, vanity—all is vanity!”

For this reason I have said as little as possible on this city of
the dead, and I leave it to the traveler to go himself and feel
the atmosphere which no painter or writer can reproduce.



                             CHAPTER XXXIV

                         DJEMILA THE DESOLATE


If Roman ruins are of interest to the traveler there is a second
edition of Timgad, to my mind finer and more complete than the
subject of the last chapter, but unfortunately not on any main road.

I refer to the town of Cuicul, now called Djemila, situated on the
barren hills to the northeast of Sétif. There are two means of
access: from Algiers via Sétif, or from Constantine via the road
to Djidjelli, described in the next chapter.

From Sétif the main road to Constantine is followed for thirty
kilometers to Saint Arnaud, where one turns sharp left and begins
climbing into a rolling country of cereals sparsely cultivated until,
after some thirty more kilometers of winding roads, one reaches
Djemila. The other route branches out of the Constantine-Djidjelli
road at Zeraîa, sixty-five kilometers from Constantine, and
soon begins climbing up into the rolling country described above,
rejoining the Sétif approach some fifty kilometers farther on,
and ten from Djemila.

The first aspect of the ruins is certainly more impressive than that
of Timgad. The road has been winding along the side of a steep hill,
high up through a country so harsh and desolate that one looks about
apprehensively as if the dead themselves guarded the bare slopes,
watching over the scenes of their great triumphs.

Then suddenly at a bend in this sad road the eye suddenly
distinguishes, on a kind of promontory far below, something which
at first looks like a great graveyard. Then gradually, as one
watches, the stones detach themselves from the gray surroundings,
graceful pillars rise up, triumphal arches, the massive walls of
a temple. . . .

We are looking down on what was once one of the most prosperous
cities of that dead empire which ruled Algeria as no one since has
ruled it. The road winds down toward the miniature village outside
the site of the ancient city. The Compagnie Transatlantique has,
as usual, a comfortable hotel, in fact it is the only hotel, and if
the traveler ventures to this lonely spot out of the tourist season
he will have to carry his own food and sleep out-of-doors. This is,
as a matter of fact, quite feasible, as during the summer months
the heat of Djemila is intense.

The excavation of Djemila has been carried out with much more care
and system than that of the other Roman cities in Algeria; this
is chiefly due to the intelligent interest taken in the place by
its curator, the Comtesse de Crésolles. This charming lady lives
in a comfortable house overlooking the ruins, and if the visitor
has the good fortune to make her acquaintance he will find in her
a fund of information about the excavations, and an untiring guide.

Djemila can be seen in a morning, but a week would seem more like
the period required really to study the ruins properly. The first
thing that strikes one on entering the precincts of the ruins is
why this town was built on a spur so far below the mountains which
tower menacingly above. The reason is quite clear. At the end of
the first century, when the city was founded, the main roads ran
along the bottom of the valleys, and it was therefore necessary to
plan the military centers at some point where they not only formed a
guard over the long arteries of civilization, but also a stage for
the caravans as they passed up and down from Constantine and from
the coast. But quite apart from the military side of the question,
Djemila under the Romans was one of the great cereal centers of the
empire and within its walls the grain was brought to be despatched
to the far-flung limits of the mighty empire.

The first portion of the town to be visited is the Christian
quarter. Begun in the third century it rapidly grew in importance
and was undoubtedly the see of a bishop. The great basilica of
Cresconius was built by this Christian bishop as a mausoleum for
his predecessors. There are two other churches excavated near this
cathedral, and there are no doubt other important buildings still
under the earth.

The most interesting edifice, perhaps the most interesting in all
the Roman remains on account of its state of preservation, is the
baptistery. To the reader used to well-preserved churches and art
museums in Europe it is difficult to convey the real impression
created on the mind on entering the low doorway of this first
evidence of Christianity in this part of the world: outside, the
desolation of the barren hills and the sadness of the gray ruins;
inside, the fresh color of mosaics, stuccoed niches, graceful
pillars. A gallery runs round the actual place of immersion,
lined with hollowed-out seats, reminding one of the stalls in some
university chapel in England. Rich gold mosaics stud the walls;
on the floor all kinds of intricate designs in rich colors, which
make one realize the trouble taken by that dead race to beautify
all that was their work.

At each end of the baptistery, two doors lead into the center
portion where the converts were christened. The floor is carpeted
with delicately colored pictures of fishes and seashells; above,
a canopy carved out of one block of solid stone rests on four
pillars; on the floor of the primitive font a mosaic inscription
in Latin reads:


 “A day will come when all people will have been baptized.”


It is with a feeling of reverence that one quits this jewel in the
midst of the ruins.

It seems useless to describe the other edifices in detail; they are
like all Roman ruins, and require the atmosphere of loneliness to
produce their effect. A few words will suffice:

The theater is in about the same state of preservation as at
Timgad. It is, however, being gradually restored, and will soon be
in its original state. Only the other day (1926) a company of the
Comedie Française gave a performance of _Œdipus Rex_ on its stage.

Leaving the theater it is advised to take the path leading to
the northwestern extremity of the ruins, passing the baths of the
capitol and various private houses. Turning to the left, one enters
the capitol which formed the northern extremity of the old forum.
The temple of Jupiter, with its six columns forty-two feet high,
rose majestically above the other buildings; a colossal statue was
in the center. Now only two bases of columns can be seen in place,
the remains of others lie about the steps and before the altar
of sacrifice.

The ruts of the chariot wheels are less distinct in the Cardo Maximus
here than at Timgad. The drain down the center is clearly visible.

The new forum is very impressive. On the right a triumphal arch
seems to leap from the earth almost intact in the middle of the
ruins. An inscription dated 216 tells that it was raised in honor of
Caracalla, conqueror of many nations. On the other side of the open
space stands a great temple. Broad steps lead up to the lofty pillars
supporting the remains of a roof; the walls, though shorn of their
marble facings, are almost intact. Another inscription states that
the temple is in honor of the family of the Emperor Septimus Severus
and was erected in the year 229 by the Republic of Cuicul. From
the entrance a fine view can be had of the original city.

The visit has been rapidly accomplished, and only the great
baths remain to be seen on our way to the hotel. As usual they are
magnificent in all their luxury; nothing seems to have been omitted
by these Romans in their far-away exile to make their homes as like
as possible what they had left in the northern country.

It rather reminds one of the Briton who, in all his arrogance,
carries his clubs, and his drinks, and his games into whatever
distant corner of the Empire he settles himself. To the Roman
nothing was good which was not from Rome. It is rather the same
with us, and I suppose it will always be so. Machinery makes life
more complicated, but it does not change the mentality of mankind.

There is a good museum near the hotel where the excavators have
collected the best things found in the ruins. Apart from the usual
implements of daily life, seen in greater profusion at Timgad, there
are some very fine mosaics. It would take too long to describe them,
but to those interested the museum is well worth a visit, and when
one looks upon those lovely designs, so intricate, so artistic, one
wonders why the Arab and the Algerian of to-day does not copy his
floors from these pictures in stone instead of plastering everything
with hideous modern flags of impossible colors. And yet even the
beauties of those Roman cities of the past do not bear comparison
with the monuments of the mother country.

There is something coarse, unoriginal in them, which at first
leaves one wondering, until one suddenly realizes that one is in
the presence of the Roman colonists, the expatriated wanderer who
set out to seek his fortune overseas, the retired soldier or the
rich grain merchant. He tried to copy what he had at home; he did
better than would a present-day colonist from England or France,
but it was not the real thing.

Still, the dead cities of that great empire are of vast interest
and, to those who like to live in the past, it is a joy to wander
through the silent streets and realize how great and civilized this
colony once was, and how still greater the desolation and misery
caused by the advent of the Arab.

From Djemila the traveler can either return to Algiers direct
or continue the voyage through Constantine, or, if time presses,
he can leave out Constantine and make direct for Djidjelli.

For the moment we must turn our attention to the third city
of Algeria, the first city of Christianity under the Emperor
Constantine.



                             CHAPTER XXXV

                       CONSTANTINE TO THE COAST


The scenery along the road to Constantine by either route differs
little from that just passed. It is a land of cereals, once upon a
time properly irrigated by the people of a great empire, now sadly
dependent on the rainfall.

The approach to the city is impressive. It seems to stand out on a
rocky pinnacle, and as one crosses the bridge and looks down into
the depths of the Gorges of the Rhummel, one suddenly wonders if it
is not all a stage setting: chasms, perpendicular cliffs, natural
rock bridges and tunnels, the houses clinging dizzily to the rock
wall, and, far beneath, the silver streak of the river. Constantine
was originally the capital of the Numidian kings, and was known as
Cirta. Syphax, Massinissa, and Micipsa ruled here, but it was not
until the fourth century and after it had been destroyed during
one of the many conflicts which raged round its walls, that it was
rebuilt by the Emperor Constantine.

Its history during the rest of time is a series of revolts and
conspiracies, and, though a few of the beys during the Turkish rule
built some lovely houses, its record is not elevating. There are only
three interesting things to visit, and they can all be done in the
day. First is the Gorges of the Rhummel, a most amazing spectacle
of natural arches and passages hundreds of feet below the level of
the town. When finally the river bursts out of this chasm into the
open plain at the foot of a perpendicular rock towering up to dizzy
heights it is like the entrance of a giant church. To the top of
this rock, which watches over the whole plain of historic interest,
tiresome or unfaithful wives of the bey were taken, placed in a sack
with a cat, and hurled to their doom below. No one has yet been able
to explain the cat, but I suppose it added to the fun of the thing.

Standing once on the summit of this pinnacle with a Scotch friend who
was traveling without his better half, I recounted this story. He
was a man of few words, and for a moment he made no reply; then,
peering cautiously over the precipitous edge, he exclaimed, “Oh,
for the good old days!”

The next place to visit is the palace of the bey of Constantine.
It is now used as the divisional headquarters, and, though it is
not properly kept up, one can get an impression of something very
lovely: a series of courts open to the sky with marble floors and
delicate pillars, enclosing miniature gardens, in the middle of which
fountains splash gaily. The walls are covered with multi-colored
tiles, while the ceilings and doors of rare wood are adorned with
intricate carvings. On a sunny day it is a vision of blue and white
and green and orange, and, though the drab clothes of the modern
inmates and the click of the typewriting machine jar on the senses,
one can imagine the enchanting atmosphere of these quiet courts
when men in splendid robes passed in and out, followed by their
dark-skinned slaves.

Communicating with the palace is the present-day cathedral, in
the old time the mosque of the bey, who could pass unseen from his
residence to his devotions. The French have enlarged it, but it is
quite easy to see what was the original building. Here again there
are some very lovely blue tiles.

There are other mosques, also Jewish and Arab quarters, which are
worth a visit if the traveler has not been anywhere else, but after
the long journey with all its scenes of Arab life, it will suffice
to visit the above-mentioned places and return to rest, prior to
the journey to the coast.

By starting early one will be able to lunch at Djidjelli, and the
afternoon run along the _corniche_ to Bougie can then be taken
leisurely. The first impression on starting is that of hills. Up
to the present all traveling has been done across rolling plains,
but serious gradients have been unknown. The descent from the
crag on which Constantine is perched again makes one wonder how
it was captured by force. The cereal lands continue to give to
the country a very desertic appearance, and, though it is not the
desert of stones and rock, the rolling fields, with lonely farms,
do not attract one to stay. One gets good examples of the desertion
of villages by the French colonists, always yearning to get to the
big towns near the coast.

Mila, at the fifty-fourth kilometer, was once a Roman city of
importance; it is the last village of any size we shall pass.
Thence onward the country is very wild. At Zeraïa (junction of
the road from Djemila mentioned in the last chapter) we traverse
forbidding gorges, after which the road runs for a few kilometers
across a small plain of olive-yards, crosses a river, and then
starts the long climb to the Col de Fdoules.

The road is a masterpiece of engineering as it climbs dizzily
along the steep cliff of the mountain. At the hundred and fourth
kilometer the Col, three thousand feet above the sea, is reached;
from the watershed there is one of the finest mountain views in North
Africa. To the north and to the south the hills rise up sheer and
the valleys are lost in deep shade. The road then runs down into
the Gorges of Taberkroutz and for the first time after the long
travel, trees appear quite close. The road climbs up again and the
woods approach, until soon we are in a thick forest. At the Col
de Texenna a splendid panorama of forests and mountains is spread
out before one. It is a wonderful sensation to return to luxuriant
vegetation after the perpetual desert, and the sound of water with
the smell of the damp earth revives the mind, weary with staring
over limitless expanses. Another sensation of delight seizes one
as the sea comes in view and, rapidly approaching the shore, the
road follows it to Djidjelli.

One can either lunch at the hotel or picnic in pleasant surroundings,
but whatever plan is adopted the new atmosphere and the fresh air
will give one the appetite of the proverbial hunter. Djidjelli was
originally a Phœnician settlement, and later, under the Romans, was
an important harbor. It is most famous as being the first capital
of Barbarossa the elder, who came here after his first failure to
dislodge the Spaniards from Algiers, and when his original Tunisian
lair at the island of Djerba had become too inhospitable for him
to return. His greatness began with his election as Sultan of this
little seaside city. His conquests and raids are world famous,
and though it was his younger brother who eventually ruled Algiers
and became the scourge of the Mediterranean, it was the temporary
Sultan of Djidjelli who in reality was responsible for the pirate
fleet which was to terrorize the sea from its headquarters in
Algiers for three hundred years.

At the present day Djidjelli is the center of the cork trade.
The forests cover an area of one hundred and fifty thousand acres,
and cork is exported from the harbor to ports all over the world.

The road along the seacoast from Djidjelli to Bougie is one of
the loveliest in North Africa. Deep red cliffs look down on to the
sapphire blue of the Mediterranean, while the green of the forests
above contrasts again with the azure of the sky. Natural tunnels
are traversed, and here and there the road clings dizzily to the
perpendicular rocks. This road, like many others in North Africa,
is a wonderful piece of engineering.

At the thirty-sixth kilometer stone there are some marvelous caves
well worth a visit. An Arab looks after them, who will illuminate the
multitude of stalactites and stalagmites which adorn its fairylike
halls, creating a vision of enchantment.

Pretty little villages succeed pretty little villages, where one
would like to spend the day lazily watching the tranquil sea. In the
hills there are masses of game and wild boar abounds; occasionally
one sees monkeys—the famous Barbary ape.

Bougie has a Spanish aspect, but is in itself not particularly
interesting. In Roman times it was a colony for veteran soldiers,
and later it became like most Algerian ports, a harbor for pirates.
Charles Quint spent a few days here after his disastrous attempt to
capture Algiers. If time permits there are some delightful excursions
round about, but the traveler by this time is probably so weary of
motoring and contemplating scenery that he will want to return to
his trunks and his comforts in Algiers.

As stated in the plan of the journey there are now four alternatives
before us—the direct run to Algiers via Bouira and Palestro,
or via Azazga and Tizi Ouzou—or else, if time permits it, by
Michelet and the Massif Kabyle or by Tigzirt, the coast, and Dellys.

By Bouira and Palestro the road runs through a smiling valley and the
return to Algiers can either be made via the gorges and Menerville
or by the Bouzigza Pass. By Azazga and Tizi Ouzou or by Tigzirt
the same routes will be followed as far as Azazga; the road rises
rapidly up through woodlands to the Col de Tigdint, whence a superb
panoramic view of the Kabyle Mountains can be seen on one side,
while all about appear those quaint stone villages perched on the
summits of every peak. Running down again, the forest of Yakouren
is entered, and the road wanders through delightful glades, restful
to the eyes, until the little village of Azazga is reached. It is
recommended to picnic in the forest.

If Algiers is the goal it is straight ahead.

Tizi Ouzou, apart from its name, has nothing curious; silversmiths
make massive jewelry here, but there is no need to stop. The road
runs through orchards and tobacco plantations rather monotonously
after all the gorgeous scenery of the rest of the journey, and the
arrival in Algiers will be welcomed.

If the road via Tigzirt has been selected one must turn off to
the right some six kilometers after Azazga. The road continues
bearing to the right and climbs steeply up to a Col whence one gets
a magnificent view to the south of the Djujura range, deep in snow
in winter. The road now runs down to the coast and then follows it
for twenty-six kilometers to the little seaside resort of Tigzirt.

Here, if time does not press, and if one does not mind primitive,
though clean, comforts, one can pass the night in the hotel and
thus have an opportunity of visiting the delightful ruins of an
old Phœnician settlement, later Romanized.

Thence the run to Algiers is via the seacoast to Dellys, and after
that the dull Tizi Ouzou road—one hundred and fifty kilometers
in all.

It is, however, hoped that the season of the year will have permitted
the traveler to visit the Great Kabyle country, and in the next
chapter I will endeavor to describe the scenery and the people of
this district, which is almost as unique as the Mzab.



                             CHAPTER XXXVI

                                KABYLIE


The Kabyle country lies to the northeastern extremity of the
department of Algiers, with a small portion lapping over into
the department of Constantine as far as Bougie. It begins at
Palestro, runs down to the sea, and is bounded on the south by
the road from El Kseur to Bouira. It seems curious to speak of a
country in the middle of a French department, and yet its physical
boundaries are as defined as its people. Like the wild men of the
Aurès, the Kabyles are hardy mountaineers of the same race—the
Berbers. Perhaps a little purer than the people of the Aurès, who
undoubtedly intermarried with Roman soldiers when the Empire fell,
whereas their cousins of the north have remained intact since the
days when the foreigner had not set foot in Africa.

The actual area of the country is about thirty-eight hundred square
miles, and is composed of great mountains running up at some points
to an altitude of six thousand feet, and deep in snow from December
to March.

Unlike the people of the Mzab, the Kabyle types vary considerably,
and though the majority are tall, blond men, one notices many who
are small and dark. They have the same spirit of independence as
the Berbers of Ghardaïa, with the great difference that they are
all warriors and brook no interference. There is no area in Algeria
which has caused so much trouble to the French, and even now the
inhabitants consider themselves superior to all other races, and
only accept the foreign rule because they have to. In spite of
this these people never seem to have had any sort of main state,
and though the word _zouaoua_, from which is derived the appellation
of the French regiment _Zouaves_, is the name given to this group
of Berbers, they have always been a divided nation; and it is only
since the French fully pacified them that they have ceased to be in
a perpetual state of internal war. These wars usually originated as
vendettas, it being admitted that a man killed required another man
killed and that all disputes about land must be settled by the sword.

Before this period each village was a kind of little republic of its
own with the principle of government of the people by the people,
that is to say that the _Djemma_, or local council, was supposed
to be composed of all the men who had attained their majority. As a
matter of fact this was rarely put into practise, and the government
of the village lay in the hands of the heads of families, the elders
and a few young men of note. These men elected an Amine, who presided
over the assembly, which decided every detail concerning the daily
life of the community. The Amine had, however, little real power,
as his position depended on the good-will of the other members over
whom he presided, and who could by a simple ballot dismiss him. It
was a state of absolute socialism, and the man of good family or
the richest farmer had no more authority than the poorest laborer.

Moreover, to this day there is no distinction of class; there are
no fine houses for the prosperous; the beggar and the rich man
wear the same rags and live in the same squalor. The _Djemma_ still
exists and the simple stone seat on which the worthies sit can be
seen in any village. The wars or vendettas also continue, but in a
somewhat more discreet manner, and though they still speak of the
_Cof Oufella_, the clan of the higher levels, and the _Cof Bouadda_,
the clan of those below, the French do all they can to keep order.

They are all naturally industrious farmers, and though the
difficulty of cultivating this steep land, combined with the
density of the population, makes farming no easy matter, the
results are amazing. The growing of cereals holds a minor place
in their agriculture, and their attention is chiefly directed to
trees, especially the fig and the olive, of which the fruits are
regularly exported. Owing to the overcrowded population, however,
one finds few large landed proprietors, and the ownership of
property is carried to the most ludicrous extremes. For instance,
a whole family may own a fig-tree without owning the land on which
it grows, and cases have been known of a man who owned an olive-tree
hiring out the branches to the olive exporters.

The family ideals are the same as among all Berber groups: absolute
respect for the head of the family, precedence for the males, but
unlike the modern Arab family, no position at all for the women. It
is true that polygamy is much rarer here than in the rest of North
Africa, but this is largely due to economy rather than to anything
else. Otherwise the wife is an absolute slave, and one is at once
struck on the roads by the sight of Monsieur riding his mule while
Madame trudges behind. As soon as a girl is of marriageable age,
and often before, she is bought, and from that moment she must
do all her husband’s work, bear and bring up his children and,
if he wishes, be divorced. Even if he dies she is not allowed to
keep her children, who are taken over by the man’s family as soon
as weaned. Moreover, no woman can inherit from a man. When she has
passed the period of bearing children she is relegated to the status
of a beast of burden. Against this she has much more liberty to go
about unattended, and she is not veiled. Small compensation!

It is hard to instil different principles into these wild people,
as they are very hostile to all forms of European interference,
and it is with the utmost difficulty that the children are made to
go to the French school.

What is still more extraordinary to note is the fact that men who
have been educated and who have actually been to Europe will return
to their villages and, without the smallest hesitation, rebegin their
old life, sleeping on the floor near their donkeys or their horses,
while the women chop wood and do the rough work. Neither are these
isolated cases as, since the war, many an old soldier, realizing
the unequal struggle in his own country, has gone to France as a
workman in a factory, and during that period has made money which
has been regularly sent back to the family in the mountains, but
once weary of Europe he has returned to his people to lead the same
life as before. Berbers they were two thousand years ago, Berbers
they are still, and, like the men of the Mzab and of the Hoggar,
of the Aurès and of the Riff, they remain unaltered, and there
seems little prospect of anything changing them.

As in the Mzab, the villages differ considerably from those of
the Arabs of the plain. Here again we find the town built on a
pinnacle. Practically every peak in the Kabyle Mountains is dominated
by a group of houses which cling dizzily above steep precipices. The
houses themselves are small, low and squalid; the better ones consist
of three rooms very slightly separated from one another. One room
for the men, one for the women and children, and one for the animals,
but there are many cases where men and beasts all dwell together.

[Illustration: The Departure of a Caravan in the Far South]

[Illustration: Market Looking toward Trajan’s Arch, Timgad]

[Illustration: Praetorium. Lambèse]

The men are poorly dressed, and one never sees the prosperous white
robes of the Mzabite nor the costly burnous of the Arab chief, but
in spite of their rags they stalk along the road, stick in hand, the
head high, and a look of defiance in their clear eyes. The women,
on the other hand, wear brilliant colors—red and yellow and green;
their heads are wrapped in high turban-like head-dresses consisting
of many scarfs wound one above the other. Their faces, unveiled,
are handsome and, contradictorily to their status, have usually an
expression of great gaiety. Like most people who have never known
anything better, their lot seems to them normal, and they have no
other ambition.

They are all very superstitious—childishly so, and they carry
countless antidotes against spells and the Evil Eye. Their courage
is proverbial, and they callously bear pain. A man who had been
stabbed in the abdomen was seen to push back his intestines into
the gaping wound, mount his mule and ride off to the nearest French
authorities to make his complaint. A doctor once said that if he
saw a Kabyle cut in half he would not give a death certificate
until he was sure that the heart had stopped beating!

Unfortunately space forbids my recounting countless anecdotes and
stories about them. Like the Mzab, this is a country where one can
linger quietly for some weeks and never have a dull day.

The road from Bougie to Michelet runs first of all along the foot of
the Kabyle Mountains, giving one an excellent idea of the isolation
of this district from the rest of Algeria. Great barren peaks rise
up and the red earth of the slopes contrasts brilliantly with the
olive-yards and fig plantations.

Shortly after Akbou we meet the road from Sétif to Algiers via
Boaria, which can be taken if the suggestion to run straight through
to Algiers from Timgad has been followed, or if one is making
straight from Bougie to Algiers via Palestro. Our own course is to
the north and, turning sharply to the right, the road begins to climb
steeply up into the mountains. It is a magnificent drive, and the
panorama from the Col de Tirourda is one of the most superb in North
Africa. The whole of this great system of mountains is around us,
chain succeeds chain, with the quaint little villages perched on the
top of every point of vantage. It is as new a scenery as the Mzab,
and one is hardly able to realize that barely a week ago one was
staring across those desolate plains of stone and rock. The road
winds on along the edge of precipitous slopes to Michelet.

Here there is an excellent Transatlantic hotel which, unlike most
of its sisters, is open summer and winter, Michelet being a holiday
resort for the overheated business men of Constantine and Algiers.

If one has time, there are many delightful excursions to be made
from here, but to carry out the program we must leave the following
morning. The road continues circling along the side of the mountain;
little villages appear on the hilltops and give place to other
villages until the fortified town of Fort National is reached. From
here the gradient is very steep down to Tizi Ouzou, where lunch
can be taken if the more preferable picnic has not been consumed
under a group of fig-trees.

From Tizi Ouzou the road runs dully back to Algiers through tobacco
plantations.

And so the journey is over, and though at first the mind will be
unable to grasp all that has been seen and that feeling of a long
evening at the cinema will hold it for some time, little by little
the ever-changing scenes will detach themselves in order and remain
photographed on the brain as an undying memory.

The vine-clad Mitidja, the Atlas, the rolling plain of the Sersou
and the Hauts Plateaux, the rocky desolation of the Mzab, the golden
sands of Touggourt contrasting suddenly with the cosmopolitan crowd
at Biskra, the silent ruins of Timgad and the business town of
Constantine, the first view of the hills and the sea, the blue and
scarlet of the _corniche_ road to Bougie, and the towering peaks of
the Kabyle peopled by a strange race of the past, until the white
city of Algiers is reached, with its palaces and its gardens and
its damp atmosphere.

All these things will gradually unwind themselves from the recesses
of the brain, to form one vast panorama, and as one sits at home
a few weeks later one will say to one’s self incredulously:

“Did I really see all this in a fortnight, and all in the same
country?”



                            CHAPTER XXXVII

                    TRAVELING OFF THE BEATEN TRACK


Having now followed in the paths of the tourist and the official
tours of the Compagnie Transatlantique, it will perhaps be
interesting to cast a glance at the less-frequented routes. There
is no doubt that once one leaves the beaten track in Algeria one
travels in comparative discomfort, and that the accommodation is,
to say the least of it, primitive. Neither is it necessary to go
far from the main center to find these discomforts.

On the other hand, unless one has these experiences one does not
get to know the real people of the country whether they be Arabs or
Frenchmen. The true Algerian colonist is there in all his roughness,
talking vaguely about France as a paradise, which he may never
have seen, in spite of the little distance which separates Europe
from North Africa; treating the natives with a curious mixture
of comradeship and harshness, little interested in affairs not
affecting his actual district, and as unlike an Englishman in the
same situation as it is possible to imagine.

The common Arab, poor, ill-fed, lazy, working just as long as it is
necessary, dishonest when it is worth while, and quite unscrupulous
in matters of life and death, exists there with little ambition,
while the Arab chiefs whom one has perhaps met in magnificent clothes
at some official function live in these lost districts without any
ostentation. The only method of communication between the villages,
and they are usually some sixty or eighty miles apart, is by
road. Some of the richer cultivators and _caïds_ have motor-cars;
the well-to-do Arab rides, but it is usual to travel by the motor
_diligence_ which carries the mails. The _diligence_ usually starts
early in the morning, as, though it travels a good twenty miles an
hour, there is always the danger of a breakdown with no question
of outside help, and as they are under government contract it is
essential that they should have plenty of time to spare.

The bus is almost full at the start, but it expands its accommodation
in a most astonishing way as it picks up travelers who sit by
the roadside, and when it arrives at its destination the roof
and the running-boards are crowded with Arabs. People who have
correspondence for the post also wait at appointed places with
their letters, which are collected by the driver and taken along.
And in the same way the mail for the districts where there are no
roads is picked up by the postman as the _diligence_ dashes by.

Occasionally in years of famine there are holdups, and though the
driver is always armed, it is of little avail. The road is barred at
some convenient spot where there is cover, the _diligence_ stops, and
before any one realizes what has occurred the track is seething with
Arabs armed with blunder-busses and bludgeons, who take all there
is, puncture the tires and disappear as mysteriously as they came.

Another form of delay is often created in summer by locusts, which
drift in great clouds across the road and in an inconceivably short
space of time clog up all the wheels with the fat of their crushed
bodies. And it is extremely difficult to clear them out and go on
if they are in any numbers.

The arrival of the _diligence_ in a small center is a great
event. The postmaster, who is also the telegrapher and postman
and bookkeeper, comes out with much dignity to receive the mail;
Arabs crowd round and gossip with the occupants of the second-class
compartment or with those on the roof; the tall gendarme walks
up and down with a look of imminent arrest on his mustached
countenance. At the terminus there is the same sensation while the
European traveler, stiff and dusty, wends his way to the only inn.
It is always a “Grand” Hotel “Something” with from twelve
to twenty rooms. There are many which are simply comfortable, where
one gets a good _cuisine bourgeoise_; these are among the smaller and
more remote and kept by a family of French people, the father looking
after the café, the mother cooking, the children doing all the rest
of the work. Meals are served at a common table with the family.
The rooms are sparsely furnished, but they are clean. But there are
many hotels where hygiene is unknown, where the food is cooked by
an Arab and is foully oily, and the rooms! . . . Too much or too
little can not be said about them, and the traveler is advised to
cast the well-used sheets into the farthest corner of the chamber,
place the mattress on the floor, put on his longest pair of trousers
and his stoutest boots and wrap himself up in his cloak. If he is
fortunate he will rise next morning immune from the night attack
of the denizens of the bedstead, but that is all.

Market-day is the time to see these little towns at their best.
It usually takes place on a Friday, the Mohammedan Sunday, and
from midday Thursday long caravans of Arabs with their flocks begin
appearing on the horizon and move slowly across the wide plain toward
the market town. Camels pad disdainfully along while the humble
donkey trots beside, great flocks of white sheep with their advance
guard of goats throwing up clouds of dust. The roads too have their
complement of travelers, and carriages and carts jolt along bearing
Arabs and French farmers; there are also horsemen and pedestrians,
while the motor-car and the _diligence_ bring buyers from Algiers.

It is a marvelous sight to see the streets of the little town
thronged with every type of Arab. Clear-eyed men from the nomad
tribes of the Larbas, and the Chambas in the far south; tall men with
haughty looks from the mountains, thin, wiry men from the rolling
plains of the Sersou, stout little Mzabites, pale and bearded,
selling their wares to the credulous Arabs as their Phœnician
ancestors did in the same land two thousand years ago. Here and
there an Arab chief— an _agha_ or a _caïd_—in a brilliant
cloth burnous, moves in stately manner, greeting friends with
the brotherly embrace and receiving the kiss of submission on the
shoulder from the members of his tribe with as much dignity as a
king of old accepting homage from his vassals.

When night falls the little hotel is full of bronzed-faced colonists
and wool merchants and sheep breeders, discussing the prospects
of the harvest and the probable price of wool and livestock over
glasses of anisette and water. The scene in the café is really a
most entertaining spectacle of all classes and races mingling in
friendly chat.

Sometimes there is an Arab flutist from the far south earning his
dinner, sometimes there is a Spanish sheep-farmer with his guitar,
sometimes there is a row among Arabs and one sees the glint of the
steel dagger, which alone the children of the Faithful know how to
wield with dexterous rapidity.

In the Arab coffee-houses too the animation is great, and the guests
flow out into the streets and squat by the wall holding their cups
of coffee or mint tea in their hands. Inside some one is singing a
ballad, accompanied by a flute or a mandolin, while up the road one
can hear the rhythmical beat of the _tam-tam_ and strident squeal
of the _raïta_ of some rival establishment. Away in the dancing
girls’ quarter the gaiety continues until the Arab policeman,
blowing on his trumpet, sends all the Faithful to bed, for the most
part under the bright stars.

At dawn the city is astir, the coffee-houses are again open, and
the shepherds are gathering about the _fondouks_, where they have
lodged their animals for the night. The more thrifty, who have
preferred to sleep out on the plains with their flocks rather than
pay lodging to the _fondouk_ keeper, are already on the market-place,
a broad open area clear of the city.

There are twenty thousand ewes and as many lambs to be sold
to-day. It is an amazing sight to see hundreds of flocks herded
together, with here and there a black patch where stand the goats.
A little apart from the sheep is the donkey market—poor little
beasts blinking patiently in the sun, while a little farther on the
camels groan and gurgle as if they resented being vulgarly disposed
of in a sheep-market.

All the Arab chiefs and the Frenchmen from the hotel are there moving
about the flocks, looking at teeth, examining fleeces, feeling
backs. Prices which during the early hours have been unstable,
settle down toward seven, and the serious buying begins. The sun
rises up in the heavens and blazes down on the great concourse of
white-robed shepherds. Then gradually as the purchases are completed,
the various buyers separate their lots from the general herd and
drive them into different groups away from the main market.

And now there is a flow of people in the opposite direction, the
sellers are being paid, the cafés are filling up again, the more
thrifty are investing their money in barley or clothes, the generous
are purchasing scarfs for their women. As the afternoon draws on,
the caravans begin reforming and moving off across the great plain,
little groups of sheep and camels can be seen following the long
straight tracks. By sunset the town has once more dwindled to its
normal population, the coffee-sellers and the Mzabite grocers are
counting their profits, and flute players and dancing girls have
retired to rest, and quiet reigns till the next market-day.

But though all this is picturesque and interesting and unusual,
the European used to average comfort is glad to see the last of the
gray _diligence_ as he is deposited at the nearest railway station,
and he sinks back with a sigh of relief on the soft cushions of
the first-class railway carriage.



                            CHAPTER XXXVIII

                      A FEW SKETCHES OF ARAB LIFE


                       1. _Summer in the Sahara_

Having now endeavored to give the reader a general idea of Algeria
from all points of view, I propose to close this book with a few
sketches of my life among the Arabs.

There is nothing particularly striking about these experiences,
but I feel they will lift a further veil on the inner life of these
people whose privacy it is so difficult to penetrate. Only years
of contact have opened the innermost doors of their homes, only the
word of some intimate friend telling of the fellowship between the
lone Englishman and the people of Algeria has removed all suspicious
constraint, only the reputation of simplicity and the instinct of
caste has brought them to me with all their ideas laid bare.

However, before describing these scenes I would like the reader
to catch a glimpse of the country in a clothing different from
that thrown on the screen by the Circuits Transatlantiques. The
average traveler will have fled the shores of North Africa before
the first months of summer, when the big hotels in Algiers have
closed their shutters and the syncopated saxophonists have packed
up their greasy dinner-jackets and crossed to cooler climes. The
hot weather in Algiers itself is singularly unpleasant, not so much
from the point of view of temperature, which never rises very high,
but because of the damp. It is like living in a steam bath all day,
and correspondingly tiring.

Once in the plains of the Mitidja, however, or up in the hills,
the heat is greater but the air is dry, and provided one keeps
quiet in the middle of the day one can quite well bear the summer
months. The temperature of the Sahara is high, but the heat, being
very dry, is not too unpleasant, and though it is not recommended
to pass July and August in an oasis it is no real hardship for the
young and healthy once in a while.

In the first place houses are built to protect one from the sun;
very thick mud walls plastered over, which do not attract the
heat, outside verandahs or inner courts open to the sky, and heavy
shutters, make it possible to keep the house comparatively cool
during the middle hours of the day. Life too is organized to meet
the requirements of the weather. All business is contracted between
six and ten. At eleven everything closes, including the post-office,
and remains shut until three. During these hours lunch is eaten,
followed by the siesta, and it is not until four that those who are
not forced to, appear. By five the main street presents an animated
aspect of Arabs strolling up and down in their white robes, while the
cafés begin to fill up. Those who have gardens in the oasis repair
to them and work until friends arrive to pay calls and discuss the
produce of the rich soil over cups of mint tea, while in a secluded
corner the women squat with the children and gossip in whispers.

Sometimes an Arab of importance will give a dinner in his garden. A
carpet is spread out on the ground, a brass tray is placed in the
middle, while near-by the sheep is being roasted whole on a brushwood
fire. A flutist or a guitarist will play under the orange-trees
by the light of the summer moon. The diners will often remain on
the carpet the whole night and return direct to their business in
the morning.

These gardens are worthy of note. They are not usually anywhere near
the residence of the owner, who lives in the town; they vary in size
from three acres to half an acre, and are planted with fruit-trees
and vegetables, which grow in astonishing abundance. In fact,
with the exception of the dates, the oranges and the apricots, all
the fruit can not be disposed of. It is a wonderful sight to see
gardens full of pears and apricots and figs and strawberries and
pomegranates, while vines heavy with grapes climb up the walls and
the tall date-palms nod in the warm breeze, protecting the garden
from the fiercest rays of the midday sun.

In the terrible months of July and August one wonders why the leaves
of the trees do not shrivel up under the fiery rays of the summer
sun. But on the other hand it must be remembered that all is a
matter of contrast and that during the midwinter months, when the
temperature is that of April in England, it is cold for the Sahara
vegetation, and trees are as leafless as those at home in the same
period. In fact, vegetation on the Riviera in winter is infinitely
more abundant than on the edge of the Sahara at the same season.

The desert too, like the gardens of the oasis, presents a totally
different aspect in summer from that which might be supposed. Whereas
this heat transferred to England would burn up every blade of grass,
here it brings to the surface all kinds of scrub vegetation, and
standing on an eminence looking over the northern tracts of the
Sahara, the view presents a greener impression than to the tourist
in winter. The nights too are comparatively cool, and a blanket is
sometimes required after midnight when the stony land has cooled and
when the house is storing up all the fresh air before the hermetic
closing of all windows at sunrise.

If, therefore, those who stay all the summer will mind the precepts
of all hot countries, a reverential respect for the sun, a light
diet and abstinence from alcohol, they will not suffer too much,
provided the experience is not repeated too often.

The flies are tiresome, but there is little disease, and except
during famine years the typhus does not appear. The sun is a
marvelous disinfectant, and the mortality in these southern cities
is very low.

But when the sirocco starts blowing it is a very different story. It
always comes in series of three, six, nine days, and it usually rises
at dawn. There is no mistaking it. Peacefully asleep, one suddenly
awakes to the rattle of shutters and a sensation that one’s hair
is being scorched on one’s head. Every one is up immediately,
closing every window to keep in a little freshness. The day is
terrible; standing in front of a furnace in a glass factory is the
only comparison possible, intensified by great clouds of whirling
sand which come sweeping across the desert and which drive on for
miles, shrouding the sun in a kind of yellow cloak and creeping
even into one’s innermost chamber as one tries in vain to keep
out of the heat.

But apart from the ordeal of sirocco days a man sensibly dressed
and living a reasonable life in an oasis of the Sahara, with an
average shade temperature of one hundred degrees is better off
than the tall-hatted Londoner devouring his copious British lunch
and not resting in the middle of the day, and the tourist who will
venture south in June will return home with a marvelous impression
of real summer.


              2. _Staying in a Country House in the Tell_

Staying in an Arab country house is as different from staying
in a country house in Europe as it is possible to imagine. (I am
speaking, of course, from the point of view of intimate friends
who are treated as the Arabs.)

In the first place there is no specific invitation; one is
asked to come and stay, say in the summer, and when one feels
inclined, one arrives. If one is polite one wires beforehand, but
it is not expected. Secondly, one goes always with some specific
object—to shoot, to visit flocks, to contract some business in
the neighborhood, but rarely just to stay.

When one arrives the host may or may not be there; if he is not he
will have delegated some near relation to do the honors in his place,
and he may appear during the course of the visit. In the same way
he may suddenly go away when one has only been there a few days,
but it does not in the least suggest a hint for the guest to leave;
a deputy host will take his place and things will go on in exactly
the same way.

Another thing in an Arab home, which is quite peculiar to the
country, is the fact that the guests not of the actual family neither
eat nor sleep in the house in which the people live, that is to say
that there is a kind of guest annex which is only opened on these
occasions. This custom is chiefly due to the presence of the women,
who might be difficult to conceal from strangers if they had access
to the main building.

The particular country house I am going to describe belongs to
a _bash agha_ and is situated in the Tellian Atlas near to the
village of Bourbaki. The country is mountainous and produces cereals.

I arrived two days late for my visit, but not at all through
my fault, as I had arranged to go by train to Boghari, where my
host would send me a car. I arrived at the specified time, but the
conveyance did not come for forty-eight hours. I naturally expressed
astonishment and some annoyance, but it seemed to surprise the
driver, to whom a day or so before or after meant so little.

When I arrived, dinner awaited me, and I was pleased to see that I
was being treated really as one of the family, and that there were
no tables or chairs, no knives and forks. The party was assembled in
a pillared courtyard open to the sky, with jasmine and rose bushes
growing around. Two lemon-trees stood at either end, and above us
a July moon shed a gentle radiance.

We sat down in three circles. In the first group was the _bash agha_,
myself, my _caïd_ partner of the sheep farm, an old schoolmaster
and a very aged _imam_. In the second group were the _bash agha’s_
sons, his nephews, and his chief clerk. In the third group were my
head shepherd, the chauffeur, and the rest of the retainers.

The food was first of all placed in the center of our circle, and
we all dipped into the common bowl: when we had had enough it was
passed to the second circle, who did likewise, until it was finished
by the third party. While the third group was eating we began our
next course, and the servant was able to join the last group.

“Servant” is not exactly the right word, as _“khedime,”_
which is literally translated by “servant,” is almost a term
of insult. The people who wait and look after the house of an Arab
chief are not considered in the same way as those who minister to
us. In the first place they are not paid, but are merely clothed
and lodged—they and their families, and when they get too old they
are kept on and their sons take their places for the actual work.

When dinner was over and we had washed our faces and hands and
tea and coffee had been brought, we stretched out our legs on the
carpet. While we in our little circle began to smoke, the other
groups broke up and moved silently out of the court, for in the
presence of their elders they could not light a cigarette; in fact,
during the whole of the meal they had conducted their conversation
in respectful whispers.

For an hour or so we sat and conversed on all kinds of subjects,
then one by one the Arabs dropped off into a doze, no constraint,
no endeavoring to keep awake when sleep dominated. For a while they
slumbered, then, coming to again, said good night and went off to
the other part of the house to rest, while I settled myself in the
vast guest-chamber in a large brass bed.

In the middle of the night there was an earthquake. It did not last
very long, but for a moment the house shook violently. The household
rose in commotion, and the _bash agha_ came rushing into my room
fully dressed, which proved to me again that these men sleep in
their clothes. He looked at me in surprise.

“How is this,” he cried, “an earthquake and you remain in
bed without moving?”

I laughed.

“It is I who should be surprised,” I replied, “for with your
belief in the _mektoub_ you shouldn’t worry about such trifles
as earthquakes.”

His eyes twinkled in spite of his emotion.

“You are right,” he said, “what is written is written, and
none but Allah can interfere. Good rest!”

He left me and I heard him outside admonishing the others for making
such a noise.

The next day we motored up to see some of the _bash agha’s_
cattle in the cedar forest near Teniet el Haad. This is one of
the finest excursions in Algeria, but it is unfortunately off the
tourist track, and practically no one goes there.

It is, however, quite a simple journey, and if the traveler wishes to
see real forest he has but to motor from Algiers, either via Tipaza
and Miliana, which is in itself a gorgeous drive, and continue to
the south by Boghari, or else he can return to Algiers by Goghari and
Medea. If he does not have a car he can take the train to Affreville,
where an excellent motor-bus will land him at Teniet el Haad. Here
there is quite a good hotel of the unluxurious type.

The cedar forest is in the mountains some fourteen kilometers
along a quite passable mountain road. It winds steeply up through
pine-trees, then little by little the cedars begin to appear standing
erect, their long arms stretched out forming roofs of that delicate
blue-green. As one progresses the cedar alone remains, increasing
in size until one comes upon giant trees a hundred feet high and
with a circumference of seven or eight yards. The view over the
valleys below is superb.

We stopped at a clearing where the _bash agha_ kept a small house,
and we went in search of the cows. It took some time to find them,
but during our walk we passed some really magnificent trees—giants,
centuries old. On our return to the house I was surprised to find,
instead of the cold chicken and beef associated with picnics in
the mountains, a five-course hot lunch with the best wine of Algeria.

The _bash agha_ explained that he always kept all material ready
in his chalet, and that it only needed the bringing of the food to
have it prepared. As a matter of fact I have always noticed with
Arabs that in the question of meals there are no half-measures. One
either spends the whole day out with nothing except perhaps a
piece of bread, or else one sits down to a feast in the most
out-of-the-way place.

The meal was excellent, too excellent, with the result that we
all went to sleep after. When we woke up it was late afternoon
and the sun was glinting through the blue branches of the cedars
and lighting up the forest in a fairy fashion. One expected to see
gnomes and elves appear from out of the vast trunks. We drove back
in the sunset, the softest light imaginable, but quite unlike the
golden radiance of the Sahara.

The following day was market-day at Burdeau, some thirty kilometers
away, so that every one was astir at dawn, and before sunrise every
male member of the household had piled into the cars and we were
speeding across the cereal plain which overlooks the Sersou. All
the _aghas_ and _caïds_ of the district as well as those from the
south were there, and there was much kissing and shaking of hands.

I saw here another curious example of the respect of the younger
generation for the older. I wanted my breakfast, so I went into
a café with the _caïd_; my partner and I ordered our coffee. It
was just being brought when up jumped the _caïd_ and went off into
the street. I followed anxiously, and to my surprise he went into
the café opposite, where he ordered the same collation. This time
it was actually brought and set on the table, when like a flash my
companion was up again and outside before I could speak.

I caught him up and saw that he was making for the original café.

“Hi!” I cried, “what’s all this about? Is it a game? Why
can’t we eat in peace? I’m hungry.”

“Didn’t you notice?” he asked calmly.

“Notice what?” I asked.

“My uncle, the _bash agha_ of the Larbas.”

“No, I can’t say I did,” I replied, “but what of it?”

“He came into the first café when I was sitting there, and I
couldn’t remain; and then just as I had settled in the next,
he came in there too.”

“And I suppose we shall go on chasing round Burdeau till the
old gentleman settles or until we die of hunger,” I laughed
back. “No, _mon vieux_, I’m hungry, and I won’t starve for
any one.”

So saying I took my coffee and roll and carried it across to the
_bash agha’s_ table, where I sat down and explained my action. He
smiled, but I realized that he was smiling to please me, and that
he saw nothing in the inconvenience caused to his nephew, who might
wait all day for his coffee if necessary.

On the way back we called on various _caïds_ and rich farmers, who
gave us quantities of sweet mint tea. At one house the old _bash
agha_, who had accompanied us, found an aged _kadi_ who played
chess, so he insisted on having a game while we all had to wait,
regardless of the fact that it was getting near dinner-time.

How different from the customs of Europe, where age is, if anything,
jeered at. Fancy giving a lift to some one’s grandfather after a
day in the country and having to wait while he played a silly game
with a local judge whom he met in some one else’s house!

And so the pleasant visit wore on. Each day we did something
different, each day we had enormous meals until finally I was
obliged to leave. Looking back on the visit the thing which strikes
me the most is the complete lack of fuss during the whole of my
stay. Everything was done quite haphazardly and yet without a
hitch. I suppose it is the effect of centuries of such existence
which remains as a background and which is carried on generation
after generation. A few modern inventions have appeared which
facilitate things a bit, but otherwise the same life is led with
exactly the same ideas as it was twelve hundred years ago, and it
seems difficult to see any radical change ever taking place. In
this mode life runs smoothly for the Arabs; complications do not
trouble them, so why change?


                    3. _A Week-end with a Marabout_

The Marabout of Kourdane asked me to spend a week-end with him
to discuss the possibilities of organizing a moufflon shoot in the
Djbel Amour. I was interested in the prospects of getting a moufflon,
but still more interested to see Kourdane.

Situated in the Sahara some fifty kilometers from Laghouat, at the
foot of the Djebel Amour Range, this country home of _marabouts_ was
created by a Frenchwoman known as Madame Aurélie, whose maiden name
was Aurélie Picard, the daughter of a gendarme. She had met the
Marabout of Aïn Mahdi at Bordeaux when he had been exiled during
the insurrection of 1870. She married him in France, and when he
was allowed to return to Algeria she came too, and became a great
personage in the country. At his death she married his brother,
and continued as lady of this desolate area, loved and respected
by all. Finally the second husband died too, and she remained on
alone for a while in the wonderful house she had built. She is
still alive, but she rarely returns to the scenes of her greatness
for two reasons; in the first place, the present _marabouts_ are
not quite the saints they should be, and secondly, they are all a
little jealous of her reputation.

As I had never seen this desert castle I accepted with alacrity,
and left with a friend one Saturday morning in a car. The road
on leaving Laghouat is to the north, but soon it turns southwest
across a desolate land of sand and rocks. I had decided to lunch
with an old friend of mine, the Caïd of Tadgemout. I reached the
_ksar_ at noon: a sad, desolate little village partly in ruins,
perched on the top of a rocky eminence overlooking a small oasis,
very green in the midst of the desert. The road climbed up behind
the rock and emerged before the _caïd’s_ house, which dominates
the oasis. The view from his terrace is one of the most impressive
in these parts. In the immediate foreground, the oasis, then a
silver thread of water running down the river-bed and away, away,
the desert. But unlike most of the Saharan views the horizon is cut
all of a sudden by a group of rugged hills standing up grim and bare.
Again, looking to the northwest the scene is not at all expected,
as one’s eyes rest on the great range of the Djebel Amour, deep
blue against the brilliant sky.

[Illustration: Storks Nesting on the Roofs at Constantine]

[Illustration: Bonfarik, Religious Print Seller]

[Illustration: Vegetable Market]

Tadgemout is said to mean the “Crown of Death,” and was the
capital of a desert queen whose every punishment even for the
smallest crime was death. It is a place which grows upon one,
and one is loath to leave its lonely site.

The _caïd_ himself is a charming person, far superior to most of
his kind, both in intelligence and manners. This is partly due
to his own efforts and also to the fact that during the war he
was made prisoner and, being eventually exchanged as an invalid,
spent a long time in Switzerland, where he attended lectures at
Geneva University and came in contact with all kinds of people. He
received us before his door and led us into the guest-house where
one of those interminable repasts was prepared. We discussed all
manners of extraordinary subjects, or rather I was subjected to a
series of endless questions, as the _caïd_ is of an inquisitive
turn of mind. One remark is worthy of note as showing the curious
working of an Oriental brain.

He suddenly said:

“Why don’t Protestant clergymen wear vestments like the
Catholics?”

I began with a dissertation on the Reformation, but he knew all
about that.

After lunch he accompanied us on our journey. The road dipped down
into a dried river-bed, where the car stuck; we all had to climb
out and push; no comment was made, as this is one of the most usual
occurrences when motoring across the Sahara. The road continued
desolate as we drew near to the blue mountains.

Suddenly a great block of buildings stood out of the wasted land;
a garden covering at least a square mile surrounded it, making a
wonderful contrast of green.

“Kourdane,” replied my companion to my inquiry; “the house
built by Madame Aurélie; the garden created by her with water from
many wells; everything done on the most lavish scale and now hardly
appreciated by her descendants.”

Indeed, as we approached the wide portal of the outer wall, I noticed
that the building had not been whitewashed for years and that the
plaster was peeling off. Fissures had appeared, and though the mass
of the edifice struck one forcibly after the usual one-storied Arab
houses, I realized that we were in a splendor of the past.

The _marabout_ hurried out to greet us. Small of stature, with
decidedly negro features, his general appearance on first contact
was not impressive. And yet as one watched him one realized a kind of
superiority engrained by many generations of domination. My _caïd_
kissed his hand, the chauffeur kissed his hand and his head; the
young man took it all as calmly as the hand-shake I gave him.
He led us along the side of the house to the front and here,
of a sudden, one was transported out of any sort of Arab setting.
Instead of the usual small doorway leading to some dim ante-chamber
or narrow staircase, we came upon a great flagged space interspersed
with flower-beds and fountains and rivulets, while tall cypresses
grew about, protecting the garden from the desert winds.

A broad staircase built of rosy stone led up to a terrace pillared
and tiled in delicate shades, giving an impression of majesty, of
far-away power, of magnificence. We mounted the stairway and were
led into a dining-room quite simple in spite of its size, and then
into a drawing-room. An array of superb Arab furniture filled the
room, not the tawdry tables and chairs bought in Algiers, but the
real work of the country: chests of drawers, cupboards, brackets
inlaid with mother-of-pearl, priceless carpets on the floor, and
lovely hangings over the doors; swords and daggers of all periods
festooned the walls. We passed out of the drawing-room on to a
gallery running all the length of the building, and on to which
opened the guestrooms. As we entered the first, I was struck by
the richness of the setting, by the real Arab bed hung about with
brocaded curtains, then I realized that I was not in one room but
in a series. I turned in surprise to the _caïd_. He smiled at my
astonishment and explained that at Kourdane every guest had his
private suite—bedroom, sitting-room, dining-room—and that in
the old days of the Great Marabout meals were sent separately to
each person who spent the night there. The importance of the repast
varied according to the standing of the guest, but great or small,
he was waited on in his own apartment. Afterward every one met in
the drawing-room for coffee.

“Even now,” he added, “we shall dine in the dining-room
without our host, who will be served apart.”

I could find nothing to say; the old baronial hall of the Middle
Ages with the high table seemed eclipsed.

We returned to the garden and were led with reverence to the tomb of
the _marabout_. It was built round an ancient tree under which he was
wont to take his afternoon sleep. A light burned perpetually there.

We visited the domain, and the richness of the vast garden in the
middle of the desolate land was almost as impressive as the pomp
of the house.

At seven-thirty we dined, and as the _caïd_ had predicted, our
meal was partaken without the host. There was a sheep roasted
whole, with one of the best Bordeaux wines I had tasted for a long
time. Afterward the little _marabout_ came in and took his coffee
with us in the gorgeous drawing-room. We talked for a while about
shooting and then, turning toward a battered piano, contrasting
sadly with the rest of the furnishings, he asked if any one could
play. My English companion was persuaded to approach the keyboard.
The holy atmosphere inspired him to play Nazareth, but the sounds
evoked from the yellow notes were so unexpected that he swiftly
changed into a Waldteufel waltz, though it did not sound at all
like the tune I knew. However, this did not in the least matter,
and the Arabs sat spellbound as the unspeakable discords burst from
the instrument which had not been tuned for fifty years.

Finally the party broke up and we retired to our respective
apartments in an atmosphere of decadent grandeur. During the night
I was awakened by the casements rattling, and though I tried to
turn over and sleep again, I knew instinctively what it meant. As
soon as I was called I walked out on to the terrace and at once
realized that my intuition was right. A fierce wind was blowing up
from the southeast and clouds of sand and dust were whirling across
the desert. As the day increased the wind rose and the sand which
had merely been coming in gusts became a cloud which swept across
the land, enveloping all.

The sun tried to pierce the pall of dust, but little by little
it was obliterated and the atmosphere became that of a sea mist
mixed up with a London fog. Dust, sand, grit filtered its way in
everywhere while the wind roared through the cypress trees and
about the house. By lunch-time the sand-storm was at its height
and the light of day was no brighter than at dusk. We had, however,
promised to go over to Aïn Mahdi, a few miles farther on, and visit
the head _marabout_. We rolled ourselves in burnouses, wrapped our
heads in _chechs_, and started off in the car. The Djebel Amour was
quite obscured, and the whirling sand stung our faces, while above,
miles above it seemed, the great yellow cloud swept on.

Aïn Mahdi is a holy city, walled and fortified, which lies at the
western end of the Djebel Amour. Built about the eleventh century it
used to be a university town and a city of great learning, where some
of the most valuable manuscripts were produced. During the middle
of the last century the holy order of the Tidjanis was founded and
took up its headquarters here. The Tidjanis have branches all over
the Moslem world, which explains the riches of Kourdane, as well as
the great fortune of the old gentleman we were going to see. All
the members of these branches send their yearly offering to the
seat of their order, and the annual revenue of the _marabout’s_
family probably exceeds any income in the world.

We passed in through a square archway and stopped in front of
two fine old doors standing at right angles to one another in the
corner of a small square. The first was the mosque, the second the
_zaouia_. Taking off our shoes we entered the mosque. Built on old
foundations, the present structure is only some hundred years old,
but it is exceedingly picturesque. A courtyard with tall trees
growing in the middle first meets the eye; at the foot of the
opposite wall is an old bronze cannon captured from Abd-el-Kader,
who besieged the holy city in 1838.

Turning to the left, we entered the shrine, small and dim, but which
nevertheless disclosed some lovely green tiles lining the walls. On
the floor were beautiful carpets, while banners of the saints hung
from the graceful arches. On the far side a dark mass, suggesting
a catafalque, with glints of gold and silver and precious stones,
draped about with costly stuffs, could be seen, and under it the
tomb of the Great Marabout, founder of the order.

On leaving the mosque we went to the _marabout’s_ house and were
received by his son, a very strong negroid type, but always with
that look of self-assurance, that almost regal presence. He could
not have been more than twenty, but he held out his hand to be
kissed as if he ruled the world.

His house was clean but modern, and after eating cakes and drinking
sweet tea we took a walk through the town. Unlike most of the oasis
villages it is built entirely of stone, and though the houses might
be in a better state of repair, it gives a more solid impression
than the usual mud streets. Another most striking thing is that
the women not of _maraboutic_ blood all go about unveiled, and the
marriages are not arranged as in ordinary Mohammedan centers—by
the parents— but the young men are allowed to court the ladies
of their choice, who are at liberty to refuse their suitors.
The female descendants of the _marabouts_ are, on the contrary,
veiled at the age of eight, and never unveil until they die.

My companion of Tadgemout took us to visit his uncle, the Caïd of
Aïn Mahdi, who again plied us with tea; from there we progressed
to the house of another _marabout_, and so on until we were so
saturated in mint and tea and coffee that we could hardly walk,
and we had practically no time to visit the looms where they weave
the famous blue and red carpets of the Djebel Amour. However, the
day was drawing on, and we had to think of returning to Kourdane,
so, accompanied by a host of _marabouts_ of all ages we reached our
car, where the accolades and hugs rebegan. One felt as if one had
stepped right back hundreds and hundreds of years into some scene of
the past, and indeed it might have been so, for the life of these
people has not changed in the least degree since the days of the
foundation of the city, when King Harold sat on the throne of Britain
and William the Conqueror cast longing glances across the channel.

Armor, trunk-hose, laces, curls, ruffles, knee-breeches, pantaloons,
tall hats, have come into fashion and disappeared in England since
those days, but to the children of Aïn Mahdi it has never occurred
to dress otherwise than in a _gandourah_ and burnous, and I don’t
suppose that it ever will.

When we left the gates of the city the wind had dropped, but the
sand still hung like a great pall over the land, just as when a
dust is raised in a room it hangs in the air for some time before
settling. Our visit was almost over, and next morning we took leave
of our hospitable little host, and returned to Laghouat, realizing
that we had had an experience which would last long in our minds.


               4. _A Day’s Fishing in Southern Algeria_

Jelloul ben Lahkdar, _bash agha_ of the Larba tribe about the oasis
of Laghouat, is a man with the presence of an emperor, and when I
meet him I feel that I ought to kneel down and kiss his hand.

I do not do this, however, partly because it would be misconstrued,
and partly because the _bash agha_ is a charming old gentleman with
a sense of humor, and one whose soul is simplicity itself. He is
rather a tyrant with the younger members of his family, and I know
that they are very frightened of him, and that they are like young
schoolboys when he is with them.

However, this does not prevent his being a very entertaining
companion, and though he rarely maintains a lengthy conversation,
what he says is wise and to the point. When I met him, therefore,
in Chellala, a little market-town nestling among the hills some
two hundred miles north of the Sahara, I was delighted.

“Why, what are you doing here, _bash agha_?” I exclaimed,
after we had passed through the lengthy Arab greeting which is very
poetical but rather tedious in the long run.

“I have taken up my summer quarters with the Caïd Ali, my
cousin,” he replied. “And you, my friend?”

“Oh, I’ve just come up for the sheep-market.”

“You dine with us to-night,” he went on, “you will taste
some fish.”

“Thank you,” I replied, “it will be a pleasure to dine at
your hospitable table and a luxury to eat fish from the sea.”

“They do not come from the sea,” he replied. “They are fish
from the river at Taguine, forty kilometers from here.”

“Freshwater fish,” I exclaimed. “I have lived in this country
long, but I did not know such things existed in Algeria!”

He smiled.

“Come and see,” he went on, and, patting my arm, continued his
stately promenade down the road.

I went and found a party of Arab chiefs I knew. More solemn
greetings. At the beginning of the long meal the fish was served.
There was no doubt about it, they were good-sized river-fish,
a kind of carp or perch or gudgeon with little taste.

The _bash agha_ smiled at my surprise.

“Would you care to fish them yourself?” he enquired.

“Most certainly,” I replied, “but I have no rod or line
with me.”

“I am going to Taguine to-morrow,” he went on, “and if you
come here at eight I will give you a lift, and you can lunch there
with me. I’ll see that you are supplied with rods and lines.”

I thanked him warmly, wondering in myself what the fishing could
be like.

The next morning a _cavalier_ or Arab retainer came round and,
entering my room, roused me from my slumbers by telling me that
the _bash agha_ awaited me.

I bounded from my bed and looked out of the window at the clock on
the Administrateur’s office, but it said only seven. I pointed
this out to the _cavalier_ and explained that I had been warned for
eight. He did not seem in the least impressed, and only repeated
the information that the _bash agha_ awaited me. I gathered that
he expected me to run down in my pajamas. Arabs rarely undress,
and wash only at the Turkish bath and at meals, and they can not
understand that a European can’t walk straight out of his bed to
his daily duties.

I failed to convey any of this to the _cavalier_, and he left me,
repeating that the _bash agha_ awaited me.

At seven-thirty the Caïd Madani came into my room and, after
passing through the ritual of early morning salutations, informed
me that the _bash agha_ awaited me.

I said, “But he warned me for eight, and it is only
seven-thirty.”

He said, “But the _bash agha_ is ready.”

I said, “Well, he ought to have told me to come earlier.”

The _caïd_ did not seem to understand my point of view, and only
replied, “Well, perhaps you will hurry; I will wait down-stairs.”

I hurried, and eventually dashed out, followed by my companion,
to where the car waited. The _bash agha_ sat in a chair and smoked
a meerschaum pipe. He was surrounded by a group of Arab chiefs.

“What respect,” I said to myself. “The old man goes out for
the day and all the chiefs come to see him off.”

The _bash agha_ saluted me and made no reference to the hour of
our departure. I felt relieved.

His chauffeur got into the car, the old gentleman got in beside
him. The Caïd Madani motioned me to get in behind, the Caïd Madani
got in after me, the Caïd Aïssa got in after the Caïd Madani,
the Sheik Marhoun got in after the Caïd Aïssa, the _kadi_ got in
after the Sheik Marhoun. The Caïd Ali said, “I don’t think I
shall come, there isn’t much room left.”

All the others protested, so he got in too.

The Caïd Mohamed categorically refused to make a ninth.

The _bash agha_ turned round and said, “Well, I think we are all
here. Let us start.”

The car moved off. At the entrance of the town the Sheik Marhoun
said, “Do you think that we’ve got enough petrol to get there
and back?”

_“Inch Allah,”_ replied the chauffeur.

The _kadi_, who is a practical man, and who likes his comforts,
interposed, “I think you had better make certain.”

The chauffeur made certain and found there was enough to do about
one mile down hill.

We therefore returned to the town to get some. No one seemed to mind,
though; my seven Arabs made no comment and remained as placid as
if the filling of the petrol tank was merely a childish whim of
the _kadi_. I felt certain that they were saying to themselves,
“If the car lacks fuel, Allah will surely provide.”

I said to the _kadi_, “Lucky you thought of asking.”

He smiled benignly. I love the _kadi_. He is a charming person.
He is the Mohammedan Judge of Chellala, and he looks like an early
Victorian Englishman: fair beard, very white skin, a slightly
rubicund nose, clear blue eyes, and long white hands. If he wore
a pair of nankeen pantaloons and a choker instead of a burnous and
a turban, he would be the image of what Alfred de Musset must have
been in his prime. The _kadi_ has, moreover, a great sense of humor.

When we had filled up, we rolled off first of all through the
mountains of Chellala and then on to the great open plains which
run down to the Sahara, forming some of the finest pasture-land
of Algeria.

My companions all chatted away to each other about their
sheep-raising, their crops, their horses, their falcons, their
shooting—all those things so dear to these country gentlemen.

Occasionally they poked fun at the _kadi_, who is not a warrior nor
a sportsman, but he always had a sharp retort which sent them into
helpless laughter.

Finally we arrived at Taguine and stopped for a moment at the
monument which marks the place where the Duc d’Aumale’s flying
column captured the whole of the Emir-el-Kader’s _smala_ in 1843
and thus broke his long resistance.

This was an occasion to rain more jokes on the _kadi’s_ head,
as he is a direct descendant of the great _emir_, and it was the
great-uncle of the Caïd Aïssa, the loyal General Yusuf, who was
in command of the native cavalry on this occasion.

As soon as we alighted, the various chiefs had business to attend
to, and I was despatched to fish. I was furnished with a long pole,
on the end of which was a piece of thin rope to which was further
riveted a hook. There was also a box of worms.

My guide was an ex-soldier dressed in a tattered burnous on which
was proudly pinned the Croix de Guerre, and under which he wore a
seedy frock coat with satin facings. He had no socks, but a pair
of very battered slippers.

After trudging through the fields of standing barley for about half
an hour we came to a kind of brown ditch with a rivulet one yard
broad trickling sadly down the middle.

“Here is the river,” said the guide proudly.

I said nothing, but looked anxiously into the trickle, but all I
could see were five or six tortoises paddling about. Eton days when
I kept these beasts in a biscuit box in the wash-stand, hidden from
the eagle eyes of m’tutor, returned to me, but I somehow did not
connect them with rods and hooks.

My companion seemed to read my thoughts. “The fish are further
on,” he said simply; “come!”

I followed him along the bank and eventually we came to a deep,
muddy pool about twenty feet square. The Arab squatted down,
knotted a cork into the middle of the rope, baited my hook and
handed me the pole. I took it and felt inclined to laugh. It
reminded me of that stupid Christmas game where one fishes for
useless presents out of a tub. However, I lowered the worm into
the opaque water and waited. Two minutes had hardly passed when
down went the cork. Instinctively I struck. Memories of sudden
thrills by tumbling streams, the hiss of a line running out, the
bend of the rod, flashed before me. But they were only visions,
for I had struck so violently, and the string or cable at the end
of my pole was so strong, that I jerked the fish right out of the
pool and on to the bank.

My fisherman instantly rescued it from the hook and I took it up
to examine it. I expected to find the mud-fish which I had often
come across in certain Indian rivers; but not at all. In shape it
resembled a perch, but though the fins were red, there were none
of the sharp points on the back, and the color was more that of a
carp. Its weight was about two ounces.

I continued fishing. We visited some three or four pools, and in
two hours I caught nearly one hundred of these fish. The majority
were like the first, but there were a dozen or so of over a quarter
of a pound, and two must have weighed a good twelve ounces.

Finally surfeited with this somewhat crane-like occupation, I
trudged back.

Clouds were banking up over there toward the north, and the Arab
watched them with interest.

“Two days, rain now, _sidi_,” he exclaimed, “will double
our crops and afford pasturage for the flocks for the rest of
the summer.”

I reached the house of the Caïd Aïssa to find my friends all
sitting in a circle on a priceless Djebel Amour carpet, and looking
hungrily out of the door where four Arabs turned a sheep spitted
on a long pole before a brushwood fire. The sheep was becoming
a glorious golden color as the chief turnspit poured fat on its
roasting sides. After my long walk the smell of this cooking meat
roused my appetite.

I slipped off my shoes and went and sat down on a cushion beside
the _bash agha_. I told him all about my fishing exploits, but
he didn’t seem to take the least interest in my tale. He merely
turned to me and said: “These foolish young men have brought you
out to lunch here and they have forgotten to bring knives or forks
or plates, so you will have to eat like us.”

“Oh,” I replied, rather nervously, “I consider that eating
with one’s hands is much more cleanly than using knives and forks
which may not have been washed.”

The _bash agha_ grunted and the others looked anxiously about. I
realized that the old man was in one of his tyrannical moods.

At last one of the cooks came in and demanded if he should serve.

“Of course,” said the _bash agha_, “but where is the Caïd
Madani?”

“He is saying his prayers,” ventured the Sheik Marhoun.

The _bash agha_ said, _“Alham dullah!”_ (“May Allah be
praised”), but his eyes expressed, “Why the deuce must this
idiot say his prayers at lunchtime?”

I was seized with an uncontrollable desire to laugh, so I went to
the door and I saw, out on the plain, the tall figure of Madani,
his burnous spread out before him, bowing and prostrating himself
with that complete lack of self-consciousness so remarkable in all
Mohammedan devotions.

However, he finished and, after remaining for a moment in meditation
gazing out toward Mecca, he took up his burnous and returned to us.

A low table and tray were brought and placed before the _bash
agha_. He motioned me to seat myself beside him, he called the
_kadi_, and he called an aged _agha_ who seemed to have suddenly
grown out of the earth at the smell of food. The others went and
squatted at a respectful distance from the old man and spoke in
whispers.

A man passed round with a brass basin and jug and we all washed
our hands in silence.

A large bowl of _schorba_, highly spiced soup, was placed on the
table, some loaves of barley bread and some wooden spoons. We all
dipped into the bowl and commenced the meal. When the _bash agha_
had finished we all put down our spoons, which were carried away
with the bowl and placed before the others.

The long Arab midday meal began: the _bourak_, or sausage roll;
the _mechoui_, which we clawed at with our fingers; the _leham
lalou_, stewed mutton with prunes; the _kous-kous_; and finally
the honey cakes.

As we finished each dish the remains were taken to the others,
who by this time had been joined by the _bash agha’s_ chauffeur.

A large jug of skimmed milk was passed round and we all took a sip.

_“Alham dullah,”_ said the _bash agha_.

_“Alham dullah,”_ repeated the _kadi_ with the aged _agha_
and the young _caïds_.

The man passed round with the brass tray and jug and the water,
and the _bash agha_ went through a lengthy toilet which commenced
with his beard and ended with his fingers.

Coffee appeared.

We all sighed contentedly, the tension of before lunch had
disappeared. The _bash agha_ lighted his pipe. I did the same,
while the others looked at us with envy, as they themselves could
not smoke in the old chief’s presence. Gradually they slipped
toward the door to get at their cigarettes.

“I wish to play cards,” suddenly said the _bash agha_.

The _caïds_ paused at the door.

“Go on, Madani,” said the Caïd Aïssa.

“No, no, it’s not my turn,” he replied.

“And it isn’t mine,” said Marhoun.

“The _kadi_ must play,” said the Caïd Ali.

“Yes, send along the _kadi_,” they all said.

“But I am always made to do this,” protested the man of peace,
“and I always lose.”

“It’s about all you’re fit for,” laughed Marhoun.

This was considered a great joke, and they hustled him back into
the presence of the _bash agha_, smiling at his woebegone expression.

He squatted down opposite the old gentleman, the chauffeur
brought in some stones and placed them between the two players
for counters. That mysterious Hispano-Mauresque game began, a game
which came from the Peninsula when the Christian kings retook the
Alhambra and drove out the Arabs. The _kadi_ looked more and more
like an early Victorian dandy than ever.

I sat and watched while the others poked fun at the victim,
discreetly, from the corner of the room.

But this time luck seemed to favor the judge and he began to win;
the _bash agha_ got cross again; then he got sleepy; his head began
to nod, and finally he dropped off. The _kadi_ turned to me and
winked knowingly while he gathered up his winnings.

I dozed off too. Arab lunches are conducive to slumber, and I
understand why the Orientals recline at their repasts. . . .

Suddenly I was roused by Madani. “We ought to be getting away,”
he said, “but the _bash agha_ is still asleep.”

“Well, wake him,” I replied.

“Oh, I can’t. None of us can; we’d never hear the end of
it,” broke in Madani. “But you can.”

“But I certainly won’t,” I retorted. “I’m sleepy enough
myself. Make the _kadi_ do it!”

This seemed to amuse Madani, and he returned to the other chiefs
and I saw that my suggestion was causing them joy. But not to the
_kadi_, who, as usual, protested, and I realized that he was the
sort of joke-man of the district. At last, however, he was bustled
into the room.

He looked anxiously about and, finally, seeing the large brass tray
on which the _mechoui_ had been served, he took it up and dropped
it with a crash on the part of the floor which was uncarpeted. Then
he fled out on to the plain.

The _bash agha_ opened one eye, then the other, then seemed about
to sleep again. However, at that moment a diversion was caused by
the entry of the aged _agha_ with the statement that there was a
man with a petition to make.

The _bash agha_ came to and, sitting up, settled his turban and
became at once the “Emperor.”

The _caïds_ became “princes,” and squatted down in a semi-circle
on the carpet; the chauffeur ventured back and started mending a
tire. The petitioner marched in and, after kissing the old man’s
shoulder, went and sat at a distance. For ten minutes he said
“How-do-you-do” in different poses and accents. For a moment
there was a lull, and then all of a sudden the storm burst, as in
a torrent of words he poured out his story.

He talked so rapidly that I only understood vaguely, but I gathered
that his flock had been stolen by nomads of the _bash agha_ who
had come up from the south. The _bash agha_ was silent for a time,
then he too burst into a flood of verbiage.

It was a most extraordinary group. The _bash agha_ at one end
of the room, sitting on a heap of cushions, his whole attention
riveted on the man before him who squatted, speaking rapidly,
but with practically no gestures.

Occasionally one of the _caïds_ would throw in a remark,
but otherwise one would have supposed that the matter was quite
indifferent to them. And yet it was a question which to these Arabs
was one of the greatest importance.

The complaint was of the tribe of the district who accused one of
the nomad tribes of the Larba, now pasturing near-by, of stealing
sheep. The sheep had disappeared ten days ago and had been tracked
with that mysterious instinct across those limitless wastes of desert
to Ghardaia, three hundred miles to the south. The man wanted their
return as well as the punishment of the thieves.

The _bash agha_ turned to the _kadi_, who for the moment ceased
being the joke-man, and spoke a few words to him.

The _kadi_ nodded.

The _bash agha_ addressed the Caïd Madani.

“This affects your tribe. You will send a mounted man to Ghardaïa
forthwith. He will apprehend the robbers and have them drive the
flocks back here. You will bring them before me at Chellala.”

_“Inch Allah,”_ acquiesced Madani.

Justice was done. A horseman was to ride over the desert to Ghardaïa
and back, and I pictured a Lord-Lieutenant of Sussex saying to the
sheriff: “You will tell a constable to bicycle to Edinburgh and
fetch back a couple of hundred sheep,” just as one might say,
“Go and post this letter.” It was a marvelous example of the
simplicity of primitive justice.

The _bash agha_ rose. The complainant kissed his turban, and we
all followed the old man out.

During lunch the sky had become gray and the wind was coming from
the north in cold gusts, bringing clouds of sand and grit.

We all piled into the car again and started on our return journey.

The sky grew darker and in a few minutes the rain began. Rain in
Algeria is quite common on the coast in winter or spring, but rain
in the neighborhood of the desert rarely comes after March, and
when it does it is good for the cultivator but it is not amusing
for those who travel. The first dried river-bed we came to was far
from dry, the second was running with water, the dry track before
the third had become a morass, the third was gurgling gaily down,
and the road was an inch or so under water.

At this point we punctured. We all got out and looked at the flat
tire, but no one did anything.

I said, “Suppose we change the wheel.”

The chauffeur said, “The spare wheel is punctured too. We must
change the inner tube, but I don’t think it will last long.”

We got out the inner tube; it looked rather wretched, and a
preliminary pump-up revealed that it held little air. Another
one was found which appeared to be air-tight. The rain swept icily
across the great plain. The kadi shivered and drew his burnous about
him. Marhoun took off the wheel; the _bash agha_ smoked his pipe as
he sat on the running-board. The _caïds_ talked and laughed at the
miserable _kadi_. There was none of that fever and excitement and
cursing of the chauffeur which one would have seen among Europeans
on such an occasion. The chauffeur had forgotten to mend the spare
wheel; it was the will of God and nothing could be done to remedy it.

At last we started again, but the next _oued_ was a rushing
torrent. The car floundered in water swirled about the axles, the
engine roared, the chauffeur shouted something and every one, except
the _bash agha_, tumbled out into the water. I followed and started
pushing, while the water raced round us about up to our knees. The
car began to move, and at last laboriously climbed out of the river.

“Only just in time,” exclaimed Aïssa. “Look.”

I did so, and I saw, to my amazement, a kind of swirling mass of
water sweeping down the river, and before I could count two the
_oued_ had become a raging, overflowing torrent. A few minutes
sooner and car and all would have been swept away.

“Luckily that is the last _oued_,” said Ali.

We all got in and started off again. The chauffeur put on speed,
and we bumped furiously over the holes in the road. Then the other
tire went. We stopped and all got out and then all got in again.

_“Ma kanch chambre à air,”_ said the chauffeur. (“No more
inner tubes.”)

In a few minutes the original tire went again, and we all got out
again and all got back. We crawled along on the rims. Suddenly I
became aware that my feet were getting very cold and wet. I could
not understand. I asked Madani, but he had reached a state when he
no longer seemed to care. He was telling his beads.

I moved my legs about and suddenly, to my astonishment, discovered
that my feet were hanging in space. I peered down and perceived
water and mud splashing all round me, and realized that the bottom
of the car had fallen out. Visions of the pantomime gentleman
whose carriage loses its floor and who is obliged to run between
the wheels, sprang before me. And I saw myself and Madani being
precipitated on to the road and having to run wildly back to
Chellala, unable to make the chauffeur hear our cries of distress.

However, this catastrophe did not take place, for the simple reason
that the car suddenly stopped of its own accord. We all got out
again. No one seemed to dare to ask what the matter was.

_“Ma kanch petrol,”_ said the chauffeur calmly.

“No more petrol!” exclaimed the _bash agha_ nervously. It was
the first time during the whole of the proceedings that he had
shown any emotion.

_“Ma kanch,”_ repeated the driver.

No one spoke. I heard Madani murmuring _“Mektoub,”_ but
otherwise there was silence as we stood there in the driving rain
watching the car. Then suddenly the _bash agha_ said, as if to the
skies, “I pray Allah that it is raining like this in the Tell;
my brother’s crops have sore need of rain.”

_“Inch Allah,”_ they all said.

It filled me with amazement. I had before me the complete abstraction
of immediate discomfort, the unaccountable Oriental mind, praying
to Allah, miles from anywhere, soaked to the skin, and with no
means of getting home. I thought of my English friends and their
attitude and thoughts on such an occasion. However, it was no good
standing in contemplation.

“Well, what do you propose doing?” I ventured at last. “I am
getting cold.”

“I don’t know,” replied the old man, brushing drops of rain
off his beard. “What do you think, my friend?”

“To my mind the only possible thing to do is to walk back before
it gets too dark,” I said.

“But the rain,” said the _kadi_, “and the mud, and the wind!”

“A little rain and wind more or less never did me any harm,”
I replied; “though perhaps I am more used to it than you.”

“Of course, he is right,” said Madani. “We will leave the
chauffeur with the car and we’ll be in Chellala before six.”

“Come on,” said the Caïd Ali. “I know a short cut across
the hills which will reduce our journey by at least a third.”

The _kadi_ started murmuring again, but seeing that the _bash agha_
agreed to this proposal, he felt that he could not let an old man of
seventy do what he feared to do, so he reluctantly followed us. In
single file we started across the waste of water and tufts of alfa.

Madani led, then came Ali, after him Aïssa, then the _bash agha_,
then myself, and behind me the _kadi_, with Marhoun bringing up the
rear. The wind blew fiercely across our path, bringing great sheets
of soaking rain, but our camel’s hair burnouses kept the wet out
wonderfully. Only the _kadi_, who had a kind of black woven burnous,
complained that he was getting soaked. I distinctly heard Marhoun
laughing in the driving rain.

Gradually we approached the hills, all wrapped in mist, and
descending into a habitually dry river-bed, splashed up the muddy
bank.

Suddenly the _kadi_ gave a yell.

“I’ve lost my shoes,” he screamed.

“Where?” I exclaimed.

“In the mud! They got stuck and came off!”

The procession stopped. Aïssa started laughing. I became perfectly
helpless as I watched the wretched judge making futile dives for
his slippers in the muddy torrent.

At last Marhoun got the better of his mirth and managed to secure
the lost property, but, as can be imagined, the elegant slippers
looked like bits of old leather ready for the dust-heap. The _kadi_
began wailing again, and said he would go back, but Marhoun pushed
him up the bank and he plodded on.

We soon came to a goat-track and gradually began climbing the steep
slopes of the hill. As we rose, the mist closed down upon us and
wrapped us in its damp embrace. I could no longer see Madani, and
the _bash agha_ was only a dim form before me. The _kadi_ I didn’t
need to see as his wail of malediction on motor-cars and excursions,
and idiots who could live out in the desert, never ceased.

After an hour or so we reached the summit and gathered together in
a ghostly group.

“Not very far now,” said Ali gaily. “Reminds me of winter in
the trenches. Eh, Aïssa?”

“Yes, the Vosges,” he replied. “Not too tired, _bash agha_?”

The old man shook his head and he brushed the drops from his burnous.

“Well, let’s proceed,” said Madani. “We don’t want to be
caught by the night.”

“My shoes are full of stones,” moaned the _kadi_. “Well,
take them out,” exclaimed Marhoun.

Without further ado we started along the crest and soon began
descending another path. The wind was less fierce on this side of the
mountain, but the mist swirled like a great shroud about us. None of
us spoke as we plodded on in our dripping burnouses. My mind became
a sort of damp blank as I mechanically followed in the procession.

Suddenly the _bash agha_ said to me over his shoulder, “What has
become of Miss G., who was in Laghouat for two months this spring?”

“Eh?” I said.

He repeated his question.

“Oh, she has gone back to Scotland,” I replied.

“Why did she go?” again asked the old man.

“Oh, I suppose she wanted to see her family and get back to this
sort of weather,” I answered vaguely.

“She was a very nice girl,” said the _bash agha_. “She was
full of gaiety. I liked her.”

He lapsed into silence again. I followed on, wondering how the brain
of Jelloul ben Lahkdar, _bash agha_ of all the Larbas, reasoned,
that he should suddenly ask me the whereabouts of an English friend
of mine while descending the slopes of the mountains of Chellala
in a Scotch mist. The working of an Oriental mind has always been
and always will be a mystery to me.

However, the mist was beginning to clear and the rain was abating
when suddenly, from nowhere, the sun, brilliant in its setting,
burst through the clouds, and we looked out on to the smiling
village of Chellala nestling among its green trees, and out on to
the great plains of the Sersou, right away to the blue mountains
of the Atlas in the distance. That wonderful Algerian climate,
where there is never a day without a little sun to keep one’s
spirits alive to the glories of nature!

Every one seemed to cheer up.

I turned round and looked at the _kadi_ and I mercifully restrained
my laughter, as the picture of wretchedness he presented was too
genuine to admit of more jests.

“You’ll be in dry clothes soon, _kadi_,” I exclaimed.

“I shall take great care never to leave my home again, _Inch
Allah_,” he groaned.

At the moment Marhoun started singing one of those strange, melodious
songs of the great South with the deep, long note drawn out at
the end. Aïssa picked it up and sent back the verse, trembling,
high and melancholy. Marhoun returned with the refrain, so soft,
so gentle, that I approached the _bash agha_ and asked him the
meaning of the words.

He smiled and said, “I can not give it exactly translated because
it is too beautiful in Arabic, but it runs thus: ‘My love is as
great as the fire, and it consumes my heart.’”

And I repeated it to myself, wondering on the strange nature of the
Arabs, as the sun, all orange and gold, dipped behind the hills,
wrapping the land in golden radiance.


                   5. _The Turkish Bath in Algeria_

We have heard a great deal in this book about religion; let us turn
our attention for a brief moment to its great adjunct, especially
in the Moslem faith— cleanliness.

To the average Englishman the words “Turkish bath” suggest
tiled chambers, whiteness, great heat, much water and complete
exhaustion. This is what he has seen in Jermyn Street. In his
imagination he may have conjured up a vision of the _hammam_ of the
East with its marble halls and multi-colored tiles, its splashing
fountains and exhilarating hashish, while ebony-bodied negroes
flit noiselessly about. Now, though this average Englishman will
never be bathed in this _Arabian Nights_ atmosphere in Algeria,
let it be known that his imagination has not altogether run into
the realms of fable.

In certain private houses of great chiefs this atmosphere, to a
lesser degree, exists, and the owner of the bath insists on all the
most luxurious rites being carried out. However, as this remains
private property it can not be entered into, and it will suffice to
describe the common Turkish bath known in Algeria as _le bain maure_,
which resident or tourist, pedler or _caïd_, respectable maiden
or _femme du Quartier_, must use if cleanliness is to be observed.

In this haunt of steam and strange odors there will be found neither
the tiled chambers of Jermyn Street nor the splashing fountains of
Haroun al-Raschid. The entrance to the bath is usually imposing;
this is presumably to attract the passer-by. The entrance-hall is
also roomy, and with a purpose, as it is here that many of the
Faithful come to say their prayers after their ablutions. After
this there is a series of primary disillusions. I purposely use
the word “primary.”

To undress, one is ushered into a small chamber, where probably
a number of other persons of all ranks and ages are already
undressing. One hastily confides one’s purse to the owner or
manager of the bath, who puts it in his pocket. This looks risky
at first sight, but it is in reality quite safe. Having disrobed,
an emaciated bandit appears and, placing a towel about one’s body
and one about one’s head, proffers a pair of wooden clogs, which
are flat pieces of wood the shape of the sole of a shoe with a strap
to go across the foot. They appear to be harmless affairs at first
sight; I emphasize “sight,” for the moment one suggests that
they should be modes of locomotion one is disillusioned. For some
unknown reason these clogs have a distaste to progress in a forward
direction and seem bent on going either to the right or to the left,
or in both directions at the same time—anyway, at right angles
to the proposed progress of the wearer, which rationally should be
toward the bath.

At first it needs the strength and will power of a great and
persevering man to advance with the aid of the wall out of the lofty
court to the heated chamber. The passage is usually narrow and full
of stagnant water, the light is conspicuous by its absence, and as
one gropes for the entrance one’s mind rushes back to memories
of the dungeons beneath the Ducal Palace in Venice. When at last
the massive door has been pulled back, one’s terror, if anything,
increases. A cloud of damp, suffocating steam fills the chamber,
the body becomes suddenly moist, and one instinctively turns to
the exit. However, it is too late; the emaciated bandit is behind,
and pushes one forward through pools of water to a large square slab.

The eyes are gradually getting used to the dim light thrown by a
single sputtering candle, and one distinguishes little by little
the forms of other people washing in various corners of the room.
The heat is intense, the steam swirls about the ceiling, the
grunts and murmurs of the bathers make one think of Doré’s
illustrations of Dante’s _Inferno_. However, little time is allowed
for reflection in this place of torment, as suddenly the skeleton
which has done the undressing and the guiding pushes one on to the
floor, where, lying on a kind of blue duster, one awaits the rack!

[Illustration: _Photograph by Mr. Julian Sampson_
The Oasis of Guerrera, from the Maison Arabe]

[Illustration: Roman Sarcophagus at Tipaza]

[Illustration: Pictures Done by Roman Children on Damp Bricks Drying
in the Sun]

And here the beauty, the glorious compensation for all the rest,
begins. Of all the masseurs in the world, be they British, Latin,
or Scandinavian, there are none I have met who can equal the Arab
of the Algerian south. No training, no knowledge of anatomy—these
men, by some curious instinct, understand the wants of the body,
and as one lies in this steaming atmosphere one feels all the
pains and poisons of the human frame being magically pressed out
of one. It is a complete relaxation, a complete cure to all ills,
and when the coarse glove is put on and the rolls of fat come out
of the opened pores of the skin, it is done as gently as a mother
powdering her baby. Soap follows, warm water after that, until the
cold douche, poured out of a wooden bucket, brings one to one’s
feet and, transformed and light-hearted, one returns fearless along
the dark passage to be massaged with towels till dry.

The result is magical; magical the swiftness with which it is all
accomplished, magical when one realizes that the total fee for the
bath is five francs.

The white-tiled chamber and the exhilarating hashish may add to the
delight of the thing, but to feel a sensation of real fitness give
me the common Arab masseur in the common Arab bath in the far south.

I am told that the negresses who look after the women who attend
the bath on specific days of the week have also great merits. Of
this I am ignorant, but of all things I miss most, when away in
Europe, my emaciated bandit who “masses” out of my body all
weariness—mental and physical—disease and cares, who sends me
out into the street capable of sitting down to write a chapter of
_Algeria from Within_.


                         6. _The Keef Smoker_

Before closing these sketches of Arab life a word must be said on
a vice which is luckily not very prevalent, but which nevertheless
exists in many centers.

I speak of keef-smoking.

Keef is the dried flower of the hemp-plant chopped up and smoked
like tobacco, rolled in a cigarette, or in the bowl of a small
pipe. In a different form it is the basis of the hashish sweets,
rarely seen in Algeria, but very common in the Near East.

The effect of keef on the smoker is to make him practically
independent of food and sleep as long as he is under its influence,
and a habitual keef-taker is easy to detect. His eyes are very
bright, his face is pale and drawn, his arms and hands are terribly
thin, his movements are restless. At the same time he is not at all
dazed like one under the influence of a drug, and though after a few
days’ smoking he will drift off into a kind of feverish sleep,
during the early periods he is extraordinarily lucid. In fact,
it is said that the first effects of keef are to make the brain
work at three times its normal pace.

European tourists in the south occasionally get hold of some keef
to smoke, and complain that it has had no effect at all beyond
giving them a sore throat. This is quite normal, as the fact of
smoking a little hemp in a pipe or cigarette will hurt no one
if not continued. To feel the effect of keef one must smoke for
at least one night through, and three days are necessary to get
really poisoned. The danger of an experiment of this kind is that
the desire to go on may seize one, and once keef has taken hold of a
man it is rare to see it give him up. However, it is quite amusing
to go to a keef-smoking den, all the more so as it has to be done
in secret and with the connivance of a smoker, as no outsiders know
where these little nocturnal _réunions_ take place.

As a matter of fact I doubt whether there is much danger of the
police interfering as, though it is against the law to smoke keef,
the French are not going to try to stop something which must always
go on, and unless the offense is deliberately open they will not
peer into the dark streets to catch a few poor Arabs.

The town where keef-smoking is the most prevalent, I believe, is
Ghardaïa—not of course among the puritan Mzabites, but in the Arab
quarter. This is partly due to the fact that these Arabs are far away
from their own people, and club together in small groups to do what
they would not dare do before their relatives in their own oases.

I remember going to one of these places in the Mzab with some
English friends who wanted to see the den for themselves. We were a
curious party—an English girl, a short-story writer and another
man connected with letters—none of whom knew the country well,
while our Arab guide was the _khodja_ of the Bureau Arabe, a man
unbelievably fat, who rather sailed along the street than walked.
We passed through interminable little streets, pitch black, fell
up and down steps until we came to a tumble-down house, all dark
save for a yellow light which flickered in an upper chamber. The
tinkle of a mandolin floated out, a warm breeze sent little whirls
of dust up the narrow way, the stars stood out bright in the sky.

Our immense companion tapped mysteriously at the door, the sound
of the mandolin ceased, and we heard some one coming cautiously
down-stairs. A few whispered words were exchanged, followed by
the noise of heavy bolts being drawn, the door swung back, and
we found ourselves in front of a rickety wooden staircase at the
foot of which stood an Arab in tattered clothes, who held aloft a
hissing acetylene lamp. He scrutinized us closely, and then, bidding
us enter, drew aside as we filed slowly past and followed our fat
friend up the stairs. The janitor waited till we were all inside,
and then with a clash shot back the bolts, and we felt ourselves
prisoners in this illicit haunt.

At the top of the stairs we came to a room dimly lighted, and the
first thing which struck our attention was an enormous skin full
of water. When I say that it struck our attention it is not quite
exact, as in reality it was struck by the head of my friend S. A.,
who had not noticed it until a stream of icy water poured down his
back. When we had recovered from this pleasing little incident we
looked about us.

On the floor all round the little room squatted men of all ages
and grades—some in rags, some in prosperous-looking _gandourahs_,
some in very modern red fezzes—but all with the same hungry look on
their drawn faces. At the far end the Arab who had opened the door
attended to the little fireplace ornamented with colored tiles and
on which he prepared coffee and mint tea; in the middle of the group
sat the mandolinist playing with a far-away look in his shining eyes.

The air was heavy with a sweet, rather sickly smell, an odor not
unlike new-mown hay, only stronger. A bench was mysteriously produced
for us and for our stout companion, who explained that if he sat on
the ground he would never be able to get up again. Tea was placed
before us, and then rather diffidently one of the corpses on the
floor rose and offered Miss G. a small pipe. Seeing she was prepared
to smoke, he drew a wallet from the folds of his _gandourah_ and
filled the bowl with the strange grayish-green, tobacco-looking
matter, and handed it back to her.

In the meanwhile we had also been supplied with similar pipes, and
in a few moments we had lighted up. The taste was not pleasant to
the regular pipe-smoker like myself, and at the same time it was
not as nasty as my first attempts at smoking when in the depths of
a wood my brother and I, aged nine and ten, filled a cast-off pipe
of my father’s with brown paper in the belief that we were smoking!

Keef is better than brown paper. The taste and smell were rather
like that of hay.

When the company saw that we were quite human and ready to join in
the fun there was a general relaxation. All the pipes were lighted,
the mandolinist tuned up, and soon the whole crowd was as merry as
children at a birthday party. In fact, so great was the effect of
the atmosphere that S. A. insisted on singing himself, and would
have danced had not M. J., who has his interests at heart, held
him forcibly on the bench.

I don’t know how long this would have gone on had not a discreet
signal from the street warned us that the police were making their
rounds. In a second the light was dimmed, the music ceased, and we
sat as still as mice until we heard the measured tramp of the Arab
constables disappearing up the street. We felt it more discreet to
depart ourselves, so we took leave of our fevered-eyed hosts and
returned to our inn.

Though I spent a rather restless night, I don’t know if it was
the effect of the reef or not, and we all certainly felt quite fit
the next day.

Still, I can never think of that night without smiling; it was all
so mysterious, so much part of another world, and I often wonder
if M. J., as he sits editorially in London, or S. A., scooping in
royalties, or Miss G., in her English surroundings, realize how
they peeped into the past for a few seconds and lived again the
life which, if it had not been Algerian, would have probably been
celebrated by another De Quincey.



                             CHAPTER XXXIX

                       A LAST GLANCE AT THE ARAB


The preface of a book should always be written at the end; this
insures it being read. In this particular work the first chapter
rather takes the place of the preface, but at the same time there
are certain things which rather need explaining.

In the first place, the necessity to compress the matter into a
limited number of pages. On practically every subject mentioned,
there is material in my mind to write a book, and it is difficult
to realize where to stop. It is equally difficult to know where
to begin as, to some, the information set out in these pages will
not be new, and they may be looking for something deeper. Of these
people I ask patience, for if the result of the book is encouraging,
another one will follow, and perhaps another, dealing at length
with the subjects only touched on now.

This work has been prepared more as something which any traveler
can read during his journey to Algiers, and which will allow him
to see the country through other eyes than those of the guides,
be they books, chauffeurs, or the luxuriously uniformed gentlemen
of the Transatlantic Company.

Let it, moreover, be understood that the history, the geography,
the remarks on French administration are, more than anything else,
a prelude to the rest of the book, “The Arabs.”

The Arabs, whether they be those in the scarlet burnouses of the
_caïd_-ship or in the rags of the beggar, are all the same: a people
who have destroyed without creating, who have been divided when
their unity would have made them great, who have lived on theory.

We have before us the relics of the Carthaginians, of the Numidians,
of the stupendous work of the Roman Empire, and then centuries of
nothing. War, devastation, intrigue, mark the period covered by
the Arab domination.

Even those buildings which we see in Algiers, at Constantine and
in the other ancient towns, are the work of Turkish or European
architects. And yet, in spite of this apparent futility of existence,
in spite of this atmosphere of strife, there is something very
noble in the nature of the Arabs, something very engaging, something
utterly aloof from all that is European; for in spite of dissension
among themselves they are all held under the sway of Islam, that
all-powerful principle which separates them entirely from all
other persuasions.

Moreover, the longer one lives among the Arabs the more one realizes
the insurmountable barrier which separates us from them. It is
not a question of race, though this does count; it is a question of
religion. One can establish the deepest intimacy in all matters of
daily life and then suddenly come face to face with this blank wall.

Some Europeans contend that it is possible really to become as the
Arabs—even to mate with them. The few who have tried this last
experiment have met with utter disaster. I know a _caïd_ who has
been all over Europe, who occasionally wears European clothes,
who has had affairs with women of all nationalities, but without
ever legally marrying one. He told me that twice he had been on
the point of doing so, but that reason had always prevailed.

“How could it be?” he exclaimed. “How could the gulf which
separates us from you ever be spanned? How could a European woman
admit being shut up, or, if she emancipated herself, being considered
by us on the same level as a woman of the Quarter? How could she
admit to her children being brought up in the principles of the
Koran, with our habits and customs? Why, we don’t even sleep in
beds or sit on chairs; we eat with our hands; we have no learning;
we never read books. We don’t consider any belief but our own;
and, even if such a mating began successfully, how could you expect
one of your people to admit the husband taking other wives to live
legally under the same roof if he felt so inclined?”

This is so obvious that it seems almost superfluous to speak of it,
and yet there are Europeans who will not see the impossibility of
such a step; there are some who have actually taken it; I know
a few of them. I have never mentioned the subject to them; the
look in their eyes has told me more than any words, and has made
me shrink from further laying bare the wound.

I was talking to an educated Arab not so long ago about religions,
and he expressed the opinion that only Mohammedans would go to
heaven. I suggested that the question of after-life was not so
much judged by religion as by the actions of men, and I quoted the
example of a very worthy Christian we know, respected by all Arabs,
and a hopeless, immoral, drinking _marabout_.

“Which of the two will be recompensed, the honest and sober
unbeliever, or that scoundrel who calls himself a holy man of
yours?”

“I can not say,” he replied, after a moment’s thought; “but
probably neither of them will go to paradise.”

“What?” I exclaimed. “You mean to suggest that worthy Mr. X.,
who has spent the whole of his life doing good, will find himself
in company with your drunken _marabout_?”

“I can not say,” repeated the Arab; “but if our friend believes
that Jesus is the Son of God, he can not go to heaven. God is above
all, and no one is like him.”

“That is all very well,” I said; “but our religion says that
if you don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus you will also not
go to paradise; that is why I am contending that people can not be
judged by their respective faiths, but by their actions.”

“But your religion is wrong,” he said finally.

I was on the point of continuing the argument, but the look in his
eyes made me desist. This belief, to him, was conclusive evidence.

And that is Islam, that is the Arab; his faith is absolute, and
his opinion of other religions is quite simple—they don’t exist.

“Why,” they say, “we believe in Moses and Aaron and Jacob and
Elijah and Jesus; they are all great prophets who preceded ours;
what more do you want?”

A wall—a blank wall which no one can pierce without becoming a
Mohammedan. _Et encore_. . . .

The more one lives with these people the more apparent this becomes,
and if in this book the impressions given differ from those which
have struck others, perhaps it is because only one side of the
character has been seen, the character _allowed to be seen_ by
the Roumi.

I know the Arabs well, I know them intimately, but I have not the
remotest idea what they think of me, and I never shall have.

There may be future developments of this book, with possible reversal
of certain opinions, but as far as the working of the Arab brain is
concerned, I know that I have penetrated as far as I ever shall. Let
the reader, therefore, close this volume realizing the task which
has been before the author—who, after spending over five years
constantly studying these people, has arrived at this somewhat
negative conclusion.


                                THE END



                                 INDEX


 Abd-el-Kader (Djelali), 113, 122

 Abd-el-Kader (Emir), 31, 32, 123-27, 267, 273

 Abd-el-Krim, 127

 Abhadites, 196

 Ablutions, 75, 102, 286

 _Adel_, 53

 Administration, 37, 40, 48

 _Agha_, 36, 49, 51, 53

 Aid el Kebir, 109, 113

 Aid Serrir, 109

 Ain-el-Ibel, 184

 Ain Mahdi, 60, 125, 262, 267, 269

 Aissa, 103

 Akbou, 243

 Alfa, 20, 156, 182, 191

 Algiers, 14, 15, 17, 21, 27, 29-37, 52, 113, 158

 Allen, Sir Thomas, 28

 Amine, 240

 Amboise, 126

 Anglo-Saxon Automobile Company, 175

 Antony, 23

 Arba, 176

 Aschana, 109, 113

 Atlas (Mountains), 19, 35, 36, 176, 286

 Aumale, 126, 177, 273

 Aurès (Mountains), 32, 35, 39, 180, 198, 221

 Azazga, 237

 Bugeaud, Marshall, 31, 125

 Baghar and Baghari, 177, 256, 259

 Barbarossa, 27, 235

 Barbary Ape, 20, 236

 _Bash Adel_, 53

 _Bash Agha_, 36, 48-57, 186, 217, 218, 256-61, 269

 Bagdad, 122

 _Bassour_, 141, 142, 185

 Batna, 166, 220

 Beni Sgen, 197, 201, 203

 Belisarius, 24

 Berard, 166

 Berriane, 194, 197, 201

 Berbers, 22, 26, 32, 35-39, 72, 102, 196, 198, 222, 239, 242

 Bible, 117

 Bir Rabalou, 176

 Biskra, 15, 25, 35, 36, 65, 70, 213

 Blida, 168

 Borgeaud, Lucien, 168

 Bône, 156

 Bolskevik, 64

 Bordeaux, 19, 153

 Bou Noura, 197, 201, 204

 Bourbaki, 256

 Bouzigza Pass, 237

 Bouira, 236

 Bougie, 27, 156, 236

 Bourmont, General, 29, 31

 Bou Saada, 60, 65, 178, 179

 Boutin, Colonel, 29, 30

 Burdeau, 260

 Bureau Arabe, 44-53

 Burgundy, 19, 153

 Bustard, 133, 135

 Byzantine, 24, 35

 Cæsar, 23, 166

 Cæsarea, 166, 167

 _Caid_, 36, 41, 49, 50, 53, 70, 142, 202, 218, 263, 270

 Carthaginians, 22, 23, 102, 118, 196, 198

 Casino, 214

 Castiglians, 166

 Cereals, 153

 _Cercles Militares_, 44

 Cervantes, 27, 162

 Chambas, 143, 150, 201, 249

 Charles X, 31

 Charles Quint, 27, 30, 161, 236

 Chellala, 60, 150, 273, 282, 285

 Chenoua, 168

 Cheops, 167

 Cherchell, 166-68

 _Chorba_, 78, 79

 Christ, 28

 Christianity, 24, 167

 Cirta, 23, 232

 Cleopatra, 23, 166

 Coal, 155, 156

 _Cof Bouadda_, 241

 _Cof Oufella_, 241

 Col de Fdoules, 234

 Col de Texenna, 235

 Col de Tigdint, 237

 Col de Tirourda, 244

 Colomb Bechar, 156

 _Commission Municipale_, 41

 _Conseil Supérieur_, 43

 _Communes Mixtes_, 41, 43

 _Conseil du Gouvernment_, 42

 Constantine, 23, 36, 39, 125, 147, 153, 167, 231, 232

 Cordova, 26

 Cork, 21, 155, 235

 Crésolles, Comtesse de, 227

 _Danse du Ventre_, 92, 97

 Dates, 156, 189, 211

 Day of Judgment, 117

 Décret Crémieux, 37

 _Delegations Financières_, 43

 Dellys, 168, 236

 _Derbouca_, 94

 Deval, Consul, 29

 Divorce, 83

 Djebel Amour, 137, 216, 262, 267, 275

 Djebel Nefersa, 196

 Djelfa, 177, 183

 Djemila, 234

 _Djemma_, 240

 Djerba, 196, 235

 Djidjelli, 226, 231, 234-36

 Djujura, 237

 Dress, Arab, 75-76, 91

 Droit Musulman, 53

 Duquèsne, 28

 Education, 128-32

 El Ateuf, 197, 201, 204

 Elaghouat, 188

 El Golea, 36

 El Hamel, 60, 180

 El Kantara, 219

 Estrés, d’, 28

 Eton, 274

 Exmouth, Lord, 28

 Fabius Maximus, 23

 Fantasia, 217-18

 Fathima, 26

 Fatimedes, 26

 Fez, 15, 26

 Fishing, 139, 269

 Flute, 95

 _Fondouks_, 250

 Food, Arab, 78, 79

 Fort de l’Eau, 164

 Fort National, 244

 Foxes, 138

 Franco-Prussian War, 32

 Garden of Allah, 215

 Gazelles, 133, 135

 Genesric, 24

 Geranium, 154

 Ghardaïa, 97, 150, 200-03, 280, 291

 Gibraltar, 25

 Goethe, 68

 Goums, 217

 Governor-General, 40, 42, 49

 Granada, 26

 Grand Erg, 216

 Guerrera, 197, 201, 209, 210

 _Hadj_, 106

 Hamilcar, 23

 Hammam Meskoutine, 156

 Hamman Rhira, 156

 Hannibal, 23

 Hanno, 23

 Hares, 133

 Hasdrubal, 23

 Hauts Plateaux, 20, 33, 152, 156, 182

 Hawks, 133, 134

 Heaven, 117

 Hell, 104, 117, 118

 Hichens, Robert, 213

 Hilals, 26

 Hoggar, 35, 39, 208

 Horses, 138, 152

 Hot Springs, 156

 Hussein Dey, 29, 30

 Hyenas, 138

 Ibadites, 106

 _Imam_, 55, 59, 104, 110, 180, 257

 India, 132

 International Harvester Company, 153

 Interprètes Judiciares, 52

 Irrigation, 21, 191, 197

 Islam, 55, 119, 127, 298

 Itinerary of Journey, 173

 Jackals, 138

 Jardin Landon, 215

 Jesus, 71, 103, 298

 Jews, 37, 39, 61, 131, 192, 200

 Juba, 23, 166

 Jugurtha, 23

 Kaaba, 106

 Kabyle, 18, 32, 35, 80, 130, 155, 168, 198, 238, 245

 _Kadi_, 53, 54, 81, 83, 109, 126, 261, 273

 Kasba, 162

 Keef, 290

 Khaliphat, 49

 Kharedjites, 106, 196

 _Khodja_, 53

 Koceila, 25, 216

 Kolea, 168

 Koran, 52, 58, 59, 66, 68, 69, 79, 89, 97, 107, 116-20, 128, 129

 Kouba, 122

 Kourdane, 262, 264, 265

 _Kous-kous_, 78, 79, 129, 277

 Laghouat, 32, 34, 113, 147, 187-193

 Lalla Aurelie, 60, 262

 Lalla Zineb, 60, 262

 Lambèse, 220, 221

 Landon, Count, 215

 Laperouse, 164, 165

 Larbas, 143, 188, 249, 260, 280, 285

 Lavigerie, Cardinal, 32, 131

 League of Nations, 64

 Lebon, Gustave, 65

 Locusts, 247

 Louis XIV, 28

 Louis Phillipe, 31, 126

 Lycées, 131

 Mai-ea-Din, 123

 Maison Carré, 164

 Makante, 109

 Malta, 29

 Mandolins, 96

 _Marabout_, 57-63, 97, 104, 113, 141, 181, 188, 262, 268

 Marengo, 168

 Marriage, 81

 Martel, Charles, 26

 Mascara, 125, 154

 Masseurs, 75, 286

 Massinissa, 232

 Matifou, 164

 Mecca, 60, 123, 164

 _Mechoui_, 78, 277, 279

 Medea, 153, 259

 Medersa, 52, 131

 Mediterranean, 27, 28, 29, 158, 161, 164, 167, 236

 Mehari, 212

 _Mektoub_, 62, 115, 116-21, 151, 258, 283

 Melika, 195, 197, 201, 203

 Metlili, 201

 Michelet, 236, 244

 Micipsa, 232

 Mila, 234

 Miliana, 153, 259

 Mirage, 195

 Missionaries, 107

 Mitidja, 19, 125, 154, 155, 176

 Moghreb, 146

 Mohammed, 25, 36, 64, 101, 117

 Moses, 298

 Mosque, 84, 106, 161, 187, 202

 Moufflon, 133, 137

 Mouloud, 109

 _Muezzin_, 55, 104

 _Mufti_, 54, 61, 105, 109

 Mustapha, 14, 158, 161

 Mustapha Kemal, 93

 Mzab, 35, 36, 195, 197-99, 205, 209, 245

 Mzi, 216

 Napoleon I, 29

 Napoleon, Louis, 126

 Negroes, 98

 Nomads, 38, 69, 72, 84, 130, 140, 185, 188

 Numidia, 23, 99, 123, 146, 166

 Octavius, 166

 Oil, 156

 Olive, 155

 Oman, 196

 Oranges, 154

 Oranie, 17, 19, 32, 36, 39, 43, 153, 156, 197

 Ouargla, 36, 197, 208

 Ouarsenis, 35

 Ouled Naïl, 90, 97, 143, 179, 182, 183

 Palais Bourbon, 43

 Palestro, 168, 236

 Panthers, 133, 138

 Paradise, 103, 104, 113

 Partridge, 133

 Pau, 126

 Pères Blancs, 32, 131, 203

 Phallic, 196

 Phosphates, 156

 Phylloxera, 153

 Pigeons, 133

 Phœnicians, 22, 35, 146, 157, 165, 237

 Pilgrimage, 106

 _Pistachiers_, 194

 Polygamy, 82, 88, 241

 Pompeii, 222

 Prayer, 102, 103, 104, 105

 _Préfets_, 41, 42

 Public Library, 161

 Purgatory, 118

 Quail, 133

 _Quartier, Reservé_, 61, 87-93, 112

 Race el Ame, 109

 _Raïta_, 95, 98, 112, 180, 192, 217, 250

 Ramadan, 109-12

 _Rebat_, 57

 Regnard, 27

 Religion, 101, 109

 Rhummel, 232

 Riff, 199

 Roman Empire, 19, 23, 24, 25, 118, 152, 157, 166, 225

 Roumis, 130, 298

 Rusgunium, 165

 Sahara, 17, 18, 20, 21, 33, 36, 44, 47, 85, 123, 163, 186,
187, 260

 Sahel, 30

 Saints, 119, 122

 Sakamody, 176

 Scipio, 23, 196

 _Secrétaire-Général_, 42, 44

 _Seguia_, 191, 216

 Senegalese, 99

 Sersou, 18, 20, 31, 147, 156, 182, 245, 249, 260, 286

 Sétif, 183, 221, 226

 Seville, 26

 Shakespeare, 68

 Sheep, 146, 148, 192

 _Sheik_, 50, 51

 Sheridan, Mrs. Clare, 71

 Shiahs, 106

 Sidi Aissa, 177

 Sidi Ferruch, 30, 123

 Sidi Maklouf, 185

 Sidi Obka, 25, 216

 Sierra Leone, 23

 Sirocco, 154, 255

 _Smala_, 50, 125

 Sofrites, 106

 _Spahi_, 45

 Spaniards, 27

 Spells, 119, 121

 Sport, 133

 Spragg, Sir Edward, 28

 Staoueli, 30, 153, 168

 Stoddard, Lothrop, 65

 Sudanese, 99

 Sunnites, 106

 Superstitions, 116, 243

 Syphax, 167, 232

 Taberkroutz, 235

 Tadgemont, 268

 Taguine, 31, 126, 270, 271

 _Talebs_, 55, 120, 128, 129

 _Tam-tam_, 62, 94, 96, 112, 180, 192, 217, 250

 Tarik, 25

 Tell, 17, 20, 35, 143, 152, 177, 256

 Teniet el Haad, 19, 259

 _Territoires du Sud_, 17, 43

 _Tiaret_, 197

 Tidjanis, 267

 Tigzirt, 168, 236

 Tiles, 161

 Timgad, 220, 221, 222, 244

 Tilrempt, 194

 Tipaza, 165-68, 259

 Tizi, 236, 237, 244

 Tlemçen, 26

 Tobacco, 155

 Tolga, 181

 _Tombeau de la Chrétienne_, 166

 Touaregs, 35, 198

 Touggourt, 208, 212, 216

 Toulon, 126

 Tournin, 32

 Transatlantique Cie., 172, 173, 178, 186, 215, 220, 244, 246, 252

 Trappists, 30, 168

 Tunis, 15, 26, 28

 Tunisia, 22, 23, 40, 155

 Turks, 27, 28, 30, 37, 161

 Urdu, 132

 Vandals, 24, 28, 35, 222

 Vines, 19, 153

 Violins, 96

 Voltaire, 68

 Voronoff, 62

 White Fathers, 32, 131, 203

 White Sisters, 80, 131, 203

 Widows, 84

 Wild Boar, 133, 135

 Wine Drinking, 104

 Witchcraft, 119

 Women, Arab, 80, 241

 Women, European, 69

 Woodcock, 133

 Yakouren, 237

 Yusuf, General, 273

 Zanzibar, 39, 196

 Zaouia, 59, 60, 85, 181, 267

 Zeraia, 226, 234

 Zibans, 212, 217

 _Zouaoua_, 240

 _Zouaves_, 240



[List of illustrations]

  The Author                                             Frontispiece
                                                               PAGE
  [Map]                                                         14
  Algiers as It Was before the French Conquest in 1830          20
  The Old Port of Algiers as it is To-day                       20
  An Arab Beggar                                                36
  Scene of Arab Life                                            36
  An Arab Barber                                                54
  Roasting the Lamb Whole                                       54
  Children Bathing in a Southern Oasis                          54
  A “Propriétaire”                                              76
  Numidian Type: Musician of a Marabout                         76
  A Moorish Villa                                               76
  An Arab Type                                                  90
  Arab Women Veiled                                             90
  Girl of the Quarter                                           90
  Women in the Cemetery, Algiers                                106
  A Beggar Woman                                                106
  An Arab Tam-Tam Player                                        106
  [Calendar]                                                    110
  Arab Band and Dancer about to Perform in a Southern Town      124
  Pilgrimage to One of the Shrines of Abd-el-kader              124
  Arabs with Flutist Waiting to See the Caravans Going North    124
  A Water Carrier in Laghouat                                   142
  Algerian Cavalryman                                           142
  Head Shepherd, the Author, the Kaïd Madam and the Calipha     142
  Caravan Moving North                                          142
  A Street in the Kasbah, Algiers                               160
  Mosque of Sidi Abd-er-Rahmane                                 160
  Café Outside Grande Mosque, Algiers                           160
  Sand Storm Getting up on the Sahara                           190
  Waterfall of Boiling Water, Hammon, Meskoutine                190
  Arab Falconer Setting Out to Hunt                             190
  The Market-Place of Beni-Sgen                                 204
  Channel for Watering the Garden of an Oasis                   204
  Street in Bou Saada                                           204
  The Bridge of the Third Legion at El Kantara                  222
  An Arab of Tadjmout                                           222
  The Departure of a Caravan in the Far South                   242
  Market Looking toward Trajan’s Arch, Timgad                   242
  Praetorium. Lambèse                                           242
  Storks Nesting on the Roofs at Constantine                    262
  Bonfarik, Religious Print Seller                              262
  Vegetable Market                                              262
  The Oasis of Guerrera, from the Maison Arabe                  288
  Roman Sarcophagus at Tipaza                                   288
  Pictures Done by Roman Children on Damp Bricks Drying in
   the Sun                                                      288



Transcriber's note:

 pg 45 Changed: upleasant to: unpleasant
 pg 74 Changed: horce-racing to: horse-racing
 pg 282 Changed: innner to: inner
 Spelling and formatting inconsistencies have been left unchanged
 Added a list of illustrations at the end of the document



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