Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Algeria and Tunis
Author: Nesbitt, Frances E.
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 and Tunis" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Libraries)



               [Illustration: MOSQUE OF SIDI ZIAD, TUNIS
                            The Auction Day]



                           ALGERIA AND TUNIS


                          PAINTED & DESCRIBED
                         BY FRANCES E. NESBITT

                         PUBLISHED BY A. AND C.
                         BLACK · LONDON · MCMVI



                                Contents


                                                                    PAGE

                                CHAPTER I
  The City of El Djezair                                               3

                                CHAPTER II
  The Country-Side                                                    17

                               CHAPTER III
  The Gates of the Desert                                             37

                                CHAPTER IV
  The Queen of the Desert                                             57

                                CHAPTER V
  Life on an Oasis                                                    71

                                CHAPTER VI
  Timgad                                                              93

                               CHAPTER VII
  Constantine                                                        107

                               CHAPTER VIII
  On the Way to Tunis                                                119

                                CHAPTER IX
  Tunis                                                              139

                                CHAPTER X
  Life in Tunis                                                      159

                                CHAPTER XI
  Carthage                                                           179

                               CHAPTER XII
  Sousse and El Djem                                                 193

                               CHAPTER XIII
  The Sacred City                                                    207
  INDEX                                                              227



                         List of Illustrations


  1. Mosque of Sidi Ben Ziad, Tunis—the Auction Day       _Frontispiece_
                                                             FACING PAGE
  2. The Penon, Algiers                                                4
  3. An Old Street, Algiers                                            6
  4. The Carpet School, Algiers                                        8
  5. Mosque of Sidi Abder Rahman, Algiers                             10
  6. The Leopard Door, Algiers                                        12
  7. Algiers from the Jardin d’Essai                                  16
  8. View from Mustapha, Algiers                                      18
  9. On my Balcony, Algiers                                           20
  10. Bougainvillæa, Algiers                                          22
  11. The Garden Court of an Old Moorish Villa, Algiers               24
  12. Friday at the Cemetery, Algiers                                 26
  13. Koubba of Sidi Noumann, Bouzareah                               28
  14. Stone Pines, Algiers                                            30
  15. The Red Aloes                                                   32
  16. The Gates of the Desert                                         38
  17. Spinning                                                        42
  18. The Red Village, El Kantara                                     46
  19. On the Edge of the Desert                                       48
  20. Carding Wool                                                    50
  21. In the heart of an Oasis                                        52
  22. In the Market-Place, Biskra                                     58
  23. Evening on the Sahara                                           60
  24. Sunset                                                          62
  25. The Fruit Market, Biskra                                        64
  26. The Story-Teller                                                66
  27. A Village Street, Biskra                                        70
  28. A River of the Sahara                                           74
  29. A Biskra Woman                                                  76
  30. A Nomad Camp                                                    78
  31. A Caravan on the Sahara                                         80
  32. The Begging Marabout                                            82
  33. The Palm Village                                                84
  34. A Mozabite Fantasia                                             86
  35. Street of the Dancing Girls, Biskra                             88
  36. The Arch of Trajan, Timgad                                      96
  37. The Forum, Timgad                                              100
  38. Market Day, Timgad                                             102
  39. Gorge of the Roumel, Constantine                               108
  40. A Game of Draughts                                             112
  41. The Silent Waterfall, Hammam Meskoutine                        120
  42. The Arab Wedding, Hammam Meskoutine                            122
  43. Temple of Celestis, Dougga                                     132
  44. Tunis                                                          140
  45. Souk des Etoffes, Tunis                                        144
  46. Souk el Attarin, Tunis                                         148
  47. Souk el Trouk, Tunis                                           150
  48. Souk el Belat, Tunis                                           152
  49. Tunis from the Belvedere                                       158
  50. A Street of Arches, Tunis                                      160
  51. The Zaouïa of the Rue Tourbet el Bey, Tunis                    164
  52. Souk el Hout, Tunis                                            166
  53. Rue Tourbet el Bey, Tunis                                      168
  54. Rag Fair                                                       170
  55. The Fritter Shop, Tunis                                        172
  56. Unlading Wood                                                  174
  57. The Ancient Ports of Carthage                                  180
  58. The Old Punic Cisterns, Carthage                               182
  59. The Carthage Aqueduct                                          184
  60. The Site of Carthage from Sidi Bou Saïd                        188
  61. Sousse                                                         194
  62. The Basket-Makers, Sousse                                      196
  63. The Roman Amphitheatre, El Djem                                200
  64. Evening, Kairouan                                              206
  65. La Grande Rue, Kairouan                                        210
  66. Carpet-Making                                                  212
  67. Mosque of Sidi Okba, Kairouan                                  214
  68. Moorish Gateway, Kairouan                                      218
  69. The Mosque of the Three Doors, Kairouan                        220
  70. A Desert Afterglow                                             224
  _Map at end of Volume._


  _The Illustrations in this volume have been engraved and printed in
             England by The Hentschel Colourtype, Limited._



                           ALGERIA AND TUNIS



                               CHAPTER I
                         THE CITY OF EL DJEZAIR


Algiers is such a city of contrasts, of dark memories and present
prosperity, of Christian slavery and Christian rule, brilliant sun and
tropical rain, of wide modern streets and networks of narrow alleys,
with the slow dignity of movement of the old race and the rapid vivacity
of their new rulers, that it makes all the difference in the world in
what spirit and at what moment you arrive. At times the city is all
sunshine, “a diamond in an emerald frame,” as the Arabs call it; at
others only a dim outline is visible blotted out by the tropical rain.

When first we saw Algiers, after a dreamy, peaceful voyage from
Gibraltar, the city was in its most brilliant mood. Having started in
glorious spring weather, we watched the Sierra Nevada actually
fulfilling all childish dreams of snow mountains, seemingly suspended in
the soft cloudy distance with a suggestion of a double horizon, which
some people called a mirage. Blue sky, bluer sea, still and
calm,—nothing discordant but the notes of the bugle-calls to meals. By
nightfall the mountains had faded away, and all we saw was a long line
of blue African coast, mysterious and dim. But in the morning there was
excitement and bustle enough, the bugles beginning at dawn—a lovely dawn
and sunrise. Then the joy of coming into harbour and seeing the white
terraces of the town gleaming in the sunshine. General impression all
charm, brightness, and colour. The next time we felt the full force of
contrast. Grey drizzling weather at Marseilles, a rolling sea, cold
winds and general depression as the keynote of the voyage, to be
followed by a late landing on a winter evening, the bright green of the
hills dim with rain, the houses looking as grey and chill as ourselves
standing forlornly under umbrellas on dripping decks, and almost wet
through in the short run from the steamer to a carriage; for a downpour
in Algiers is a downpour, just as sunshine is really sunshine, and not
the faint flickering of light and shade we sometimes mistake for it at
home. So that we could fully sympathise with our fellow-travellers’
distress, whilst remembering the loveliness we knew might return at any
moment. In any case landing is rather a disappointment, because the
first impression is so entirely French, with scarcely a touch of the
East. The harbour, quay, and houses behind are all modern, and might
belong to any city of southern France; the only difference at first is
the sight of the boys, with their smiling faces and queer clothes, who
fight for the privilege of carrying the luggage—such nondescript
clothes, half European, half Eastern. Old coats, old boots, the coats
generally too small, the boots too large, worn with a variety of Eastern
garments and nearly always with a scarlet Manchester handkerchief wound
round their heads.

                   [Illustration: THE PENON, ALGIERS]

Driving through the town, the French touch dominates everywhere—very
wide streets, high houses, electric trams, motor cars, shops all
entirely European; and then, as Mustapha is reached, the white houses,
the gardens, even the view over the Bay to the mountains beyond, suggest
Italy, the Bay of Naples, not the home of those dreaded pirates who so
recently held their reign of terror here. In fact, those who like to do
so might imagine they had never left the Riviera. But for those who love
exploring strange scenes, there is a great deal more than this: for
behind those tiresome modern houses the Arab quarter lies hidden, little
altered and yet fast disappearing. The winding Rue de Rovigo cuts
through it again and again on its way from the harbour to the Casbah,
and yet it is still quite easy to get lost in the mazes of the narrow
streets. In old times, when the Dey still ruled and the walls ran
triangular fashion from the broad base of the harbour to the great
fortress, or Casbah, at the top of the hill, the city must have been
charming to look at, however terrible to live in. Now it is possible to
go safely into even the darkest and remotest corners—and they are dark
indeed. A first visit leaves one breathless but delighted. Breathless,
because all the streets are staircases on a more or less imposing scale;
the longest is said to have at least 500 steps; delighted, because at
every turn there is sure to be something unusual to a stranger’s eye.
The newer stairs are wide and straight and very uninteresting. But only
turn into any old street and follow its windings, in and out between
white walls, under arches through gloomy passages, here a few stairs,
there a gentle incline always up, and always the cool deep shade leading
to the bright blue of the sky above. Being so narrow and so steep, there
are of course no camels and no carts. Donkeys do all the work, and trot
up and down with the strangest loads, though porters carry furniture and
most of the biggest things. Up and down these streets comes an endless
variety of figures—town and country Arabs, Spahis in their gay uniforms,
French soldiers, Italian workmen, children in vivid colours, Jewesses
with heads and chins swathed in dark wrappings, and interesting beyond
all these the Arab women flitting like ghosts from one shadowy corner to
another, the folds of their haïcks concealing all the glories of their
indoor dress, so that in the street the only sign of riches lies in the
daintiness of the French shoes, and the fact that the haïck is pure
silk, and the little veil over the face of a finer material, as the
enormous Turkish trousers are all alike and of cotton. Still, it is
hardly a satisfactory crowd from a picturesque standpoint, as everything
seems so mixed up, and so many of the people do not even appear to know
themselves what their nationality is, or their dress should be. Bazaars
there are none, only the usual Eastern-looking little shops, and the
Moorish cafés crowded with men drinking their tiny cups of coffee and
smoking cigarettes.

                 [Illustration: AN OLD STREET, ALGIERS]

The architectural peculiarity of Algiers is the curious arrangement of
poles, all supposed to be of cedar wood, supporting the upper stories of
the houses, which are built to project over and shade the lower, and
nearly meeting overhead. Occasionally a fine gateway, rarely a
decorative window, breaks the white surface of the walls, which are
whitewashed and rewhitewashed continually. Generally the outer windows
are mere holes, and the doors are hidden in the darkest corners. To the
uninitiated nothing suggests riches or poverty; the walls are like
masks. But once inside and through the dark entrance corridor, some of
the houses are most beautiful. They are much alike, with their
cloistered courts, with delicate, twisted columns and fine capitals. The
reception-rooms have wide openings into the court, so that the cool
fountain, and the flowers and trees, if there are any, may be enjoyed.
The upper rooms open in a similar fashion upon a wooden balcony,
generally beautiful with carving. The court and all the rooms are
decorated with tiles of old designs, very rich and soft in colour, and
many of the rooms have stucco work in the style of the Alhambra, only
rougher and coarser in handling. Such houses or palaces or fragments of
them are numerous. The Archbishop’s Palace, the Governor’s Palace, the
old library, and the curiosity shops are the best known.

Even some of the schools are in fine old houses. The embroidery school
was the prettiest, and was a charming sight with the court full of tiny
children sitting on the matting and bending over their low embroidery
frames—beautiful embroideries hanging over the balcony; and if one chose
to climb up to the roof, a fine view of old Algiers, its roofs and
terraces. Now the school has moved to larger quarters—another old house,
pretty also, but not so interesting. The carpet school is most
picturesque: there is a big doorway and the usual dark passage, then the
door opens into the court, which is quite a small one with very strong
light and shade. Between the pillars all round stand the big looms, and
on low benches in front sit the little girls at work. The floor of the
court is marble, the pillars are very curiously cut in varying designs,
and are all coloured a rich yellowish orange. The balcony of the upper
story has some good carved work, but very little of it is visible owing
to the carpets of every tone and tint which hang over it. There are
carpets on the floor, carpets in rolls, carpets and children everywhere;
for upstairs also are more looms, and everywhere little workers, mostly
girls, with here and there a very small boy—odd little things, with
their long full Turkish trousers, white or in bright colours, their
loose jackets, also mostly white, and their little heads veiled in white
or else bound round with the gayest of handkerchiefs. The effect is
often spoilt by common European blouses and quite hideous check shawls.
Carpet-making looks easy enough, and the children seem to enjoy
threading the bright wool through the web and tying the knots; for a
little while that is, then like a little flight of butterflies they all
come in a whirl to see what the stranger is doing in the dark inner
room. This was alarming at first, as many are the stories of sketches
destroyed and artists tormented by the irate victims of their brushes,
and these innocent-looking little people, with their sweet smiles and
pretty ways, were said to be most troublesome. But either they did not
understand or they liked to be painted, for the smiles never died away
till the mistress ordered them back to work, though for a few minutes
one little maid propped up her pattern so as to hide her face. However,
she soon forgot and things went on as before.

               [Illustration: THE CARPET SCHOOL, ALGIERS]

This was not always the case, for in the garden of one of the mosques
the small boys climbed a tree and threw stones at the drawings, because,
as they excitedly explained, “The Mosque belongs to us, and no stranger
has any business even to look at it.” This is rather a hard saying, as
the tomb-mosque in question—that of the Saint called Sidi Mohammed Abder
Rahman-el-Telebi—is decidedly attractive to the poor despised foreigner.
To reach it there is a good climb up many steps through the old town to
a bare and dusty spot on one of the new roads—a most unpromising road to
look at if it were not for a glimpse of blue over the roofs below. Until
last year there was only a plain white wall and then a gateway, and
outside the gateway, squatting in the dust, a sad company all sick or
infirm, and all beggars striving and struggling for compassion and _un
petit sou_. Now the gateway is dwarfed and hidden by the domes of the
new schools of the mosque, white with an absolutely blinding whiteness,
making the importunity of the beggars seem less annoying than this
aggressive newness. From the gateway a narrow staircase descends towards
the sea, and at the first white domed tomb there is a turn, a door is
pushed open, and a strange little burying-place is seen, with many
sacred tombs, the most important of which is decorated with tiles and a
projecting roof. Many of the smaller tombs are covered completely with
tiles, mostly green and blue. There are also bands of old faience round
the minaret, which is a very graceful one, having three tiers of slender
colonnades running round it. A little grass, a few trees, a great
cypress, a budding fig-tree, and the Arab women moving softly, for this
is one of their favourite places of prayer, complete the picture. The
mosque itself is small, the tomb seen dimly in the darkness, which gives
a mystery and charm to the abundance of queer things hanging as votive
offerings, and to the rich colours of the tiles and the carpets. It is
not an important mosque, but it is a place full of character and
attraction, partly from its situation and partly from the irregularity
and strangeness of the buildings. The other mosques have none of this
undefined charm, being simply large, bare, whitewashed buildings, with,
in the case of the great mosque, some fine old columns and a very pretty
fountain in the court with a tree shadowing it, and bright tiles as
decoration. There is also a tiny mosque in the old town, which is always
full of women praying for babies. It is the tomb of another saint, and
so small that the best way to see it is to stoop and look in through a
window and watch the women, who are not so absorbed in prayer as to
prevent their smiling and returning the gaze with interest.

          [Illustration: MOSQUE OF SIDI ABDER RAHMAN, ALGIERS]

For the rest, there is a sad feeling that most of the Oriental life is
dying slowly out, that the quaintness is disappearing, and that the
tendency is greater here than elsewhere to cover over and hide the old
life and manners with a sort of cloak of modern civilisation. It is even
said that all the better-class Arabs have already emigrated to Tunis,
Egypt, or Constantinople. The walls have gone, the gates also. Nothing
now is left but the great fortress itself upon the highest point of the
city, now used for barracks, a few fragments of the walls, and most
beautiful of all, the old harbour. It is almost impossible to believe
that such a small harbour ever sheltered so strong a pirate fleet that
it could ravage the coasts of Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, the ports of
Italy and Spain, and even penetrate as far as England. Although Mr.
Eaton, an American Consul who was sent with arrears of tribute (four
vessels) due from the United States in 1798, did say, “Can any man
believe that this elevated brute has seven kings of Europe, two
Republics, and a Continent tributary to him, when his whole naval force
is not equal to two line of battleships?” Yet these Barbary pirates
literally spread terror around from their earliest beginnings in 1390
down to the time when Lord Exmouth brought the Dey to reason by
bombarding Algiers in 1816 and freeing the slaves. But that was only a
temporary improvement, and the bad state of affairs only came to an end
with the French occupation in 1830. The whole history of the Barbary
State is very sad and humiliating reading, with its accounts of the
bargaining of the various Powers for the release of the Christian
slaves, of whom there were often as many as twenty thousand to thirty
thousand in Algiers itself. Now the harbour is full of innocent-looking
coasting craft with lateen sails, many pleasure-boats and yachts, and a
few torpedo boats. The serious business of shipping goes on in the outer
harbour, which is full of steamers and merchantmen, whose dark hulls and
smoking funnels form another striking but not attractive contrast.

               [Illustration: THE LEOPARD DOOR, ALGIERS]

The beautiful Moorish tower called the Penon, and now used as a
lighthouse, was built in 1544 on the site of the old Spanish fort, and
rises from the midst of a group of old buildings, with here and there a
fine bit of Moorish work amongst them, though, as they are used by the
Admiralty, there is much that is modern and business-like as well. In
the wall is a characteristic fountain; a flat surface decorated with
inscriptions in Arabic and carvings in marble in very slight relief,
with a simple spout for the water. Farther on, rather hidden up in a
corner under an arch, is the famous Tiger or Leopard gateway—a very
curious bit of work, the chief peculiarity of which is that these two
odd heraldic animals guarding a shield are supposed to be of Arab
workmanship. Now, as it is strictly forbidden by their religion to make
images of living moving things, a legend has been invented to the effect
that the decoration was done by a Persian slave, and that his masters
found it so surpassingly beautiful that they had not the heart to
destroy it. However, it really looks much more like Spanish work done
during their occupation of the place, and though quaint, decorative, and
rather unusual, is not really beautiful at all. These and many more are
the old-world nooks and corners in the city which the modern builder has
not yet overthrown, and where it is quite easy for a few moments to
dream oneself back into the old life, though the dreams generally end in
a sudden shock—the noise of an electric tram, the hooting of a motor, a
cyclist’s bell, or the appearance of some thoroughly Western figure who
could never have had any sympathy with the Arabian Nights.

            [Illustration: ALGIERS FROM THE JARDIN D’ESSAI]



                               CHAPTER II
                            THE COUNTRY-SIDE


Whatever people may think of Algiers itself,—whether they are most
attracted by its old-world side, or its up-to-date would-be Paris
quarter, with the wide, handsome boulevards and quays, the arcaded
streets, the crowded squares, or even by the endless pleasure of
treasure-hunting in the many curiosity shops, and the yet more endless
bargaining that this entails,—still it is generally with a sigh of
relief that they turn from the noise and clatter of the stone-paved
streets, and wind their way towards the heights of Mustapha Supérieur
and El Biar, where most of the foreign visitors and residents live.

At first the way is weary, up-hill as usual, and along a prosaic street,
almost the only interest being a few fragments of the city wall near the
English church, which till only a few years ago stood at the
meeting-place of town and country, and is now quite swallowed up by the
ever-growing town.

But though the ascent may be steep, the way long, and the streets not
very interesting, these little matters are soon forgotten as the road
passes quite suddenly at last into a region of shady trees and gardens,
and winds on and up past hotels and villas till at last the heights are
gained, and lovely, ever-varying views open on every side. It is a joy
to live in one of these white houses half-hidden by a mist of green, to
stand on the sunny terrace in the early part of the day and look out
over the sea—a joy which is new every morning and which increases day by
day.

In the distance, above the exquisite curve of the bay, is a long line of
mountains, imposing enough, and fine in form, sometimes dark and gloomy
with storm cloud, at other times so faintly blue that their outlines
barely show against the pale lightness of the sky. These nearer
mountains are things of every day, and their changing moods are always
visible, but above and beyond these come and go, for a few fleeting
moments, like a vision, the great snow mountains of Kabylia. Mysterious,
delicate, elusive, hardly to be distinguished from cloud masses, and yet
grand and majestic in outline as any in Switzerland—a strange, unwonted
sight to those who only know North Africa as it appears in Egypt. For
though we all know better, snow mountains on this scale will suggest a
northern landscape with pines and fir trees, and not the sort of
vegetation this garden land supplies as a foreground. As far as one can
see, a rich plain and softly wooded heights, olives and almonds, palms
and pepper trees, sycamores, stone pines in endless variety, and closer
still are tropical flowers, strange to see with a snow background. It
seems wrong, somehow, and the fact of its being January adds to the
oddness of the feeling.

              [Illustration: VIEW FROM MUSTAPHA, ALGIERS]

But the view cannot be said to be all charm and dreamy beauty, for
unfortunately, or fortunately, there is a great deal more. Lower
Mustapha also lies spread like a map before you—a prosperous town, with
factories, government and otherwise, smoking chimneys, and barracks.
This is why early morning is the best moment, for then the veil of smoke
and mist hides the ugliness, and prevents the counting of those odious
chimneys, and leaves Upper Mustapha alone to act as foreground, where it
is still country, in its own way, the hills covered with trees and
gardens, and the endless houses simply showing as sparkles of light.
Still, it is one of those places that makes the new-comer long to have
seen and known a few years ago, before this sudden great prosperity; for
in those days when the factories did not exist, the villas were all
beautiful, and few and far between, and it was possible to walk through
fields, and over the hillside, gathering wild flowers all the way, to
the very gates of the city. And all this is a question of a few years,
so rapid has been the success of the colony when once it really started;
before that, the old descriptions of the place held true and still do
so, if only a little judicious shutting of the eyes is used
occasionally, such as the glowing picture, drawn by one of the English
officers of the squadron that came to Algiers in 1674, of the beautiful
country, houses white as chalk on either side of the town, with gardens
and vineyards abounding in all kinds of fruit and vegetables. Oranges
and lemons had only lately been planted, but they produced so
abundantly, that “he bought sixty for a royal”; although it was
Christmas they had apples, cauliflowers, roses, carnations, and “most
sorts of ffruights, flowers and salating.”

It would now take an immense catalogue, as large as any of the bulky
volumes issued by our English seedsmen, to sum up all the trees,
flowers, and fruits that can be found not only in the beautiful gardens,
or in the great Jardin d’Essai, but also growing wild on the whole
country-side. In January the trees and hedges along the roads and
by-ways are festooned by masses of white clematis growing like our
traveller’s joy, but with flowers whose petals are at least an inch
long. A little later there are irises everywhere: a dwarf kind with
large lilac-coloured flowers, and also, but rarely, a white variety has
been found. Then comes one of the chief pleasures of spring—drives far
out into the country, where the rolling hills, the coombes, and the
rich, red soil bring memories of Devonshire (memories a little disturbed
by the vineyards that clothe the hills, and the distant snow-clad
mountains). The object of these drives is to gather the wild narcissus,
which is found growing in marshy hollows on the wildest parts of the
hillside beyond Dely Ibrahim. They grow in such quantities, that large
bunches can be made in a few minutes at the expense of a little agility
and some rather muddy boots. Later on, the asphodel covers every waste
space with flowery spikes and ribbon leaves.

                 [Illustration: ON MY BALCONY, ALGIERS]

The roads, as is the way of French roads, are wide and good, with
gradients suited to military needs; but the lanes of Mustapha and El
Biar are a feature of the place—narrow, sometimes very steep, often more
like the bed of a torrent than a path, with stone walls full of plants
and ferns, overarched by trees, with aloes and prickly pear crowning the
banks; shady and cool in the heat, damp like a tunnel in the wet, lonely
and not always very safe—a point which perhaps adds something to their
fascination.

The real delight of the whole place lies for most people in the
possession of a villa, Moorish or otherwise, and a garden—and the garden
is the thing. This is why there are many who cannot feel the
indescribable charm which makes Egypt what it is. They talk of the
monotony of sand and hill, palm and river, and miss those months of
winter passed amidst the flowers and trees, and can hardly realise that
the still water, and the sunsets which seem to open the very gates of
heaven, can ever compensate even slightly for their loss. Naturally they
have sunsets too; only to enjoy them properly you must dwell on the
heights of El Biar and arrange to have a western outlook across the
plain. Then and then only can you sometimes feel that the glories, and
now and then the calm of the East reach even here. Flowers are better is
their cry, and perhaps this is true; at any rate it is good to live all
through what should be winter with the white walls of your house aglow
with colour, draped with purple Bougainvillæa, or, as in one well-known,
well-loved garden, with a fiery cross of the more uncommon terra cotta
variety upon that same fine whiteness, with the blue sea far beyond, and
peeps of mountains, plain, and harbour as a background, whilst all
around comes the scent of violets, sweet peas and roses, not to speak of
calycanthus and other fragrant shrubs. Here there are irises and
narcissus, and all the old-world English flowers, mingling in friendly
fashion with strange companions: cactus and aloes of every variety, arum
lilies, the white hanging bells of the datura, the birdlike brightness
of the strelitzia, the gorgeous scarlet of the Indian shoe-flower, all
flourishing happily together. The very fountains bring thoughts of Egypt
and Greece—full as they are of waving globes of feathery papyrus. There
are bamboos from Japan; eucalyptus or blue gum from Australia; oranges,
lemons, and bananas of the South; apples and pears from the North; and
stately groups of stone pines, a purely Italian feature. Strange fruits
are also to be found in this dream garden; the strangest of all, one
that rejoices in the name of _Monstera deliciosa_. It has large thick
leaves, slit somewhat like a banana, flowers resembling the wild arums
of our English lanes magnified exceedingly, the fruit a cross between a
pine-apple and a cone in appearance, and having a taste of the former
mixed with something quite its own.

                 [Illustration: BOUGAINVILLEA, ALGIERS]

Other gardens give lovely “bits”: in one a long border of arum lilies,
growing as freely as Madonna lilies in a cottage garden, backed by
flames of montbretia, and small queer aloes with paler flame-coloured
flowers edging the path before them. The great scarlet aloe is the
centre of many pictures, either solitary on a terrace, with trees and
the bay, or in an old garden amongst cypresses, its red-hot pokers
contrasting brilliantly with the rich green, or, better still, perhaps
in masses on a long border under an open avenue of olives on a hillside,
seen in the glow of evening, standing gemlike in the still blueness of
sea and sky. Roses may be seen everywhere, festooning walls and forming
hedges. The eye will rest with pleasure on some Moorish doorway
surrounded by goodly bushes of pomegranate, their bright orange-red
blossoms harmonising with the tones of the old building and with the
violets; for here even they come into the picture, as Algerian violets
are not occupied modestly hiding under their leaves, for they raise
their heads proudly on long stalks, carpeting the ground with their fine
purple, and the scent rises to the terrace far above them.

The old Moorish villas are all built on much the same plan as the houses
in the town, collections of white cubes from without, and within a two
storied arcaded court, on to which the various rooms open. In some there
is also a women’s court, and occasionally a garden court as well. One of
the most beautiful of these houses contains, under a glass let into one
of the walls, a most remarkable record, said to be the only contemporary
one of Christian slavery known to exist in Algiers. It was discovered
during some repairs done by its first English owner, when a flake of
plaster fell off and disclosed this writing roughly scratched as if by a
nail on a wet surface:—

                              John Robson
                      (wi)th my hand this 3rd day
                           Jany. in the year
                                 1692.

This John Robson is known to have been released and restored to his
family and friends by William Bowlett, who paid £11:2s. for his
freedom—not a very high value for an Englishman even in those days. This
same villa has a beautiful garden-court, which as you walk into it makes
you feel as if you stepped backwards through the ages into a world of
old romance, solemn and stately; and as you look from the cool shadow to
the cloister arches and white twisted columns covered with bright
creepers, you hardly realise that old tiles upon the wall, old red
pavement at your feet, trees laden with oranges, a fountain covered with
maiden-hair, and surrounded by a square pool of water, like a mirror
reflecting the papyrus which grows in it, are the details that make up
the picture, so entirely do the stillness and the peace throw their
enchantment over all. Then with the opening of the great doors comes a
vision of sunlit paths and brightest green, formal almost to stiffness
in its lines—the old Harem garden. Many of the villas have beauties such
as these, though few so perfect as a whole; often only a doorway or a
window remains that still tells its tale of olden days.

   [Illustration: THE GARDEN COURT OF AN OLD MOORISH VILLA, ALGIERS]

The pride of Lower Mustapha is the Jardin d’Essai, not properly a garden
at all, not even a park, though it is big enough for that. It is a home
for numbers of rare trees and shrubs of a more or less tropical
character, a sort of school where they are trained to stand another
climate, and from which some go forth and travel again to northern
lands; for it is said that the culture of palm trees alone brings in at
least £4000 a year, and that most of those sold in London and Paris come
from this garden. India-rubber trees, bananas, and oranges are on the
useful market-garden side, and to these might also be added its ostrich
farm; but from the scientific or artistic point of view usefulness is a
smaller thing than rarity and beauty. There are also trees of the most
rare kinds with imposing names to rejoice the learned; and for the
satisfaction of beauty lovers, long avenues of palms of every type,
cocoa trees, quaint alleys of yuccas, and lightest and perhaps most
graceful of all, the bamboo. Then for a change, just by crossing a road,
there is a real oasis of ordinary palms, making a delicious shade for
the little tables of two bright cafés; and from this spot, at the
water’s very edge, is a peep of old Algiers, the “white city,” the
harbour and the boats glowing in the soft afternoon light, and reflected
in the calm opalescent water.

Quite near to the Jardin d’Essai is another garden, the Arab cemetery,
very wild, and badly kept, its interest lying not in its own beauty, but
in the fact that Friday after Friday all the year round it is the place
of pilgrimage of the Arab women. It contains the tomb of a celebrated
saint called Sidi Mohammed Abder Rahman Bou Kobrin, who came at the end
of the eighteenth century from the Djurdjura mountains, and founded a
powerful sect or order, second only to that of Sidi Okba. His body was
brought to Algiers and buried in the Koubba, but his followers in the
wilds of Kabylia became furious until they discovered that all the time
the body was still in its first resting-place as well. Now all is quiet
and calm once more, as a wonder has been worked, so that henceforth he
is Bou Kobrin, the man of two tombs. At noon the gates are closed to all
men, and until six in the evening it is crowded with women and children.
Here they come, in carriages and on foot, in big parties in special
omnibuses, veiled, mysterious forms; but once inside they form laughing
groups on the various family tombstones, take off the veils that cover
their faces, showing glimpses of gay colours under the shrouding white.
Here they picnic and chat and pay each other visits, and return with
great interest the gaze of the European women who come to see them. The
Arab ladies of Algiers live such secluded lives that this is often their
only opportunity of going out, and it is quite their only chance of
being free and unveiled out of their own homes, so that naturally they
make the most of their time, and think as few sad thoughts as may be; so
that although we have seen tears and passionate kissing of the tombs,
and offerings of evergreens, the symbol of immortality, smiles and sweet
glances are much more common. Some of them are really beautiful with
their dark eyes and heavily painted eyebrows, some most surprisingly
fair, and, though it is hardly polite to mention it of such carefully
veiled dames, some are as surprisingly ugly. Often they talk a little
French, and though most of them are horrified and turn their backs when
they see a camera, sketching does not seem to be half such a terror, and
they smile, and point, and say something that sounds like _m’lyeh_, and
means pretty.

            [Illustration: FRIDAY AT THE CEMETERY, ALGIERS]

From cemeteries to tombs and shrines is a natural step, and here, as in
Italy, there are endless places of pilgrimage. Mohammedan saints simply
abound. In this part of the world they go by the name of Marabout, and
the tomb-mosques built over their graves are called Marabouts also—a
most confusing arrangement, so that it is quite a relief when Koubba is
used as a substitute in discussing tombs. These tombs are mostly built
on a very simple plan—a small cube surmounted by a dome, the whole as
white as frequent whitewash can make it.

It is a delightful drive to the shrine of Sidi Noumann, at Bouzareah,
through some of the prettiest scenery in the whole neighbourhood.
Passing through Mustapha Supérieur and reaching the Colonne Voirol on
the top of the hill, and then keeping at a high level along a country
road, almost English with its high hedges, though most un-English in the
glimpses that come every now and then of Moorish villas, stone pines and
cypresses, with the deep blue sea on the one side, and on the other the
rich colour of the plain. After passing the busy little town of El Biar
it is all real hill country, up and down, and round through vineyards
and cornfields, smiling and prosperous, which bear witness to the
untiring industry of the _Colons_ or Colonists. Year by year the
moorland is disappearing, larger and larger tracts come under
cultivation, till soon there will be nothing but vines and corn as far
as the eye can see, the vines especially being an enormous success.
Farmhouses of European character nestle in hollows, or stand well
sheltered by pines or eucalyptus, and these buildings contrast oddly
with the Moorish houses, which resemble forts. Sometimes both styles of
architecture are as mixed as the races who toil in these same fields and
vineyards. French, Italians, Spaniards, men from the Balearic Isles,
Moors and Kabyles, work together, talking strange-sounding tongues, a
sort of patois at best, distinguished from each other by little touches
in their dress, mainly in their headgear, the size of their hats, or its
material, every sort of turban and handkerchief, and, ruling over them
all, a pith helmet in hot weather. At last, after many turns and twists
round wooded, waterless coombes, the carriage reaches the village of
Bouzareah, and turning up a shady lane stops at a small enclosure. Arab
boys promptly appear and insist on acting as guides, telling in very
broken French that here the great Saint was buried, and making every one
peep in to see the tomb itself in the dark interior of the Koubba.

           [Illustration: KOUBBA OF SIDI NOUMANN, BOUZAREAH]

Another Marabout lives near by, and there is a minaret and small mosque,
another tomb or so, and a well-house which almost looks like one. Groups
of minuscule palms, whose heads of fan-shaped leaves seem too small for
the size of their trunks, throw flickering shadows over the white walls,
as the wind blows them to and fro. Outside the sacred place lies wild
moorland, broken by simple stones, marking other graves scattered far
and wide, pale purple iris growing half-hidden amongst them. Splendid
aloes fringe the sides of a little lane which separates the tomb of the
saint from the wind-swept lonely hill where his followers are
buried—aloes whose soft greyish-blue leaves form delicate contrast in
colour with the green of cactus and palm and the red of the crumbling
banks. In the evening the view is beautiful from any part of this ridge,
some 1300 feet above the sea, though too panoramic perhaps for a
picture. Miles and miles of plain, shimmering in the heat, tone after
tone of rich colour fading gradually into the blues and purples of the
long range of mountains which enclose it all, and stretch in a fine
curve far out into the sea, Djebel Chenoua stands out dark and fine
against the brilliance of the setting sun, a scene beautiful as the Bay
of Algiers itself. On a clear day may be seen many places noted in
ancient times, such as the “tomb of the Christian,” supposed to have
been the great sepulchre of the Mauritanian kings, built about 26 B.C.,
a great circular building standing on a hill, with a sort of pyramid on
the top of it, and with long passages and vaulted chambers within; but
it must have been ransacked in bygone times, for when opened by modern
explorers in 1866, nothing remained but bare walls. You may see also
Tipaza, founded by the Emperor Claudian, and Cherchell, originally a
Phœnician colony, but later on known to the Romans as Cæsarea, and to
the Christians as the place of martyrdom of St. Marcian and St.
Arcadius.

Nearer on the sea-shore the French landed, and the great battle which
gave freedom to the seas and Algeria to France was fought and won at
Staouëli on the 14th June 1830, under the command of General de
Bourmont. Staouëli is now best known for its great Trappist Monastery,
another favourite place for picnics, though it is a moot point whether
it is better to do a formal _maigre_ lunch in the solemn room of the
monastery, or to escape from its shadow and feed on forbidden things
under the trees. The Trappist colony is large and prosperous. The French
Government gave them a large grant of land, and they settled down soon
after the war, the foundation stone of the Abbey being laid on shells
found on the battlefield. The monks are celebrated for the wines which
they make and export in great quantities.

                  [Illustration: STONE PINES, ALGIERS]

These and many more are the sites pointed out with eager fingers by the
small Arabs, either from the little burying-ground, or, still better,
from the Observatory on a higher point just beyond the stone _gourbis_
of an Arab village. One of the roads runs along a ridge between two bays
with water almost all round, and there are many ways back to Algiers,
winding down amongst trees and villas. In fact driving, riding, walking,
and now motoring are a constant pleasure, for though the main features
of the sea and the _Sahel_, or great plain, with its encircling
mountains, are the foundation of each view, the effects are constantly
changing, and the views from the Bois de Boulogne, the Château Hydra,
the village of Koubba, Notre Dame d’Afrique, and the Casbah have all a
distinct individual beauty notwithstanding some sameness. Other reasons
besides the view take one to the two last. Notre Dame d’Afrique itself
stands finely on the top of a hill. It contains a wonder-working black
Madonna, and the walls are covered with votive offerings of every sort.
Over the high altar is the unusual inscription, “Notre Dame d’Afrique
priez pour nous et pour les Musulmans.” But it is the poetic service of
the blessing of the sea which draws multitudes up the steep hill on
Sunday afternoon. A procession crosses the terrace to the edge of the
cliff, where stands a cross to the memory of all those who have been
buried in deep waters. The priest wears a funeral cope, and the
realistic detail of a pall is not forgotten. Then there are prayers and
singing, and holy water is scattered out towards the sea on all sides.
The whole is very simple and quiet, not a pageant at all, but beautiful
in the idea and in the surroundings, city and sea seen through and over
a mist of almond blossom, white and pink—the emblem of hope, according
to the Mohammedans.

With the Casbah the attraction lies in its historic interest and
mingling memories—memories almost ludicrous when we remember the episode
of the fan: how the Dey in his anger used his to strike the French
Consul, forgetting that times had changed, and that it was no longer
possible to insult a European with impunity, thus commencing the war
which ended so disastrously for himself and so well for France;
humiliating, when we think of the bargains driven there for the freedom
of Christian slaves; ghastly, as we see the chain across the
throne-room, where heads of victims were once exposed after execution.
Memories of gallant knights toiling here as captives, and greatest among
them, as we reckon greatness nowadays, Don Miguel de Cervantes, the
author of _Don Quixote_. He was made prisoner by the Corsairs after the
battle of Lepanto in 1575, and brought to Algiers with his brother
Rodrigo. Their father made every effort to save them, but only succeeded
in releasing the less valuable Rodrigo. The Corsair captain considered
Don Miguel far too important to part with. He and his friends made many
dashing attempts to escape, which were invariably discovered or
betrayed, when he always chivalrously took all the blame himself. In
1580, just as he was being sent in irons to Constantinople, Father Juan
Gil managed to effect his ransom for the sum of a hundred pounds in
English money of the period.

                     [Illustration: THE RED ALOES]

Bitter memories mostly, but redeemed from sadness by the heroism of
Christian slaves, and by stories such as that of San Geronimo (or, to
give him his right title, the Venerable Geronimo), told by the Spanish
chronicler Hædo. He was an Arab child captured by the Spaniards,
baptized and brought up by the Vicar-General at Oran. Later on he fell
again into the hands of his own people, who made the boy a Mohammedan;
but when he grew older he determined to live and work for the Christian
faith, so he returned to Oran, became a soldier, and married. Then after
ten years, in 1569, he was unfortunately made prisoner by pirates and
carried to Algiers. The Mohammedans were furious that one of their creed
and race should be a renegade, but no threats or persuasions had any
power to move him from his faith. By the Governor’s command, he was
buried alive in a block of concrete in the walls of the “Fort des
vingt-quatre heures,” his last words being, “I am a Christian, and a
Christian I will die.” This happened on the 18th of September 1569, and
the story was long looked upon as a legend, but has now been proved to
be true by the discovery of the skeleton in 1853, in the very situation
where tradition had always placed it. Those who care for such sights may
go to the Museum and see a cast of the body, made from the original
block in which he was buried; a grim relic to be placed amongst Roman
antiquities and inscriptions. But the block itself, that “noble
sepulchre” as the old chronicler calls it, has now found a fitting
shrine in the Cathedral, where the bones of the saint rest after his
stern warfare, his faithfulness unto death. The marble sarcophagus bears
the inscription, “Ossa venerabilis servi Dei Geronimo.”



                              CHAPTER III
                        THE GATES OF THE DESERT


During the winter on the coast of Algeria no one can complain of a
deadly monotony of cloudless skies or of a too burning sun. There is no
cause to grumble over dazzling light, nor any reason to wish for smoke
to veil an ugly object in the landscape, for often the rain does
that—indeed, not content with merely veiling, it blots it out entirely
for a time, though in the end the sunshine is sure to win. Yet truly the
winter of 1903-1904 did give an excuse to the grumblers, who had enough
to do in comparing notes on the number of inches in the rainfall, in
discussing their own woes, and worrying over gloomy prophecies; for they
could count fifty-five consecutive days on which rain had fallen. Then
the weather brightened, and the sun came out for a while before the
clouds settled down and it all began over again.

This does not mean steady rain, night and day, merely that rain fell at
least once in every twenty-four hours—a most unusual state of things.
Two or three weeks are to be expected, but this had never occurred
before, and for once it seemed reasonable to believe even the oldest
inhabitant; for who would choose to come winter after winter to such a
scene, though for once in a way it had its interest? For the rain is
rain that can be seen and heard. No gentle all-enwrapping mist, when it
is hard to tell whether drops fall or no. On the contrary, it waked us
at night with a noise that seemed prodigious, torrents of water
streaming down roofs and terraces like diminutive waterfalls. Sometimes
in the evening whilst sitting cosily over a wood fire there would be a
sudden rush for the door to see if anything unwonted was occurring, but
with a cry of “Only the weather again!” the little excitement would
subside.

Local genius, in the shape of gardeners both French and Arab, put it all
down to the moon, which each month appeared sitting on its back.
_Djegudé_ as they called it. The moon would not amend her wicked ways,
and month after month she continued _djegudé_, with at times disastrous
results.

The harm done was considerable. Roads, houses, bridges and railways were
washed away; many people lost their lives; and in the mountain districts
there were many landslides. Nothing extraordinary happened in Algiers
itself, nothing so sensational as the story which is still told (with
how much truth it is difficult to say) of a villa which, while its
owners slept, slid down the hillside at least a hundred yards, as they
found to their amazement on going out next morning and measuring the
track left behind. The villa is standing in its new position to this
day, and is not that sufficient proof? Part of the hillside is said to
be formed of a sort of sliding clay, and in those parts of Mustapha land
is sold for a ridiculously small sum; but houses built there have a
habit of sliding a little or collapsing, so that, as a rule,
notwithstanding the most scientific building, it is more comfortable and
indeed cheaper in the end to pay more and build on the rock.

                [Illustration: THE GATES OF THE DESERT]

In consequence of all this, and of the tales of woe which filled the
papers, travellers were solemnly warned by their friends before starting
on a railway journey, whether East or West, that though they might not
be fated to be carried away by a landslide, yet they would almost
certainly be forced to walk miles in the night over precipitous paths
(in the scantiest attire, if they added to their folly by going in a
sleeping-car), and that they would have to try and sleep in impossible
places, with no food of any sort to sustain them. Travelling was
actually quite difficult owing to the railway lines being washed away so
often, and in some places the damage done was so great that it was more
than six weeks before trains could run straight through again. One
adventure is worth telling, as it was such a wonderful escape. It
happened by daylight; if it can be called daylight in a tunnel. A rock
fell and blocked the line, the train was just stopped in time to prevent
a serious accident, and the passengers waited two or three hours in the
dark. At last they were all moved into another train on the other side,
where they established themselves only to find, after three minutes more
waiting, that an avalanche had just fallen ahead, so that had they not
encountered the first obstacle, they must inevitably have been swept
away to the gulf below by the second. This put them in better spirits
for a weary scramble to comparative comfort and safety.

However, the final result of the wet has been a phenomenal harvest, with
corn and wine in abundance. The visitors may have suffered, but the
colonists have gained in the long run. Even the visitors did not have
such a bad time, for it was not really winter, but rather a wet, rainy
summer, with bursts of warmth and sunshine, brightened by summer flowers
and the singing of birds.

Still, on the whole, it seemed wiser to many of us to make a dash for
the desert instead of lingering to watch the clouds roll up again and
again in a place where the dampness of the soil prevented any advantage
being taken of intervening hours of sunshine. Notwithstanding all
forebodings, our own journey was as uneventful, dull, and wearisome as
so long a journey can easily be. The choice is given you of going by a
train which crawls all day, from about seven in the morning till seven
at night, and sleeping in a tiny inn at a bleak, bare station, El
Guerrah, with no town or village near it, or of doing the same thing at
night, and going straight on without a change to your destination. We
chose the latter on both our visits, and the first time had an amusing
experience. The whole winter in Algiers had been fine, really typical,
and the beginning of March was hot,—warm enough to wear summer muslins.
Friendly warnings had prepared us to take wraps for the colder
atmosphere of the mountain region; but what was our surprise when
morning dawned to find a snow landscape all round us and snow falling
steadily. When the train stopped at El Guerrah for breakfast, the scene
was comical in the extreme. Every one had to get out and wade through
three inches of snow and slush to the hotel on the other side of the
station. Very few of the passengers had any wraps or umbrellas, and most
of them had only the thinnest of shoes, so that it was a damp and
shivering company who crowded round the fire, and tried to make the most
of bad coffee, poor bread, and impossible butter. Our cloaks and
umbrellas were objects of envy, which we in our turn felt towards those
provided with suitable boots. Now the inn and breakfast are quite good,
but then the whole effect, the open wayside station, the snow-covered
plain, the uninteresting desolate hills, the slush and mud, the wet,
cold Arabs struggling with the luggage, the few passengers growling and
shivering, and exchanging condolences in French, English, German, and
Italian, made an odd picture of the joys of travel, only to be
thoroughly enjoyed by people with a Mark Tapley spirit. As a final
touch, all the small luggage had been deposited in the snow, and
remained there for an hour, until the other train came in, when it was
hoisted into the carriages, and put on the clean linen-covered seats,
with the result that a rapid thaw set in when the foot-warmers arrived,
so that a general pushing of bags and hold-alls outside the window for a
good scraping was the first consideration, after which the drying of
shoes on the burning hot bottles proceeded gaily. For some hours longer
the snow kept with us, but as we came towards the desert it disappeared,
and Biskra itself was warmer than Algiers.

In 1904, notwithstanding the wet season, and that we started a month
earlier, there was no sudden change of temperature. El Guerrah was as
bright as it can ever be, for at the best it is a desolate spot, even
when later on the plain is carpeted with flowers, orange and gold. There
is already a sense of loneliness, of wide spaces unbroken by towns or
villages; just a few houses here and there, strung on the single line of
railway like a thread; a few stone _gourbis_, or native huts; then dark
Bedawin camps, flocks of sheep and goats, and now and then a horseman or
a camel.

For a long time the line skirts a salt lake, which at times lives up to
the worst that Pierre Loti says of such places, “Morne, triste et
désolé”; at others the surrounding hills seem to grow in dignity, to
glow in soft reds and purples, rising straight from the still water, and
mirrored with the absolute fidelity of a Norwegian fjord, a haunting
stillness over all. Batna is the only town of much importance passed,
and already the hills are growing wilder. Gradually they close in and
excitement begins to grow, for soon will come the first sight of the
desert. There is but little cultivation, the mountain-sides are dry and
barren, a few tamarinds grow along the sides of a stream. Suddenly the
jagged ridges of high mountains block the way, like a veritable wall.
Precipitous crags of warm reddish colour, stern and rugged as the
Dolomite Peaks, rise without a touch of green, from low rolling hills
which are equally arid in character, or when the gorge itself is
reached, straight from the river-bed.

                        [Illustration: SPINNING]

The French Settlement of El Kantara, if such a name can be used for a
handful of houses and a station, lies just at the foot of the great
wall, at a point where the rift which forms the gorge is scarcely seen.
Mountains and rocks tower above the small low houses, crushing into
insignificance the attempts at cultivation, the few palms and fruit
trees and the treasured vegetable gardens. The inn stands, as the last
effort of civilisation, in the face of the great barrier placed between
the desert and the Tell.

At the entrance of the gorge, spanning the noisy rushing river, is a
Roman bridge, which gives the place its name of El Kantara. It is a
single arch, much restored, or rather rebuilt, under the second
Napoleon. The Romans had also a fortress here, known as Calcius
Herculis, and many traces of their occupation are still found in the
district.

The majority of travellers content themselves with admiring as much of
the ravine as the three tunnels permit them to see; though it is quite
impossible to gain an adequate idea of the grandeur of the Gates of the
Desert by peering and craning out of the windows of a train.

The few who know better, or who love less trodden paths, are welcomed by
a rush of eager Arab guides as the carriage doors open. Happy the guide
who manages to secure a prize! He takes complete possession of his
victims and their belongings, puts them into a respectable omnibus
worthy of a big town, drives with them, or runs after them, to the
little hotel, where he superintends their choice of rooms, and from that
moment scarcely allows their steps to stray outside without his
sanction.

Vine trellises and a shady tree make the courtyard gay, and brighten the
Post Office opposite, whilst beds of violets send up a delicious
fragrance to the verandah terrace on the first floor. The house is long
and low, with a wing over the stables, reached by an outside staircase;
the main building has a large covered terrace, giving a wide, cool
shadow. The rooms have windows but no doors, so that every one has to
come up the steep staircase to the roof, and then wander round in
sociable fashion till he reaches his own room. Out here in the shadow,
with dazzling light beyond—light reflected and intensified by the white
road and the yellowish rocks—one can sit and watch all the coming and
going that make the life of the little colony, or, better still, the
caravans that almost ceaselessly pass this way. Strings of camels turn
their supercilious faces up as they pace along, their light, soft tread
making no sound on the dusty road. They bear heavy loads, wrapped in
sacking or camel’s-hair cloth, and carry fodder and corn towards Biskra.
Sometimes it is a real caravan with tents and cooking utensils, women
and babies as well as men and boys, which swings past with the same
rhythmic stride. No longer a study in browns, yellowish greys, and
white, but brightened by flashes of colour, the women’s gowns of blue or
bright deep red, and the children’s orange and yellow. All walk past
with bare feet and stately movement, or perch themselves in an
apparently insecure fashion on the top of their goods, and go swaying
past into the unknown.

But it is not enough to sit and watch, even though ever and anon new
incidents occur. The thirsty come and wind the wheel that brings water
from the well. They step into the courtyard without a question, and draw
sufficient for their needs; then they smoke and talk. This water is
famous for its freshness and purity, qualities usually absent in the
desert. The great rocks give shelter from the sun except during the
middle of the day, and, what is still more important, from the dreaded
sirocco, making it possible for French colonists to live here in
comparative comfort even in summer. There is, however, something strange
in this life, which sets its impress on their faces—something either in
the isolation, the heat, or the absence of amusement, that makes most of
them grave and melancholy, taking from them in many cases their natural
French vivacity, and giving instead a touch of the more serious, not the
laughing side of the Arab character. Not that this is a rule without
exceptions, for there are many—notably the man who waits at this very
hotel, who is as gay and cheerful a person as it is possible to see. The
French talk Arabic, and the Arabs who have dealings with them speak
French. As usual there is a school for Arab boys, to teach them useful
knowledge, for this is one of the features of the French colonisation;
they introduce schools everywhere, supplying French masters, make
wonderful roads as well, and bring in post and telegraph, though it is
said that Arabic is not a language that lends itself easily to
telegraphic form.

The Arab boys are clever and quick, and soon pick up enough to take them
far afield. In the summer, as they proudly tell you, it is “too hot” for
them in the desert, and they love to migrate to the coast and work in
the harbours at Bône or Bougie, and sometimes even cross to France and
manage to make a living at Marseilles. Our boy at El Kantara, Mabrouk by
name, had done more. He was the one person in the whole place who could
speak English—not much, indeed, but just enough to translate for those
tourists who were in the unhappy position of knowing no French. He had
been taken to England by an Englishman, in charge of some Arab horses,
and had spent a whole summer there, working in his master’s house and
running errands for what he was pleased to call a “factor boot,” which
by his subsequent explanations we discovered to mean a button factory.
He was amusingly conceited over his doings and acquirements, showing his
photograph taken with “me chum,” a telegraph boy, the trim uniform and
the flowing burnous looking thoroughly out of place side by side, in a
way that the two grinning faces did not. His ideas on England and its
glories were at any rate original, for he was not struck by either wet
or cold; he was evidently made much of, and thought our food a thing to
talk a great deal about. Some of his statements, such as, that in
England every one has breakfast at 6 o’clock and eats a sort of pudding
with sugar, are rather on a par with those of a Belgian who once told us
that English ladies always breakfasted in bed, though certainly
Mabrouk’s theory promises better for an active nation. El Kantara has
been a favourite haunt of French artists for the last few years, and
many pictures painted here have gained success in the Salon, so,
naturally, Mabrouk looked upon himself as a judge of art, and was
prepared to show all the best points of view.

              [Illustration: THE RED VILLAGE, EL KANTARA]

The first impression on walking through the gorge is one of barren
desolation and absolute dryness. Except at noon, when the sun beats down
into the ravine, there are strong, cool shadows contrasting with the
blaze of light. The gorge itself is narrow, so that there is barely room
for the road above and the river beneath. It seems a mere rift in the
massive ridge, the perpendicular walls of red rock are cut into
fantastic shapes, pinnacles and pillars growing more picturesque in form
as the further end is reached. All ideas of desolation are instantly
banished by the splendour of the sight that meets the eye, as the sea of
sand washes up as it were to another sea of waving green. A long turn of
the road leads round to a bridge below, but Mabrouk scrambles down a
steep stony path, and with a warning “Mind your headache,” disappears
into a steep tunnel, built to drain the road, but evidently looked upon
by the Arabs as a short cut made for their convenience, as it saves half
a mile or so of dusty highway.

From the bridge, a modern one, the scene is imposing, looking back into
the shadows of the gorge where the river leaps foaming over huge rocks,
and where groups of cleanly Arabs are busy washing their white garments
in its waters.

But if to look back is fine, to look forward is to have the magic charm
of an oasis revealed to you. The blue river winds amongst the
palms,—thousands upon thousands of palms, which bend, sway, and toss
their feathery heads as the breeze passes over them. They look green and
soft against the wide sweep of sand and stones, the red and yellow rocks
of the huge range behind that stretches east and west, and the other
mountain range that bounds the horizon with its purples and blues. Such
is the first sight of the desert as it appears to the traveller coming
through that majestic gate. But if the gate is looked upon as the
entrance to the fertile lands of the plain, then the most beautiful
point is just below, amongst the stones and boulders of the river-bed,
where the craggy peaks look their best, set in a frame of living green.

Across the bridge the road leads upward over the barren plateau towards
the “red” village, the river screened from sight by the palms, and also
by an intervening hill, on which stands conspicuously the tomb-mosque of
a saint. The red village takes its name from the colour of the soil used
in its building, which instead of being of the usual grey dusty hue is
bright, almost orange in tint, becoming really red at sunset.

               [Illustration: ON THE EDGE OF THE DESERT]

In certain lights, the village suggests the ruins of some old castle
stretching out upon the waste on the one side, and on the other
descending, half-hidden amongst the palms, to the edge of the cliff
which overhangs the river, the minaret of the mosque being only just
visible above the trees. Mud walls mark out small unfruitful-looking
fields, in which little grows except masses of prickly pear, forming
thick hedges in every direction. As the men were hard at work, digging
and watering, it was evident that much was expected in the future, and
these were probably new stretches of land in process of being reclaimed
from the desert.

Even within the walls there is the same suggestion of a fortress: the
walls are high, and seldom broken by doors; windows in the accepted
sense of the word are rare—a few holes in the wall suffice to give air
and light. Another peculiar feature is the way some of the houses are
built across the streets, forming square, tunnel-like passages exceeding
dark after the glare. Mabrouk threaded his way in and out, up and down
through the labyrinth of alleys, all rather lonely in the early morning,
left to a few old men crouching in sunny corners, and to an old woman or
two carrying water; for El Kantara women, though they do work
occasionally in the gardens, and do some washing down by the river,
seem, as a rule, to keep as quietly within their walls as if they were
town-bred. The paths down to the river wind through palm gardens, and
are largely at the mercy of the streams used for irrigation. These are
turned on and off by the simple method of putting in a stone or a
spadeful of earth, and thus diverted into new channels they often swamp
the path to such a degree that it is difficult to pick one’s way, the
clay becoming very slippery when wet. Every garden has a right to a
certain quantity of water each day, which is carefully measured by time.
Under the palms grow many fruit trees, notably figs and apricots. Down
in the valley, across the artificial watercourse, out on to the dry part
of the river-bed, a very wilderness of stones and small oleanders,
blindingly white in the sunshine, the village appears in a setting so
different that it loses all resemblance to its fellows in the Sahara or
in Egypt, and suggests old drawings seen long ago of places in the
tropics. Perched on the top of a cliff, the orange tones of the soil
repeat themselves in the walls; the huts seem turret-like additions to
the natural formation, and form a curious foil for the few well-placed
palms and the delicate tints of some apricot trees in blossom; behind
this the deeply-fissured ridge stands sharply defined against the sky.

There are three villages, the Red, the White, and the Black, with
imposing Arabic names, and each with its special interest, making it
quite amusing to poke about and watch the life. If one is too lazy to
walk, and yet does not mind a good shaking over rather uneven tracks,
and turning a few slightly alarming corners,—alarming, that is, to
people unaccustomed to Eastern roads,—it is possible and very pleasant
to drive round the oasis, making little detours on foot to see special
objects of interest, and particularly to stroll along the edge of the
cliff to enjoy the sight of the river and the trees; for there is no
lack of palms, considering there are said to be over 90,000 of them.

                      [Illustration: CARDING WOOL]

Mabrouk, notwithstanding his travels, gives the oasis a wonderful
character. “Every one has enough and is content. The dates are good;
fruit, corn, and vegetables are plentiful; and the flocks and herds
prosper.” In short, an earthly Paradise! Not a paradise suited to
European tastes, perhaps, for who would care to live in a windowless
adobe hut, to sleep on a mud floor wrapped in a burnous, or to live for
ever on cous-couss and dates, even though it all might be rather fun for
a change? The villagers are friendly folk, and give pleasant greetings.
The elder men utter a sonorous blessing in Arabic, while the younger say
“Bon jour” fervently, and often like a chat to air their French.

No one ever begs, or even looks expectant, though they will walk with
you along the road, telling of much that is strange and interesting, and
asking innumerable questions. To show how kindly they are to each other
and to strangers, any man who was near at the time would stand on guard
over me whilst my boy trotted off to get his dinner, holding an umbrella
over my head with great care if it was sunny, and would slip away with a
_’slama_, or good-bye, when the boy returned, not even thinking of a
reward.

But it is a different matter when it comes to painting inside one of the
huts. To paint a woman! Mabrouk said he would take me to his uncle’s
house in the white village because I was “so nice a lady,” but that it
would not have been possible had I unfortunately been a man. It is rare
to gain an advantage for such a reason, but the privilege was not to be
despised, so we started off, my painting things carefully concealed
under his burnous. With infinite precaution, to avoid meeting any of the
men, and great care in looking out to see that no one observed or
followed us, we at last arrived at a rough door in a high wall. He
knocked and talked, and at last after some fuss, the capturing of
barking dogs and shutting them up, we were admitted, only to be
confronted by one of the dreaded men, who absolutely refused to let his
young wife, whom he evidently considered very beautiful, sit for me.
Happily he relented sufficiently to send for another woman—to my mind
far more attractive: tall, slender, and graceful, and wearing her
flowing cotton garments as if she were a queen. He then disappeared to
the café, and we set to work in the courtyard, a corner of which was
swept clean for me. She stood calmly spinning and looking down,
intensely interested and amused by my proceedings, which were watched
and sometimes interrupted by the various animals who inhabited the
place—a horse, a cow, goats, sheep, and some fowls. Having safely
disposed of the tyrannical husband, the other woman began to fancy she
would like to be painted too, so long negotiations began in Arabic, with
the result that we were to come back in the afternoon and she would card
wool, as she had been doing all the morning. Going back and coming again
were made into a delightful farce by the extreme wariness displayed.

                [Illustration: IN THE HEART OF AN OASIS]

Nothing exciting happened after all, but there was great pleasure for my
boy, at any rate in the exercise of his cleverness. Personally, I was
never quite certain whether it was all a game or not. Some artists told
me that in other places they had managed to get into the interior of the
houses by expending a good bit of money, but then they may not have seen
the prettiest wife. Anyhow the younger woman posed in the house, the
horse was turned out to make room, the gate was securely barred, and
quiet reigned. She was quite short and very fat, with a soft, clear
complexion, big eyes, and eyebrows touched up with kohl. She wore a
muslin dress wound about her and kept on by a girdle and brooches, and
she had plenty of silver ornaments and charms. The elder woman was
dressed in printed cotton, obviously from Manchester, but there was
nothing crude in the colour, and the floating garments had a most
Oriental appearance. There is no furniture in these dwellings,—just a
shelf, some hooks, a mill to grind the corn, a few finely-shaped jars
and pans, and a good many coloured cloths and burnouses. Being
hospitably minded, they offered dried dates, corn and nuts in flat
plaited baskets, in the same kindly way that Mabrouk himself would
always bring a branch of some special dates for me, insisting on their
goodness, “for, see, the date comes off and leaves the stone on the
stalk”—to his mind a sure sign of a perfect fruit. The open door let in
light and air, but otherwise there was only a small square hole; the
roof was supported by two square pillars. The sheep and goats trotted in
and out all the time, and so did the chickens, all perfectly happy and
at home. Both the women had charming smiles and manners, curious though
they were about every detail of my dress and painting. They had not an
idea of being frightened by a camera, and posed proudly and willingly.
They became a little anxious as the afternoon wore on; so after many
farewells, blessings, and good wishes, we slipped away in the same
watchful, mysterious fashion as before, but by another route.



                               CHAPTER IV
                        THE QUEEN OF THE DESERT


On leaving the gorge of El Kantara, the train passes straight out on to
the desert, where it runs on a level with the tops of the trees which
rise from the oasis below. The line itself, an unpretentious track,
without fence or protection of any kind, scarcely shows on the sandy
waste. The flocks and herds and the passing Arabs are expected to look
out for themselves.

Yet, however unassuming it may be, there is something incongruous in the
sight of a railway winding through and round these mountain chains,
crossing wide stretches of undulating plain, and taking its commonplace,
everyday way into the land of mystery—the Great Sahara.

At first it is hard to realise that this mystery still exists, or that
it can be felt by an ordinary mortal. The crowded station differs from
others of its kind in this only, that there are, amongst those
dignified, white-robed figures, many more than usual whose dark faces
show plainly that a train is still an object of wonder if not of dread.

The mystery is not to be found in a hasty glance at the modern town of
Biskra, which, new as it is, has a distinct character of its own, quite
independent of its setting, or of the numerous villages hidden among the
palms.

This does not seem to be caused by its military importance, although
this is considerable, as it is the key of the desert, and the soldiers
are many who throng its streets. Nor is it the style of the buildings,
for neither is this in any wise remarkable. The streets, though fairly
wide, are straight, and the houses low—sometimes of only one story.
However, the majority have an upper floor, either above an arcade, the
lines of which are rough and simple, or with little balconies gay with
many-coloured hangings. Naturally all the houses are subject to the
reign of whitewash, though not perhaps to the usual extent.

The shady alleys of a well-kept garden form a pleasant walk on the north
side of the town, and there is also a pretty gazelles’ garden, bright
with mimosa and hibiscus, where a grove overshadows the calm pool of an
Oriental fountain.

Probably the distinction of Biskra lies not so much in its outward form,
as in its being actually the one place in Algeria where the antagonism
between East and West is most clearly seen.

              [Illustration: IN THE MARKET-PLACE, BISKRA]

The limited size of the town, the absence of any artificial divisions,
the lack of contrast between old town and new, for all is new alike,
clean and well-kept, the breadth of the few streets, all unite to make
an appropriate stage for nondescript characters to play their part. The
casino and the hotels are within a stone’s throw of the market-place,
which is the centre of native life. Here the wild freedom of the desert
with its few needs and absolute simplicity is in touch with the careful
and elaborate luxury which the Western world demands even in its moments
of rest and play.

The races mingle and confront each other at every turn, and not the
races only, but the different types of each race, seen in strangely new
guise by sheer force of contrast under the brilliant African sun; for
Biskra is the gathering ground of a curious cosmopolitan crowd, an
assemblage so varied that it would be hard to name a nation, however
insignificant, without its representative. It is the nameless spell cast
by the desert on her sons, and on those who move within her borders,
that draws hither this motley multitude. But the spell which fascinates
has also power to repel. A few come and go finding no beauty, seeing
nothing but the monotony of sand, dust, and palms, and are full of
complaints, utterly impervious to the glamour that holds so many in
thrall.

The impression of variety and contrast felt in the town is repeated and
accentuated in the halls of the hotel, when the French officers
entertain the Bach Agha, the Caïds, some important sheik, or an officer
of the Spahis. Their imposing figures, stately movements, and courteous
manners show to great advantage in that gay scene. The soft folds of
their white woollen or silken draperies, and the pure colour of the
brilliant red or tender blue of their fine cloth burnouses, tell
triumphantly against the subdued tints, the frills and fluffiness of the
modern gowns, or the stiff black and white garments worn by their
fellow-guests. Uniforms are not so becoming to them. The dome-like
turban, bound with camel’s-hair or an embroidered scarf, gives a
peculiar pose, almost a stoop, to the head, as it is worn with a white
silk haïck tucked into a pale blue zouave coat, while in their ordinary
flowing robes they look as upright as darts. Stars and orders, or rows
of medals on the outer burnous (they often wear three or four), bear
witness to what these men have done already, or could do again. In the
days when the fortunes of France were low, her dangers and difficulties
great, the Bach Agha of the period stood firm with all the tribes under
his banner, no small help at that time. It is for past loyalty as well
as for present power that the Chief of to-day holds his proud position.

                 [Illustration: EVENING ON THE SAHARA]

All this gaiety, noise, and confused talking, interesting though they
are, become wearisome in the end, and then how good it is to escape to
the quiet terrace above. The house stands foursquare, built round a
quadrangle, or rather a garden of palms. The east terrace over the
arcades is delightful all day long, from the moment when the first gleam
of dawn shows behind the dark mountains to that other moment, even more
beautiful, when the afterglow has faded and the still brilliance of the
moon comes in its stead. Flooded with sunshine in the early morning the
shadows soon begin to creep across, and it is left a cool refuge in the
heat of the day. The outlook has not quite the effect of indefinite
space given by the view from the roof or the top of the minaret, but
there is a restful breadth as well as much simplicity of line. Across
the road, beyond a strip of vegetable garden bordered by palms, lies a
broad stretch of sand, very light in colour, which an occasional gleam
or touch of blue reveals as the river-bed. Mud banks on the further side
form low cliffs, and from them the plain extends to a curious formation
of broken mounds and moraine, to end finally in a mountain range.

Monotonous, serene, ever changing yet always the same, the sea itself
has not more varying moods. Each passing hour leaves its own impress on
that receptive stillness, which is enhanced but not disturbed by every
wind that blows and by each light cloud in the sky.

Towards evening, however, all who wish to feel the enchantment of a
sunset in the desert, mount to the roof and pace its broad terrace, or
climb the minaret to learn somewhat of the immensity of the Sahara. The
town lies in a nest of green, in the midst of a vast, barren, and arid
plain, which is surrounded by a horseshoe of mountains, lofty in the
north, but diminishing by degrees as the spurs run southward. To the
south also lies the oasis with its myriad palms. Beyond, nothing but the
waste, across which fall the long blue shadows of evening; stretching
still further southward, a dead level, broken here and there by dark
bands of green or purple, that mark the distant oasis. The horizon
disappears in pale amethyst melting into tender blue, and above a
delicate blush vanishing in unclouded light. Magnificent sunsets are not
to be seen every night even at Biskra; there are evenings of cloud, grey
and misty, days when the sun goes down in wrath. More often the fall of
day brings cloudless radiance, pure mellowness of light, which dies
gradually away, to be followed after an interval by a golden glow behind
the western ridge of mountain peaks, blue with the exquisite blue so
characteristic of Algeria. The glow deepens to true orange, sometimes to
a burning red, and rays of light radiate from the vanished sun, leaving
pathways of delicate green between. Our Northern atmosphere has its own
beauties of mist and cloud, but we miss this absolute transparent
purity. With us the gold loses itself in greys and purples on the
horizon; here the colour is crystal clear, and the jewel-like tints
vibrate as they pass imperceptibly from the red of the ruby through all
tones of topaz, amber, and palest emerald to deepest amethyst.
Spellbound in this calm, self dies; there is no place for earthly
trouble under this luminous sky. Something of mystery and sadness there
is—a feeling of intense loneliness; but over all there
broods—unchanging, immutable—a spirit of destiny, telling that what is
written is written. To some it seems a spirit of rest and faith; to the
Arabs it may have been the source of fatalism, the silence checking the
tendency to anxiety and care.

                         [Illustration: SUNSET]

More uncommon than these calm afterglows are those sunsets, when fleecy
cloud-masses are piled one above another, purple touched with fire, so
that the very gates of heaven seem to open and give a glimpse of the
glory beyond.

The glamour of the setting sun and of the afterglow transforms the east
as well as the west, staining the mountain-sides a wondrous red, whilst
the azure shadow of the earth mounts slowly to veil the roseate sky
above. Once a feathery cloud-wreath soared in long sweeping curves from
the horizon to the zenith, the strands of gossamer glowing with hues of
rose, delicate and opalescent, a cloud of phantasy in a world hardly
more real.

The common light of every day works other spells by simpler means. The
vibration of subtle colour is gone, and in its stead there is the play
of light and shade, or rather of light upon light, for the men of these
desert tribes are clad almost entirely in white. The poor wear a white
gandourah, a long garment of wool or cotton covered by one or more
burnouses. The wealthy bury their garments of richly coloured and
embroidered cloth, or even plush, under a multiplicity of silk and
woollen robes of the prevailing white. The result is that white has here
a value, a range of tone not often seen. Every different texture has its
own peculiar tint of ivory, cream, or snow to distinguish each from
each, and from that other white of the rough cast walls. And, as if that
were not enough, age and dirt lend their aid to the variety already
produced by texture and quality.

Touches of colour are rare, and these are given by the scarlet cloak of
a Caïd, the blue of the Spahis, or the more barbaric reds and blues worn
by a Bedawin woman. But of women there are few about. The throng that
fills the market-place consists mainly of men and boys, busy buying and
selling, seated on the ground with their wares strewn round them. Piles
of oranges and lemons, vegetables of all familiar kinds, great heaps of
corn spread on cloths, layers of flat cakes of bread arranged on trays,
and most untempting masses of pressed dates. The buyers also squat down
to examine their purchases, to talk and gesticulate; for it takes much
time and consideration to choose and bargain for even a handful of
oranges. There are also stalls such as are seen in any continental town;
some full of cheap machine-made goods, others decked with curious
articles to meet the village needs. Discs of red leather, carefully
worked with colours and glittering with gold, conceal under a flap small
mirrors, of which every woman wears one. Fans, like small flags, as gay
as the mirrors; baskets, generally saucer-shaped, and of many colours;
woven camel’s-hair belts, barbaric harness and saddle-bags, dagger-like
knives in sheaths, beads and bracelets, and even stuffed lizards, are
temptingly displayed to view. Under the arches are other shops and
cafés, and everywhere are men, either sitting idly in the sun, their
hoods pulled over their heads, or sleeping huddled up in their
burnouses, shapeless as sacks, hardly human at all. The more dignified
sit on carpets or matting under the arcades, drinking their coffee
quietly, or playing games of draughts or dominoes with keen interest.
One or more are always watching if the game is good. Cafés are
everywhere, some provided with chairs and small tables, but they are
only popular with soldiers, Spahis and the like. The carpeted dais or
more humble matting laid down in the road itself, attracts the true
Bedawin.

                [Illustration: THE FRUIT MARKET, BISKRA]

The only part of the town where white does not rule and colour runs riot
is the street of the dancing girls. Hangings and draperies cover the
green balconies with rainbow hues, whilst the handsome, dark-eyed women,
with their heavily painted brows, rival each other in their vividly
brilliant silks. Their dress is an odd mixture of the Oriental and
European, after the fashion of a comic opera, not at all beautiful but
quite effective. Especially so is the head-dress of skilfully knotted
silken kerchiefs, heavily interwoven with gold and bound with silver
chains, which also encircle the face, the forehead being covered with
many coins. The women wear quantities of showy jewellery, but only the
chains and ear-rings have any style or character.

Occasionally the streets are gay with flags and banners, as groups of
men and children in bright array start on a pilgrimage to some Marabout.
All the feasts begin in this way, with much beating of tom-toms and
weird music, for as there is rhythm it would be rude to call it noise,
as most people do at first. After a time, the sadness and monotony make
their own appeal, expressing in another language, hard to understand and
perhaps a little vague, the power and feeling of the land.

Now and then a Marabout returns the compliment, and visits the town with
two or three followers, bearing banners of red and green, and a bowl to
collect alms, accompanied by the inevitable tom-tom. He makes a slow
progress through the street, the people hastening to greet him, and
often to kiss his hands or the hem of his cloak. Some of these Marabouts
are quite sane and dignified, whilst others are half-witted, ragged
creatures.

Reading aloud is another practice most popular here. In the daytime a
grave old man, book in hand, will take his station at a street corner,
and read to a number of men sitting on the ground, and listening with
rapt attention to his words. The passers-by stand attentively for a
while, and generally end by joining the little circle. In the evening at
one of the cafés there will always be a reader, a man with much dramatic
power, who draws large audiences, who gather round to hear tales from
the _Arabian Nights_.

This is quite a different affair to the ordinary storyteller, who chants
long passages from the life of Mohammed accompanied by the sounds of his
own tom-tom. He will sit and play with a cloth spread in front of him,
looking like a living idol, and the women working in their tents send
little children with offerings of bread or flour tied up in their veils,
for veils are still used in the near East for carrying treasures as they
were in the days of Ruth. The old man sits impassively droning quietly
on, neither heeding nor caring for the groups of children who come and
go, staring and listening with wondering eyes. Odd little figures they
are in their trailing burnouses or bright-coloured shirts, the boys
seeming to have a partiality for yellow and orange, while the boys and
girls alike are toddling imitations of their fathers and mothers. Only
the smaller boys wear a fez or cap and no turban. Nearly all go
barefoot; it is only the very well-to-do who wear yellow slippers, and
socks are still more uncommon.

                    [Illustration: THE STORY-TELLER]

If, as often happens, a boy wishes to go to France or England, he will
promise anxiously, as if it added greatly to his future usefulness, “If
you will take me with you I will wear boots.” It is quite evident that
the wearing of boots is in itself considered a proof of progress, and if
it is possible to procure a pair however old, or a ragged coat, men and
boys alike will add them to their own proper clothes and wear them
proudly, quite unaware of the painful effect.

That is one of the trials of Biskra, the degrading of the native
character and appearance by the example of the lower class of the
Moghrabi, or Westerners, as they call strangers. Of course this happens
everywhere, and more’s the pity; but it has gone so far in some of the
larger towns like Algiers, that there are few of the old families left,
and it is now an almost European city with a mixed population in the
lower class. Here the Arabs are only learning, but already they drink
and beg, bother and tout as guides, and even gamble. Night after night,
wealthy Arabs may be seen in the casino playing “Petits chevaux” with
stolid, immovable faces, taking their gains and losses with equal
indifference. El Kantara may not be an earthly Paradise, but Biskra is
far enough from the age of innocence.

                [Illustration: A VILLAGE STREET, BISKRA]



                               CHAPTER V
                            LIFE ON AN OASIS


Enthusiasm about a desert life comes quickly, so perfect is the view
from the roof; but disillusion follows as easily, with the desire to
explore in every direction. Difficulties and drawbacks then begin to
appear; for this is not Egypt. Here are no rows of big white donkeys and
picturesque groups of smiling boys waiting your pleasure. No dromedaries
growl and grumble as their riders mount, though now and then some unwary
tourists may be seen on pack-camels, fondly imagining that they are
learning the qualities of a real ship of the desert. Even horses are
rare and hard to get. The concierge smiles and suggests a carriage or a
tram, for it is not given to every one to enjoy long trudges over rough
tracks or on dusty paths. But a tram! Could anything be more unromantic?
Even a carriage hardly sounds better for a voyage of discovery.

Finally, having decided that there is no help for it, and that romance
must be quite independent of such details, some expedition is arranged,
only to end perhaps in bitter disappointment. Instead of being greeted
in the morning by the expected sunshine, there is a downpour of rain,
which makes the roads a sea of mud and quite impassable for days,
leaving the roof the one dry place available for a walk. For though the
sun can broil and scorch, there is no lack of rain; and rain in the
Sahara is almost more out of place than a tram, and certainly far more
depressing. The mud is of a depth and stickiness quite unsurpassed, and
those who dare its dangers find progress slow, as they slide back nearly
as much as they advance.

Another drawback is wind. Icy wind from the snow mountains, or hot wind
with sand-storms from the south. In a good season there is said to be
wind three days a week, but in a bad season, or during the races, it
blows daily.

Biskra races are the great excitement of the place and of Algeria, and
it is a superstition (founded on fact) that whatever date is chosen for
the great event, it is sure to prove the windiest week in the year. This
sounds nothing to the unsophisticated, but to those who know, it means
misery.

A day may open in peace; the sun shines; there is not a breath of air;
it is warm—nay, hot. Ideal weather. Breakfast is hurried through; such a
day is not to be wasted, an early start is made, and for the first hour
or two all goes well. Then comes a little shivery chill; the sun is no
longer as warm; the palms rustle. In a few minutes the wind blows hard.
Dust rises in clouds, and everything disappears under that thick veil.
The Arabs shrink and cower in corners, their hoods over their faces
covering mouth and nose. Such a wind can last all day, the sun just
visible as in a London fog, only white not red. In fact, the dust hangs
in the air like mist, the mountains vanish completely, and nearer
objects are only dimly visible. It is dense, luminous, horrible. In less
than a minute everything is lost under layers of dust. Dust drifts
through closed doors and windows, and makes little heaps as snow does in
a blizzard.

On ordinary windy days the dust is very trying, and the dread of wind
spoils many an exquisite day, as the wicked habit it has of rising
morning after morning before 11 o’clock stops many pleasant plans.
Still, when compared with memories of fog and rain, cold and slush, on
the other side of the Mediterranean, the gain is so great that the
sand-storm is almost agreeable.

The morning freshness has a quality in the desert unfelt elsewhere—a
purity, a crispness, a delicious sense of invigoration that brings
thoughts of the Engadine in a fine August.

The first impulse is to go south, to leave the town behind, and even the
_village nègre_ as the French call it, though few are the blacks who
dwell there, to go forth beyond the monastery which Cardinal Lavigerie
founded for soldier-monks, Frères du Sahara, who were to fight, preach,
and abolish slavery, but who seem to have failed in their mission, as
their home is now a hospital. Cardinal Lavigerie is held in special
honour as is his due, and his statue stands looking towards the desert
he loved, in an open space near the gazelles’ garden.

Even the Chateau Landon, the show garden of the oasis, must be left
behind, though already, on the path beneath the walls, the call of the
desert is felt. Nothing intervenes; the river-bed, wide and dry, is at
your feet. The river itself, an insignificant stream, is lost in the
expanse of sand and stones bounded by low cliffs of ochre-tinted soil,
from which rises an oasis bright and fresh, but small. Beyond, nothing
but infinite space, till sky and desert meet in a blue so soft that the
French soldiers on their first coming cried, “The sea! the sea!”

Further on one can wander in and out on mud paths under the palms,
listening to the soft murmur of running water from the rills, which
carry life and refreshing moisture through the shady glades. From this
welcome shade the river-bed looks white and dazzling, and whiter still
the Koubba of a favourite Marabout planted in its midst.

All is light yet full of colour; the very mountains of the Aures are
radiant with rose, and the long blue shadows are full of light. Arabs
come from under the palms, and find their way to the river to wash and
stamp on their clothes in the bright sunshine. A man and two small boys
settle down beside a little stream under the trees with a burnous, which
they scrub all over with soap, taking infinite pains to see that every
corner has its share. Then they trample on it, and knead it with their
feet till it is clean as clean can be; then they stretch and pull it
into shape ere they spread it out to dry in the sun, whilst they enjoy a
rest after their labour. Women and children come also: the women with
bundles on their heads; the children moving quickly, mere flashes of
colour.

                 [Illustration: A RIVER OF THE SAHARA]

All the paths through the oasis and its seven villages have charm,
though not so much character as those of El Kantara. Yet any mud
dwellings shaded by palms are sure to be quaint, and here there are
little balconies and curious windows of pierced holes arranged to form
primitive rose windows or triangles, while the decoration on the
minarets is almost elaborate. The palms, casting their flickering
shadows on the warm earth; the pools, and the running water that threads
a shining way through all the gardens, and mirrors every leaf in its
calm shallows; the vivid green of the grass and growing crops (barley is
already in the ear); the blossom lingering on the fruit trees; the
tender colour of the first young leaves of the fig;—all combine, with
the mud walls that bound each property, to make of every moving figure a
living picture.

The light falls with bewildering brilliance on the white garments of the
solemn, stately men as they emerge from the cool, green shade into the
golden sunlight. Patriarchs ride slowly by; boys in ragged burnouses and
slender, bare legs, pipe to herds of energetic black goats. Camels and
donkeys with nothing visible but their legs, so large are their burdens
of palm branches or fodder, brush the walls on either side as they pass
along. Men with similar loads, or carrying bunches of greens and carrots
from market, watch groups of tiny children, who squat in the dust keen
on some mysterious game. Women with unveiled faces and waving draperies
of vivid colour trail them slowly past, accompanied by a pleasant jingle
of silver anklets, chains and charms. They carry their babies wrapped in
their veils, low down on their backs, in a clever fashion, though now
and then the queer mites, in their big hoods, looking like gnomes, are
perched on their mother’s shoulders.

The palm gardens, of which their owners are extremely proud, are often
entered by the simple method of pushing a palm log aside and creeping
through a hole in the wall. Wealth here is counted in palms, and every
tree is taxed. To encourage the French colonists only a tax of five per
cent is levied on their produce, while the Arabs pay double, which the
latter naturally think very hard. Palms exact a great deal of attention.
For them exist all the schemes of irrigation, the artesian wells, the
sakkias, the endless opening and closing of the channels of the
watercourses; for a palm flourishes only when it stands with its feet in
water and its head in the fires of heaven. The want of scorching sun is
one reason that dates do not ripen on the coast, though the trees look
healthy enough.

In the time of blossom, human fingers with infinite care assist the
insects in fertilising the female flowers with pollen shaken from the
ivory chalices of the male. These flowers begin life in a sheath, which
opens to disclose a cascade or spray of slender stalks, thickly
sprinkled with pure carved ivory flowerets, which are soon followed by
the tiny growing dates.

                     [Illustration: A BISKRA WOMAN]

A few vegetables and a little corn is all that grows under the trees,
which often shade picturesque family groups camping for the day under
shelter-huts built of boughs and thatched with palm leaves. The mother
in all her glory tends the fire, watches the steaming pot of cous-couss
for the mid-day meal, or flits like a gorgeous butterfly through the
green mazes after her straying babies. Her dress is the most graceful of
all the native costumes in this part of the world. It is nothing but a
long piece of very wide, soft muslin, or printed cotton, of deep red,
rose colour edged with green, or fine dark blue; but it is wound round
so cleverly that a girdle of many colours at the hips and a couple of
handsome silver fibulæ at the neck are sufficient not only to keep it
on, but to form hanging sleeves and a multiplicity of charming folds.
The head-dress is wonderful. The hair is plaited and braided with black
wool, and arranged squarely on either side of the small face, black silk
kerchiefs are woven in and out and over this mass, twined with silver
chains, and brightened by touches of scarlet flowers and wool. Just over
the forehead hangs a large silver charm, the sacred hand of Fathma. The
ear-rings, as large as bracelets, are fastened through the top of the
ear, and are so heavy that they have to be supported by chains or
threads attached to the hair. Round their necks they wear one or two
necklaces of coral, amber, or gold beads, and tiny silver hands. They
deck themselves also with many bracelets and anklets. These treasures
are part of the wedding portion, and represent all their worldly wealth.
Their white veils are twisted into the head-dress behind, and fall in
long folds to the ground, but are hardly ever used to cover the face;
for these Biskris, and the dwellers in El Kantara, are descendants of
the original inhabitants of the country, the Berbers. They belong to the
same race as the tribes of Kabylia and of the Aures, and their ways,
characters, and language are not those of the Arabs who invaded their
land and drove most of them back into their mountain strongholds. They
are the cause of many theories and much speculation. Early writers
consider them remnants of Christian Africa, Romans and Vandals, and say
in proof of their theory that the Kabyles still keep Sunday as their day
of prayer, and that the cross which all the women bear tattooed on their
foreheads between their eyebrows, and many of the men on their arms, or
the palms of their hands, are relics of the days when crosses were worn
as tokens, and exempted their wearers from some taxes. The Touaregs also
wear the cross and use it for the form of their saddles. Modern
knowledge or scepticism scorns these ideas as pretty fables, and
considers that the cross in some form enters into all schemes of
primitive decoration, and interests itself far more in the fair
complexion of the race, the tendency to light hair and grey or blue
eyes, and above all in the methods of government which point to some
Germanic origin. At any rate the women in all the Berber tribes have a
better position, with far more consideration and power, than in any
place where Arab blood prevails. These tribes also distinguish
themselves by their love of a settled home and by being both clever and
hardworking.

                      [Illustration: A NOMAD CAMP]

Widows we were told have the special privilege of feeding their sheep
wherever they like. The animals may browse on shrubs and trees,
vegetables, corn or fruit, without let or hindrance from their
neighbours. Consequently a widow’s lamb is fat and well-liking while
larger flocks starve, and on market day it will sell for some six times
the usual price.

Nomad or rather semi-nomad tribes abound in the district, their low
tents of striped camel’s-hair cloth showing as dark patches on the
desert or under the trees. They often build a few walls, rough fences
and ovens, and settle almost permanently in one place, till the grass is
worn away in front of their tents. The fields they cultivate stand high
with corn and clover, to feed the camels tethered near the camp or the
herds of goats that wander in and out at will. These nomads dress like
the other inhabitants of Biskra, but the women wear more blue and less
red, and have not quite the same air of being always in full dress. The
tents are so low that the men dwarf them utterly, and even the women,
short as they are, must stoop to enter. This matters little, as the life
of the community is passed in the open. All day long the grinding of the
mill may be heard, as the women take it in turns to work together
sitting in the dust. The cooking of the cous-couss is done in a vessel
hung on a tripod in true picnic fashion—furniture there is none. A few
carpets and hangings, the necessary pots and pans, and the mill are all
they need, so it is easy enough to strike tents and march wherever the
fancy moves them. A pretty sight it is to see one of these caravans on
the desert or amongst the dunes, as it comes slowly out of the distance,
giving as it moves along just the touch of life and colour that was
needed by the scene. The sand-dunes themselves are beautiful with a
strange beauty that harmonises with the wild, free life. The shifting
sands rise and fall in a succession of hills and hollows covered with
yellow, green, and grey scrub, and thousands of bright yellow flowers,
for all the world like the Lincolnshire sand-hills or Saunton burrows;
only that here the dunes are immense, and stretch out not to the sea,
for that has gone, but to the mountains of the Aures, or vanish only in
the vast spaces of the Sahara.

On the way to Sidi Okba, where caravans are frequent, we met a sad
little procession—a few men riding, one or two on foot, leading a camel
with the body of a man swathed and bound like a mummy, and lying across
the saddle. They came slowly, solemnly, out of the mysterious distance
and disappeared into it again. As a soul passes so passed they.

The shrine of Sidi Okba is well worth seeing. The drive across the
desert alone repays the weariness caused by jolting and shaking on a
stony road. A real road it is, and not a bad one, considering that it
has to pass over the river-bed and some very rough ground. However, it
is no satisfactory desert, though flat and desolate enough, for
everywhere there is green scrub sufficient to feed camels and the goats
of the nomads. Here is neither a trackless wild nor a waterless waste,
though the water has the good taste to hide itself under the ground or
in the oases. The goal is visible from the start as a dim purple line,
yet there is no lack of interest on the way, for the Djebel
Ahmar-Kreddou and the surrounding hills assume new forms as mile after
mile is left behind, and the colour comes and goes, waxes and wanes.

                 [Illustration: CARAVAN ON THE SAHARA]

Though it is the religious capital of the Ziban and a sacred place, the
village of Sidi Okba is built, like its neighbours, of sun-dried mud.
But it owns a real bazaar and a large market-place. The bazaar is
winding and irregular, shaded here and there by coarse canvas, or
matting, stretched on ropes and bars of wood. Canvas of every shade of
brown and ochre hangs flapping idly in the breeze over the square,
cavernous shops, where, amongst strange, untempting wares, the owners
sit motionless, only their eyes awake and on the watch. In other shops
men work tirelessly at many trades. Colour exists only in the vividly
blue sky, in the palms, and in a few scarlet handkerchiefs. The bazaar
and the crowds who surge through it harmonise in tone. The nomads, with
wild, dark faces and bare legs, shout as they bargain, unconscious alike
of the din and turmoil and of their own value from a picturesque
standpoint. Here are no Europeans, no odd contrasts; all is true,
unspoilt. Men of the desert swarm in hundreds, but scarcely a woman is
to be seen except in the market-place, where, in anticipation of a
wedding to take place at night, rows of them sit near a wall, veiled,
and listening to passionate, triumphant music, whilst their lords stroll
about, or sit in groups as far from them as possible.

The great warrior Sidi Okba, who, after conquering Africa from Egypt to
Tangiers, was killed in A.D. 682 by the Berbers, near Tehouda, now in
ruins, a little to the north, was buried by his followers in this place.
His tomb-mosque, the most ancient in Algeria, is quaintly impressive. It
is built of short columns, roughly made and crudely painted, and its
chief ornament is a door from Tobna, which is curious both in carving
and in colour. The shrine is plain, and the Tsabout or sarcophagus is
covered by bright silks embroidered with texts in Arabic. On one pillar
is a simple inscription, worthy of so great a man, written in Cufic
characters: _Hada Kobr Okba ibn Nafê rhamah Allah_. (“This is the tomb
of Okba, son of Nafê. May God have mercy upon him.”)

Round the tomb and in the mosque men are always praying, and from all
the little chambers, nooks, and corners comes the drone of voices; for
they are full of scholars old and young, who sit in groups round their
teachers, each with a worn board, on which is written a portion of the
Koran, grasped in his hands. As they learn, they bend and rock and
recite the lesson in sing-song tones. All Arab schools betray their
whereabouts by this constant hum as of a gigantic hive.

Most of the neighbouring oases attract in different ways, and there are
many favourite points of view, such as the Col de Sfa, which reveal new
aspects of the Sahara and the Aures.

                  [Illustration: THE BEGGING MARABOUT]

The Arabs resort to Hammam Salahin, the Bath of the Saints, a solitary
building, with the usual arcades and whitewash covering the hot springs,
a scene of utter desolation, volcanic and grim. Even the two small clear
lakes add no touch of beauty to the salt, sulphurous waste. But it is
amusing to see the women, who bring great bundles on their heads, and
who, after the ceremonies of the bath, put on clean garments, and then
proceed to wash all sorts of brilliant rugs and draperies in the hot
water as it streams away, making the wilderness gay by turning it into a
drying-ground.

But, after all, the true barbaric fascination of desert life is shown in
the most striking fashion during the races. The tribes come in from far
and near, all in their gala dress, and the fêtes begin, continue, and
end with processions and fantasias.

Strange processions, typically Eastern, a mixture of splendour and
squalor, pass and repass in the streets. The Bach Agha in the place of
honour, and the Caïds, glorious in all their bravery of red and white,
glittering with gold embroidery and sparkling with orders and medals,
ride beautiful horses, which step proudly under heavy trappings of gold.
The details are as good as the effect; the cloth and silk are of the
finest, the high boots of soft red leather.

The Sheikhs are almost as splendid, and the Spahis in their white and
blue both ride and look well. Each Caïd is surrounded by his chiefs and
Spahis bearing the banners of the tribe, and after these magnificent
figures follows a motley crew, men and horses alike gaunt and
poor-looking. They do their best to look imposing, with guns and swords
and fierce looks, and the horses are decorated with long, trailing
saddle-cloths of gorgeous, faded silks, which almost sweep the ground,
as they move along. As they pass the centuries fade away. This seems no
pageant of the present day, but a troop of freebooters starting on a
foray in the Middle Ages.

The first event of the races is the ride or drive in the early morning
through the villages of the oasis, where every roof is crowded with
women and children gay as a bed of Iceland poppies, past the ruins of
old Biskra, straight along the great desert road, to see the finish of
the long-distance camel race.

The _Meharis_ (riding dromedaries) had started from Tougourt 140 miles
to the south, and were expected to appear about nine o’clock. Every
vehicle and every camera in Biskra was there, and crowds were already
waiting and watching, all eyes turned to the distant south, though the
shimmering heat made it difficult to see far. At last in the distance
appeared specks that moved and grew, and in a moment the waiting was
over and the _Meharis_ had come. One after another, with long, easy
strides, they swept past, their riders still urging them forward with
voice and hand. No appearance of fatigue, no hint of the distance
covered in an incredibly short time, were apparent in the bearing of
either the Spahis or their untiring steeds. Fit messengers they are to
carry important tidings in time of need, as the French officers showed
by their keen interest in the race.

                    [Illustration: THE PALM VILLAGE]

The race-course at Biskra is as unusual in its frame of palms as the
sports that take place there. Nothing could be more picturesque than the
Bach Agha’s procession as it winds along under the palms; nor more
beautiful than the groups into which in half-military fashion it breaks
to watch the races. The crowds, who in their gala array encircle the
course, vie with the horsemen in decorative effect, whilst the dancing
girls outdo them all in sheer splendour of texture and tint as they
flutter round their tents.

Men of distant tribes in strange garb are also here: some wearing
head-dresses of waving plumes, like huge busbys; another, one of the
dreaded Touaregs, in dark robes with dark turban, veiled, like a woman,
in black or intensely dark blue. These are masked men, fierce and
mysterious as the sun they contend with and the desert they rule.

The races are good and the Arab horses fine, but the excitement of
novelty comes in with the fantasias. These fantasias are mock fights or
powder play; but there is a method, a savage fierceness, a fiendish glee
in their performance that gives an uncomfortable thrill, and a feeling
that any trifle might turn play to earnest, and a knowledge that if it
did, the performers would exult more than ever.

The Mozabites fight on foot. They are small, wiry men, wearing full
gandourahs as short as kilts, with curious fringes and tassels of
camel’s-hair hanging from their broad belts. They bind their haïcks
loosely, and arrange them to cover the lower part of their faces, the
usual precaution in their own torrid country far to the south, beyond
Laghouat. A warlike tribe, one of the last to submit to France, they
still cling to their independence in religious matters, and are called
in consequence _Khammes_, or the fifth, because they are outside the
four recognised orders of Mohammedanism. Industrious and hard-working,
they travel far, and are often shopkeepers in the large towns, but, for
all that, to them gunpowder is everything. Government allows a certain
amount yearly per man, and this can only be obtained by order. All the
same, great quantities are made in secret all over the country, and the
hiding-places where work is done are rarely discovered, except when,
owing to unscientific methods, an explosion takes place, killing several
men. This is of constant occurrence, it is said, but no one minds.

                  [Illustration: A MOZABITE FANTASIA]

The fantasia begins with shouts, then a rush forward of eight or ten
men, who turn and fire their guns into the dusty ground a few feet
ahead. Before the smoke has cleared, another squad charges and fires at
the feet of the first party with shouts and yells, and they toss their
guns into the air, the tom-toms and pipes play martial music, and the
din is deafening. Rush after rush follows, the squads prance forward,
fire, run back, reload and fire again. Excitement grows and grows, the
dust, smoke, and noise are appalling, and the yells become more and more
savage as the smell of the powder maddens them. Then it is that
accidents often happen, for the guns are old, all of them dating at
least fifty years back, and many of them being really antique. Some are
quite elegant and are inlaid with silver, but one man had a queer old
weapon, thick and short, that might have come from the Tower of London.
It took twice as long to load, and needed an extra charge of powder. Its
owner took care to have the field to himself when he fired, and rejoiced
at the stunning report, loud as a cannon. The officers said that each
man fired off more than his year’s allowance of powder before the
entertainment was over. If this was so, the secret factories had
supplied them with a large reserve, for the excitement was so great that
they went round the town after the procession, at the close of the day,
and gave another fantasia outside the hotel, and continued firing at
intervals far on into the night.

The fantasia of the _Goums_ is equally exciting and a far prettier
sight. The horses count for so much, even without considering the dash
and go of the riders, the brilliant white of their robes, the rich
colours of the cloaks and saddle-cloths, the glitter of golden
trappings, and the flash of light on the drawn swords. It is a ride
past. But such a ride! One after another, the horsemen come thundering
down the course as fast as their light steeds can gallop. They fly by,
all their draperies streaming in the wind, fire their guns, and wave
their swords, right and left hands or reins are matter of no moment.
Some take deliberate aim at the man in front, and ride as if to ride him
down or die in the attempt; others fire at the crowd, and some make
believe their enemies are at their feet.

Desert warfare is very real at such a moment, and it requires no
imagination to picture what it would be. There is a concentration, a
fierce determination in the mimic fight, which tells its own tale, and
suggests a foe, hard to conquer or subdue because so absolutely
fearless.

After this the camel races are tame, the movements of the picked
_Mehari_ who raced from Tougourt are too slow and stately in comparison
with the tearing gallop of the horses. Even the fact that one of them is
ridden by a Touareg in full array fails to make its due impression, so
much is every one under the spell of speed and noise. The stealthy,
quiet tread of the great beasts, even their picturesque qualities, had
less effect than usual; they were finer on the desert, infinite space
and light and mystery behind them.

Other sports, amusing to watch, were held under the shade of the mimosa
in the gardens. The incongruity between the dignified appearance and
lithe grace of the competitors and their childlike glee in each other’s
performances, made even walking along a greasy pole a delightful comedy.
Hearty laughter is not one of the lost arts amongst the Arabs.

At night there are more processions, with Chinese lanterns and torches,
crackers, weird music and dances, and the whole place is alive and gay,
whilst noise reigns triumphant.

          [Illustration: STREET OF THE DANCING GIRLS, BISKRA]

The dancing is not limited to the Ouled Naïls, or dancing girls; the men
have a fine sword-dance that looks like a serious duel. The music is
stormy, martial, passionate. The musicians shout, the women scream to
incite them to further fury. Their own war cries are deafening. The
correct finish is for one to be conquered and disarmed, whereupon he
shakes hands with the victor; but it sometimes happens that the
excitement goes a little too far, and a bad cut brings the play to an
abrupt and more dramatic termination.



                               CHAPTER VI
                                 TIMGAD


“Leaving Biskra is like dying—a thing we must all get through somehow,”
an American lady wailed, partly because she “just hated going,” but
still more because of her fate at being condemned to get up at the
unearthly hour of 5 A.M. to catch the first train.

This used to be the only train in the day, but now matters have so far
progressed that on three days in the week a new one has been added as
far as Batna, which saves much tribulation on the part of those who wish
to see Timgad and cannot bear beginning their day with the sun. Dawn,
however, is as beautiful as sunset, so that it is perhaps as well even
for the lazy to be obliged to see it sometimes.

The four or five hours on the backward journey seem long. The keenness
of excitement is wanting; there are only the glimpse of El Kantara, and
some smiling greetings as the train passes through, to help pass the
time. In the afternoon it soon gets dark, and the train goes crawling on
slowly as if groping its way.

It is not possible to get up much enthusiasm until Batna is reached, for
that is only a halting-place from which the start will be made next day
to the ruins of the City of Timgad. Batna itself is nothing more than a
clean little town with wide streets and low houses, an important
military centre, with a large garrison and barracks, which are perhaps
the most striking buildings in the place. There is no _quartier
indigène_; little or nothing to amuse or interest.

In consequence perhaps of this it is quite usual to arrive by the early
train, lunch at the station, then drive straight out—a matter of three
hours, “do” the ruins with a rush, and return in the dark. But there is
too much to see and study for this to be satisfactory, except for those
who do not really care for antiquities at all. It is certainly better to
put up at Timgad for a night or two, and make the best of the inn,
which, though rough, is new and perfectly clean, and that is more than
can be said for the more pretentious one at Batna.

It has always been our lot to arrive at Batna during a spell of cold
weather, of the sort that is a positive surprise to those who expect
continual warmth in the far South. The cold is so great that it is
almost a penance to drive at all, and this even as late as the end of
March.

As the start has to be made fairly early, about eight o’clock, it is
rather chilly work. However, the situation is thoroughly understood and
prepared for. Foot-warmers, so scalding that they are a comfort for the
three hours, and any amount of rugs are provided. Every one looks as if
starting for a sleigh drive, mere bundles as they are of cloaks and
furs, their faces covered with shawls, in a fashion which partakes of
both the African and the Arctic.

This is our experience, whilst others, both before and after, felt the
heat to an equally intense degree, for there is no shelter, when once
the town is left behind, from either cold winds or broiling sun. Nothing
is to be seen on either side but the wide, undulating plains, cultivated
more or less at first, but later on growing wilder and wilder.

Our last visit was after a heavy snowfall, the countryside flooded with
sunshine, sky and cloud, mountain and plain, dazzlingly and intolerably
bright. The snow, though only a couple of inches deep on the road, was
twice that number of feet in the drifts; the sheep and the Arab
shepherds looking thoroughly out of place as well as miserable, their
woollen garments and fleeces forming a brown and dingy contrast to the
pure whiteness. As a snow landscape the scene was charming, the
mountains of the Aures gaining much in dignity from their white robes.
As a rule it must be owned that the drive is a trifle monotonous,
notwithstanding the space and width and the sense of air and freedom. At
first the soldiers exercising their horses, and the groups of Arabs
coming in to town to do their marketing, provide some interest. Then
Lambessa becomes visible, the Prætorium rising like a castle from
amongst the trees. The modern village consists of barracks and a few
houses and cafés, but the ruins of the ancient Lambæsis are scattered
far and wide. Formerly, it seems to have been a military station, the
headquarters of the third Augustan Legion. Perhaps this is the reason
that the ruins have not much artistic value, with the exception of the
peculiar massive structure called the Prætorium, which stands square and
upright, in solitary dignity, amongst ruins and fallen columns on the
bare paved square that was once the Forum.

Glimpses of walls and triumphal arches show among the olives and fruit
trees of the farms, as the long, curving road sweeps up the hill out of
the valley and on to the wold. The heat of the sun melts the snow so
rapidly that the rich dark browns of the soil begin to make a restful
contrast with the prevailing whiteness. For miles and miles the horses
trot quietly on, passing only one or two houses and a few Bedawin tents
on the way, then suddenly in the distance, set among the hills, under a
great range of snow peaks, are seen two houses, some ruined pillars, and
an arch. Timgad at last!

Desolation itself: not a tree, hardly a touch of green, where once all
was forest; nothing but the inn, plain and uninteresting as a house from
a child’s Noah’s Ark! the group of buildings and shanties which form the
Museum, and a dwelling for the _Directeur_ who superintends the
excavations.

The ancient city of Tamugadi, or Thamagas, called also Thanutada by
Ptolemy, was finely situated on rising ground with a wide outlook over
the now barren wold, whose browns and reds, blending with the soft blues
and purples of the hills, make a beautiful background to the pale
gleaming of the slender pillars still left upright. The town was never
very large, but was important and much mentioned in history. There are
inscriptions in the Forum which tell of the 30th Legion Ulpia, and of
the victories of Trajan over the Parthians.

               [Illustration: THE ARCH OF TRAJAN, TIMGAD]

The foundation stone was laid by Lucius Munatius Gallus in the reign of
Trajan A.D. 100. The building was rapidly carried out according to a
definite prearranged plan, and shows plainly that the Romans would not
tolerate any temporary buildings or poor craftsmen even in their most
distant colonies, but that they required both solid workmanship and a
certain measure of magnificence in all that they undertook. The city was
built thirty-six years after the great fire in Rome in the days of Nero.
The consequences of that fire, and of the new ideas for avoiding future
conflagrations mentioned by Tacitus, were here carried into effect by
building all the more considerable houses in a detached form with a
clear space all round them. This is one of the remarkable differences
between Timgad and its rival Pompeii. Its later history is full of sad
tales of religious disputes and much fighting in the fourth century. The
head of the Donatists, Bishop Optatus, who persecuted the orthodox with
great cruelty, joined Count Gildon (under whose sway Africa trembled for
ten years) in his revolt against the Emperor Honorius. They were both
overthrown, the Bishop was taken prisoner, and suffered in his turn,
ending his days in prison. St. Augustine often alludes to Count Gildon
and his terrible doings.

In A.D. 535 the city was already in ruins, but later on the citadel was
restored, and at the time of the Arab invasion was evidently in
Christian hands, for the ruins of a church built in A.D. 646 still
remain. The end of the city came with the close of the seventh century,
when it must have been taken by force, sacked, and burned, as so many of
the buildings and even the soil show traces of fire.

However, the attraction of Timgad does not lie so much in its history as
in the beauty of the ruins that remain, and in the interest of comparing
with Pompeii another and larger city—a city more important and as
perfectly preserved, and now, thanks to the excavations, spread open
like a book.

Not that the excavations are at all complete even now, for nearly
two-thirds of the city are still untouched, though the work was begun as
long ago as 1880, and the French Government allows a considerable sum,
£1500 to £2000, yearly for the purpose. Under the circumstances it is
strange that these, the finest ruins in Algeria, should have been almost
unknown until quite recently. The older travellers, Bruce and Shaw,
wrote much on the subject, and the former left some splendid drawings of
the ruins. Most modern writers, however, up to 1890, content themselves
with a visit to the comparatively unimportant Lambessa, and ignore
Timgad altogether.

The French even had so little notion of its existence, that an old
French General told us that when he was quartered at Batna some thirty
years ago no one had ever heard of the ruins, and that he himself had
noticed nothing in his rides, though he had scoured the country for
miles round. His interest and excitement now showed that this was not
the result of indifference to things antique, but simply want of
knowledge. The odd part of the whole affair is that the triumphal arch
must always have been a conspicuous object, and not easily overlooked
like the half-buried columns which scarcely rise above the ground on the
unexcavated portions of the hillside.

The pride of the place is that it is not a “lath and plaster” city of
pleasure, like Pompeii, but a solid, business-like town, built of stone
and marble, where nothing inferior to good brick-work has been found. On
the other hand, the colonists of North Africa could not be expected to
rival the luxurious citizens of Pompeii in their collection of gems and
works of art, exquisite bronzes and sculpture, and delicate frescoes.
The fate of the two cities was so different, that even supposing Timgad
to have possessed as rich a store of treasures, it was not possible for
many to remain in the ruins after much fighting and looting.

Consequently the statues found are not of the highest order, and the
Museum does not contain many wonders. In mosaics alone it is rich: a
great many have been found in perfect preservation and very fine. They
consist not only of geometric patterns, but of large and important
subject-pieces with colossal figures, and each year more and finer
mosaics are added to the collection. When found, they are carefully
taken up and placed under shelter in the Museum buildings to save them
from the spoiler.

The main entrance is through a gate in a rough paling, but this fence is
only a farce, put there to guide tourists to the Museum, as it does not
extend round the ruins, which are quite unprotected on the further side.

Opposite the Museum stand the ruins of a basilica, and a few steps
farther up the well-paved street are the graceful columns of the
so-called _Salle de reunion_, where, amongst many Roman capitals lying
on the ground, is one of Byzantine origin.

This street ascends to the Forum, where it is crossed by another, the
main thoroughfare, the _via Decumanus Maximus_, leading to the Arch of
Trajan and the market. Evidently the traffic here was far heavier than
in other parts of the city, as the ruts in the pavement are so deeply
worn. There are no stepping-stones as at Pompeii, but the paving of all
the streets is still in such good condition that carriages can be driven
through them all.

The water-supply and the many fountains, as well as the whole system of
drainage, are very elaborate and carefully planned. The sewers are
indeed so large that it is possible to walk through them, and in many
cases without even bending the head.

The spacious and stately Forum seems to have been surrounded by a
colonnade double towards the _via Decumanus Maximus_, with a temple at
one end. Many of the pillars are still standing, and others have been
replaced on their ancient bases. The long distance between the columns,
especially on the east and south sides, show clearly that the
architraves that surmounted them were of wood. The Forum was paved with
great flagstones, but a large portion is now missing. Well-preserved and
perfect inscriptions are set up round the Forum in front of the pillars.

                   [Illustration: THE FORUM, TIMGAD]

The theatre was a fine one, capable of holding in its seats, porticoes,
and galleries some 4000 spectators. It is in good preservation, but not
peculiar in any way.

One of the best views is from the hill just above the Auditorium. The
city unfolds itself, disclosing all the intricacies of its former
life—the wide open space of the Forum, the great temples and baths, the
fine arch, some handsome houses, the narrow streets, and the small
dwellings huddled together in the poor quarters. As at Pompeii, there is
the curious effect of a town with the upper portion sliced off by a
giant’s hand; but here it is not so marked, for many of the buildings
have escaped more or less—some even are untouched, and the pillars are
often erect and complete, several having been replaced during the
excavations.

Timgad has some unusual features. In a house between the Forum and the
theatre is an elegant atrium with ten columns, having a central fountain
or well surrounded at some little distance by semicircular flower-boxes
of marble, charming in design, and said to be unique. The market, again,
is quite unusual, and has been described as an “archæological
revelation,” no such ancient municipal mart being known in Africa. It
lies beyond the Arch of Trajan, and the entrance was through a low
portal, the Chalcidicum. The market was of a fair size, and, like the
Forum, well paved—a sort of colonnade running all round, with square
cells between the columns. These cells or stalls had counters formed by
thick slabs of stone. To enter the shop the owner had to stoop under the
counter—an arrangement that is copied in most Oriental bazaars to this
day. The place is so perfect that it does not require much thought to
see how well arranged and picturesque this old-world market-place must
once have been. And to assist in the process, dishes, vases, amphoræ,
and even balances have been found on the spot. Flour-mills of an
unwonted form are found in many houses. There are numerous wine shops
but more fountains, one of particular grace having been lately dug out
in a new district beyond the market.

The baths are remarkable for their splendour and the perfection of the
arrangements for heating. They were decorated with fine mosaics in
geometric patterns, and also between the columns of the gallery with
designs of figures and animals. A good many of these mosaics are still
left in their places, but are carefully covered over with a thin layer
of soil to prevent theft or damage. On great occasions, such as the
visit of the President, this is swept away, but ordinary mortals have to
content themselves with glimpses of small portions of the pavement that
the foreman scrapes clear with his foot. There were formerly several
baths, and at one time as many as seven Christian basilicas.

                   [Illustration: MARKET DAY, TIMGAD]

Of the temples the most imposing was, and is, even in its ruins, that of
Jupiter Capitolinus. It stands on a hill, the highest point in the city.
Two columns with Corinthian capitals are still standing, but, to judge
by the immense quantity of debris of marbles of all colours found in the
_cella_, it must have been truly magnificent. The marble is supposed to
have been brought from Mahouna, near Guelma.

The triumphal arch, or Arch of Trajan, the finest in Africa, is almost
perfect, though slightly restored. However, much cannot have been done,
because there is scarcely any difference between its condition now and
when drawn by Bruce. The arch has three openings, and both sides are
alike. It is built of warm golden sandstone, and the beautiful fluted
Corinthian columns are of a stone so fine and white that it looks like
marble. The capitals, bases, and pilasters are of the same stone. Over
the two side gateways are niches for statues, only one of which is left.
The whole is simple in design and beautiful in form and colour, whilst
from its position it becomes the key-note of all views of the city.

In these days of her desolation and abandonment, Timgad is only
inhabited by the two or three Frenchmen who superintend the Arabs in the
work of excavation, and by the family of the innkeeper, who have not too
much to do in feeding the travellers who appear now and then in the
middle of the day for a few hours. So it is odd to awake one morning to
find the whole place alive with crowds of men, their mules and horses;
the ground in front of the inn and up to the Museum gates covered with
small tents, and all the clamour and bustle of a busy fair. The whole
scene is changed as by enchantment, and a new, vivid, noisy life
intrudes in dreams of bygone days. These Arabs, or rather Berbers, come
from far—from homes high up in the distant hills or far out on the
plains; these hills and plains which look so inhospitable and wild, but
in some parts are really beautiful and both green and fertile. There are
amongst them wild men—rough, uncivilised, and very dirty, but there are
also Sheikhs and Caïds who would look well anywhere. This weekly market
is to them a great institution and a delightful change, but Timgad seems
to look twice as solitary as before when the crowds have melted away and
the last white robe has disappeared.



                              CHAPTER VII
                              CONSTANTINE


Travellers’ tales and descriptions of Constantine are full of such
boundless admiration that they are really little more than a chorus of
applause and wonder. The consequences are not quite what might be
expected, because it is impossible to believe that all this praise is
justified. Sober truth seems hidden by flights of fancy. So the
sceptical mind prepares itself and fears no disappointment or
disillusion, heedless of the fact that it is the unexpected that always
happens. In this case such wisdom is wasted, for the situation of
Constantine is amazing beyond all expectation, and wholly beautiful.

In former times the city was apparently as picturesque as its site, but
this, alas! can no longer be said. The rage for modern improvements has
destroyed so much, that it is only in nooks and corners that Oriental
architecture still lingers.

The original city of Cirta or Kirta, the capital of the Numidian kings,
has entirely disappeared, and no traces are now left of the splendid
palace of Syphax, or of the fine buildings that Micipsa is said to have
built here. Even the old name, signifying an isolated rock, has been
superseded by the later one of Constantine—a name that even the poetic
attempts at new derivations made by the Arabs, such as Ksar-Tina, the
castle of Queen Tina, the castle of the fig tree, and so on, have failed
to make interesting.

Their own name for the city, as given by El Bekri, namely, _Belad el
Haoua_, sums up its individuality perfectly. The single word _Haoua_
means not only air, but also ravine and passion. The city of air tells
of its height, over 2000 feet above the level of the sea. City of the
ravine is a title that suits it even better, for no other city stands on
a rock encircled on three sides by a chasm instead of a moat; and
history, starting with the tragic tale of fair Sophonisba and her
pathetic speech (ere she drank the cup of poison sent her by Masinissa)
about “dying with more honour had she not wedded at her funeral,” shows
that passion has never been lacking.

Roman rule has left a deeper impress, but soon there will be little of
the flourishing colony of Cirta Sittianorum, founded by Julius Cæsar.
There are many inscriptions, among them one proving that Sallust, who
was once the Governor, possessed a vast domain.

            [Illustration: GORGE OF THE ROUMEL, CONSTANTINE]

Of a fine aqueduct, built in the reign of Justinian, only five arches
remain, prettily situated among the trees by the river. As for the ruins
of the old bridge, dating from the time of Constantine the Great, it
would probably be hard to say how much was truly Roman, so often has it
been restored. This bridge was double, and built on the foundation of a
natural arch; the upper part, formed of huge blocks, carried the road,
the lower was purely ornamental. Shaw says it was indeed a masterpiece
of its kind, which makes its end the sadder. A pier of the upper story
gave way in 1857, and as restoration was supposed to be impossible,
heavy artillery was used to batter it down. Now the chasm is spanned by
a useful but ugly iron erection, built exactly above the ruins, and
forming a pitiful contrast between the old style and the new.

Few cities in the world have suffered so many changes, for
notwithstanding its apparently impregnable position, Constantine has
been besieged and taken no less than eighty times—that is, if tradition
can be trusted. It escaped destruction under the Vandals because the
bishop in those days was a Donatist. The victorious Belisarius found
that no harm had been done, and even the Arabs spared the ancient
monuments, so that the strain of these many sieges seems to have worked
less havoc than the fighting which took place during the French
conquest, when both besiegers and besieged showed the greatest heroism.
The old bridge was the scene of the first fierce assault, when the
French were driven back in 1836. The successful attack in the following
year was made on the side of the isthmus, or neck of land, which
connects the rock with the mainland, but even so the French lost
heavily, General Damremont and General Perrégaux being killed in the
breach, and officer after officer falling as he took command.

For many years afterwards the military government took no interest in
preserving antiquities, and so they were broken up, cut through and
destroyed, to make way for new buildings, for roads, and for the
railway. The greatest loss, perhaps, was the splendid triumphal arch,
which was still perfect in 1734; but temples, arcades, vaults, porticoes
and baths were all swept away by the _Genie militaire_ in its thirst for
improvement. The cisterns alone remain. They have been restored, and
still serve to hold the water-supply.

The new roads are worthy of the _Genie_, but the new buildings are
mostly blots on a beautiful landscape. From almost every point hideous,
bare-looking barracks and many-storied modern houses crown the rock, and
stand on the very edge of the precipice, whilst the new suburbs,
springing up on the heights of Mansoura and on the side of Koudiat-Aty
are scarcely more attractive.

And yet, taking all these drawbacks into consideration, the view from
the bridge of El Kantara is astonishing. The grandeur of the gorge
dwarfs all man’s works into insignificance, and the rocks tower with
such majesty over the river which they hide at their feet that the
houses above them pass almost unnoticed.

The ravine is narrow, not more than two hundred feet across, though the
summit of the crags is quite a thousand feet above the river. The river
Roumel comes from the sunny country-side, from the woods and fields, the
poplars and the hedges, and plunges suddenly into the shadow of the huge
vertical cliffs, twisting and winding in the dark depths on its way
round the city, losing itself at times in gloomy caverns and under
natural arches, to emerge joyously beneath the grim Sidi Rached, then to
fling itself thundering over the falls, out of the shadows at last, and
into the lovely valley once more.

From the town it is difficult to peer into the depths, but on the other
side a road follows the course of the ravine for its whole length. The
most picturesque point is just opposite the tanneries, a delightful
jumble of old Moorish houses, with white or pale-blue walls, and
brown-tiled roofs built to withstand the snow and torrential rains, and
very like the roofs of Constantinople in form and colour. The tanneries
are perched on the walls of rock so close to the edge of the precipice
that the Arabs when at work often fall over into the abyss, though it is
said that the devotees of _hachish_ will descend the same precipices, at
the risk of breaking their necks many times ere they reach the bottom,
just to meet together and smoke. It is giddy work to stand on these
heights and look down over the first green slopes where hungry cows and
goats find some foothold in their search for food, in places on the
verge of the cliff where there is nothing but their own agility to
prevent their falling straight into the gulf below. The boys on guard
keep more wisely to the little footpath, and shout their commands to the
straying herds.

The Cornice road runs from the bridge down towards the valley and the
sea, and that is grand with Nature’s dignity alone. As a mountain road
it is fine also, after the Swiss fashion, built round and tunnelled
through the rocks of Mansoura, following their curves, half-built out on
supports, half-blasted out of the living rock.

Opposite the tanneries the road runs on the top of the cliffs, and the
city stands on the same level on the other side of the chasm; but here
the road, though it is still a considerable height above the river, is
itself shut in by walls of rock, so grim and forbidding that if tales of
dreadful deeds did not already abound, legends must have been invented
in their stead; for there is something about the precipices of Sidi
Rached which suggest and invite horrors. So perhaps it is no wonder that
the Moors in barbarous times thought it a suitable place for getting rid
of criminals, or of the wives of whom they were weary. It is, however,
hard to believe that men were ever cruel enough, not only to fling a
beautiful woman over a cliff by the Bey’s orders, but also, when she had
been saved as by a miracle by her clothes catching midway on the rocks,
to rescue her and then kill her deliberately by some other form of
torture.

At the French conquest the defenders retired, fighting, to the Casbah,
and there as a last resource tried to fly from the hated infidel by
means of ropes. But the numbers were too great, the ropes broke, and
hundreds perished in the attempt, though it is thought that a few may
have escaped.

                   [Illustration: A GAME OF DRAUGHTS]

The _Chemin des touristes_ is a path through the ravine, winding up and
down, and cut out of the rock, or built upon it. It is a path full of
surprises and fascination, formed for a great part of staircases, and in
most places a strong railing is necessary. Near the bridge are seemingly
endless steps, and little bridges descend in uncanny gloom into a huge
cavern, where the path becomes a balcony of wood over the river. Giddy
steps, slippery with damp, lead through the cave, a true _orrido_, and
then come wonderful effects of light and shade. The light falls from
above through four natural arches whose height is over four hundred
feet. From the bottom of the gulf the sky seems far away, the city hides
itself, whilst the rocks appear more imposing than ever. Artists might
spend their days here, for subjects are endless, but they must be
impervious to chills, and have no sense of smell or any fear of typhoid.
Even in winter to walk through the gorge and wonder at its beauty is a
penance for the nose, for it receives the drainage of the tanneries and
the town; but in late spring or summer, when it would be a cool retreat,
the inhabitants say that the air is even more deadly.

Within the walls a superficial observer sees nothing but steep and dirty
French streets, and it is easy to walk all over the town without ever
finding the Arab quarters. This does not mean that the whole place is
not crowded with _indigènes_—far from it, for it is a busy centre, in
which the province of Constantine does its shopping. No town in Algeria
is so laborious and active, the chief trade being in shoes, saddlery,
and burnouses. Town Moors are in the minority, the streets being mostly
thronged by white-robed countrymen, of a rather dirty type. The Arab
women wear dismal grey haïcks, and the young girls and Jewesses, who are
strikingly handsome, wear a coquettish cap, a cone of coloured velvet
embroidered in gold. Sometimes it is covered by a cunningly tied
kerchief, but is often set like a flower on the wearer’s dark locks,
very much on one side of the head. Arab chains of round, flat links,
very large and heavy, are used by the rich to keep on this cap, and big
ear-rings are also worn. The rest of the dress is usually commonplace,
though on Saturdays gay shawls and gorgeous gowns of velvet and plush
are popular.

What is left of the Arab town concealed behind the modern houses is
something like old Algiers. The streets are even narrower and often as
steep, but instead of the cedar beams, the upper stories are built out
on inverted steps till they almost touch each other. Pillars and
capitals from Roman buildings fill corners, form gateways, and have been
used to build the mosques, which are neither very important nor
interesting. Up a few steps on a small vine-covered terrace is the tomb
of a famous saint from Morocco, built partly of fragments of Roman work.
But the individual buildings are nothing. It is the life, the bustle and
confusion in the streets, the tiled roofs, the pale-blue colour on the
walls, the odd-looking shops, the scarlet and blue hanging up in the
streets of the dyers, the glitter of the silver as men crouch over their
tiny fires making rough jewels, the more delicate tones and rhythmic
movements of those who weave silks or belts, or twist soft yellow floss
round enormous winders—small details these, like fine threads weaving
one magic spell—the spell of the East.

Unconsciously this hovers over everything, giving distinction to the
Cathedral, once a mosque with the poetic title of Market of the
Gazelles, by the old tiles and the fine carving of the _mimbar_, or
pulpit. Even the Palace of the last Bey, really so new, built so quickly
by the simple method of pulling down other houses to provide beautiful
carving and richly coloured tiles, and by stealing columns and capitals
from temples, gains its originality in the same way—the singularly naïve
paintings of battles and ships that decorate the walls helping to give
the last touch of apparent age and orientalism to the many courts filled
with orange and lemon trees.

Late in the spring Constantine should be delightful, but, owing to its
elevated situation in a mountainous district, it is often too cold in
the early part of the year for those who come from the warmth and glow
of the desert. It is wintry, though the sun is bright and the air clear,
so that sketching in the chill shade of the streets is out of the
question. It is scarcely warm enough even to enjoy drives, beautiful as
is the countryside and the views from the heights over hill and valley.
There are woods and charming dells, with here and there a Roman ruin as
an object for a walk, such as the aqueduct or the baths of Sidi Meçid.
This bracing mountain air makes the climate splendid for the colonists,
for the extremes of heat and cold are much the same as in their own
beloved France, and to cheer them on their way the Romans have left
inscriptions showing that many centenarians flourished here, and though
the women only managed to live a hundred years, one man, Ælius by name,
reached the age of one hundred and five. Could anyone want more?



                              CHAPTER VIII
                          ON THE WAY TO TUNIS


The next stage on the long journey to Tunis is Hammam Meskoutine, or the
Accursed Baths. Now the name alone ought to be sufficient to scare
strangers away, but it seems to have precisely the opposite effect.
Many, indeed, come for one night only, and linger on from day to day,
loth to leave a place so unusual and attractive. The wayside station,
half-hidden by graceful eucalyptus trees, leads to no village, for the
simple reason that there is none—nothing but the baths, a farm or two,
and a few scattered _gourbis_.

There is not much to see. There are no fatiguing sights, no amusements
whatever—only a tranquil country, a freshness of untrodden paths, a
touch of the unknown and exceptional in the hot springs and falls to
give piquancy to the surroundings. It is a country of soft outlines,
Greek in its simplicity, breathing rest and peace. A land of hill and
dale, rich pastures and many trees, where glare, dust, and bustle are
alike forgotten.

The uplands are covered by a cloud of grey-green olives, some of them
age-old trees, whose gnarled and twisted trunks look silvery against the
deeper tones of the leaves, the bright green of the long grass, and the
purple and blue of the mountains beyond. Under the trees the flowers of
the asphodel shine starlike, calm fills the air, the flocks come and go,
and the slender figure of the white-clad shepherd who leads and watches
them, piping on his queer rustic flute, is in harmony with the spirit of
a half-unconscious dream of the days of long ago.

Cutting across the smiling landscape like a scar is a plateau of whitish
grey rock, pools of boiling water and clouds of steam, the region of the
springs. The water comes bubbling up through the grey crust, then flows
out over the surface with no fuss, no fountain, no spray. Dense clouds
of steam rise from these bubbling springs in all directions, and also
from the water as it falls over the rocks down to the valley below. This
water as it cools leaves a thick white coating on whatever it touches,
thus raising in the course of ages a succession of terraces now some two
hundred feet high, resembling on a smaller scale the once famous pink
terraces in New Zealand. These terraces are of every tone of yellow,
orange, russet and green, and are full of small cauldrons. Pouring over
these natural basins and mingling with these many tints flows a steady
stream, sometimes the rich colour of thick cream, sometimes the snowy
whiteness of foam, but though airy in appearance, perfectly solid,
absolutely still. Only the water moves softly and the steam rises
ceaselessly—a wonder straight from the under-world, a silent waterfall.

        [Illustration: THE SILENT WATERFALL, HAMMAM MESKOUTINE]

And not silent alone, but carved in stone—a finished work in one sense,
yet ever changing; for the springs are capricious, appearing now in one
place, now in another, and just now a new stream has started some little
preparations for terraces on its own account at the side of the railway,
and has even arranged to cross it. The earth’s crust seems unpleasantly
thin and crumbly, and the heat is so great that it is well to be heedful
and walk warily, for water at a heat of 203° Fahrenheit is too warm for
comfort, even when it has cooled itself somewhat on the rocks. The only
other springs known to be hotter than these are the springs of Las
Trincheras in South America and the Geysers of Iceland, but they are
only 3° and 5° warmer respectively.

It is amusing to watch the amount of cooking done in the open—eggs and
vegetables are put into a bubbling pool, and anything else the _chef_
thinks a good scalding will improve. Hot water for baths is fetched in a
garden tank on wheels, and if any is wanted at odd times a jug can
always be dipped in a stream, for the hotel is quite close to the falls.
The old baths—some of them Roman of course, for what did not the Romans
know?—are still in use, for these are the most celebrated springs in
Algeria; though Hammam R’hira, beautifully situated in the mountains not
far from Algiers, runs them very close. The hotel is built on no
conventional plan; it is a series of low buildings set in the olive
grove with a wild garden in their midst. An Eastern garden with a
central fountain, surrounded by lemon and orange trees, laden with
golden fruit, shading fragments of Roman reliefs, capitals, and
columns—an unwonted form of museum and a pretty one. Pretty also are the
rooms in the long bungalow, with windows looking out on one side on the
flowery meadow under the olive trees, where the steam from the falls can
be seen in the distance. Seen and smelt also, be it said, for there is
much sulphur in the water. The other window, which is also the door,
opens on to a rough colonnade and the garden. Two more bungalows, and a
house that shelters the kitchen and its excellent _chef_, as well as the
dining-room and dull salon, complete the establishment. On warm days the
pleasant custom prevails of taking meals at small tables under the deep
shade of an immense sycamore—a real open-air life, fresh and
delightful—in fine weather. We were not there in rain.

          [Illustration: THE ARAB WEDDING, HAMMAM MESKOUTINE]

In a little hollow near the springs is a group of curious cones,
petrified like the falls, and now half-covered by grass and shrubs.
Exhausted and now quite dry, the water having long since found new ways
to escape, these cones are scattered over the ground for some distance.
One special group, distinguished both by its size and by the peculiar
shapes of the pillars of stone, has such terrors for the Arabs that they
dare not pass it at night, from their firm belief in the legend which
gave the place its name of the Accursed Baths. For once there was a
sheikh, a rich and powerful man, who had one only sister, beautiful as a
flower. He loved her with an exceeding great love, and thought her so
supremely fair that no man could be found worthy of her. He therefore
determined to wed her himself. The elders of the tribe arose and made
loud protestations, for as an Arab told me in his odd French, “_Il est
très défendu dans le Koran de marier avec sa sœur._” But the sheikh paid
no heed to their exhortations or their prayers, and caused those elders
to be beheaded before his tent door. Then he made a great feast, but as
the end of the marriage festivities drew near, a great darkness overtook
them, a tremendous earthquake shook the earth, out of which came flames
of fire, and demons were seen abroad. Deafening thunderclaps followed,
and a storm raged mightily. In that moment the accursed couple met their
fate. Ever since that dreadful night the whole wedding party has stood
there turned into stone: the Sheikh Ali and his bride, Ourida; the Cadi
who married them, and who is known by his turban; the father and mother
who gave reluctant consent; all their friends and servants; the
musicians, the camel laden with bridal gifts, the distant tents, even
the cous-couss left over from the feast. The wrath of God had fallen
upon them because they did not obey the laws of His prophet, and for
evermore the smoke of the fire ascends—a witness to all men of the
punishment that awaits the evil-doer.

The subterranean lake is an excuse for a lovely walk over the hills.
This lake only came into existence about twenty years ago after a great
storm. The earth fell in with a tremendous crash, disclosing the
entrance to a cavern. From some hidden source water came rushing in for
about six weeks, and then suddenly ceased. The cavern is dark as night,
even in the afternoon when the sun shines on the opening; the entrance
is steep, and very slippery; the lake lies far below, the dark vault
looking like the gate of the under-world. Arab women bring piles of
brushwood, and with bare feet descend easily to make a flare at the
water’s edge. The light is weird and unearthly, the moving figures
suggest witches, the water glimmers dimly, reflecting the flames as they
leap up, and accentuating the gloom and vastness as they die down again.

One of the women was beautiful, her colouring was of the North, and the
moon of her fair face was surmounted by a crescent moon of white linen.
At least this veil, stretched over a frame or cap, should have been
white, but was, in fact, sadly dirty; the _gourbi_ they lived in was
even worse. It was built of stone, roughly thatched, and surrounded by a
wall to form a sheep-pen. The ground within and without was trodden into
mud. Many of the animals shared the hut with the family, who seemed to
have scarcely any possessions, and who, had it not been for their
beauty, would have seemed lower in the scale of life than their own
flocks.

The joyous rush of a motor car on a good road is no bad antidote to
overmuch strolling in flowery meads or lounging under trees. Ancient
ruins and motors sound incongruous, but, after all, surely the Romans
would have revelled in the sport, and the fear of demons would scarcely
have terrified them as it would the men of the Middle Ages, or the Arabs
of the present day, whose ways made the drive to Tibilis amusing. The
road twists and curves round the hills far above the clear stream, and
as the motor with much hooting rounded the endless corners, Arabs rushed
up steep banks out of reach of the monster, pulled their animals into
shelter by main force, or covered their horses’ heads with their own
burnouses. These were those who knew and understood. Those who did not,
paid no heed to the coming of the “Turnobil,” and the chauffeur had to
creep slowly and carefully past them. Others again climbed to points of
vantage and shouted, and those shouts were not blessings on our
progress, whilst a few naughty boys indulged in throwing stones which
did no damage.

The ruins of Tibilis, now Announa (found by General Creuly in 1856), are
finely situated on a hill, so the last part of the journey must be done
on foot. The path, when it exists, is only to be avoided, so stony is it
and rough, and also swampy in places. The distance is nothing, but the
way seems long from its steepness and the scorching sun. It runs first
downhill to a brook which it crosses by a bridge of slippery planks,
then up a steep brae, and along a valley, when the toil is ended by a
final scramble to the top. Here on a bare brown hill are a few
weather-beaten trees, leafless and desolate, and all that remains of the
ancient city—a stretch of paved road, a simple triumphal arch, one of
the town gates, two or three arches, a Christian basilica, a few fallen
columns, and traces of many buildings, including an amphitheatre.

A last gleam of sunshine touched the arch to beauty, then storm-clouds
gathered on the neighbouring heights, a bitter wind blew fiercely, the
weather by its gloom emphasised the long-forgotten loneliness of the
place, once sufficiently important to give its name of Aquæ Tibilitanæ
to the waters of Hammam Meskoutine, and now neglected, visited only by a
few out of the many drawn to the baths by the quaintness of the scenery
and the legends of the place.

Forsaken ruins such as these are to be found all over Algeria, but more
often the sites are now occupied by modern colonists, and the ruins
sacrificed to or incorporated with new buildings. A few, however, are
still preserved to attract travellers, as at Tebessa, Tipaza, and
Cherchell. In Tunisia ruins abound, and are even more remarkable for
their extent and beauty. But it is a thousand pities that in both
countries nothing is done to remove difficulties, so that expeditions
are given up in despair from absolute lack of information and fear of
discomfort. It seems a point of honour to know nothing off the beaten
track, and as even on it the standard of comfort is not high, and
requires some experience and a little tolerance, much of the country
cannot be visited by ladies at all without a camp—a rare luxury. Even
men, accustomed to really roughing it, suffer more than they care for
from bad food in the French villages, and from noise and dirt in the
native _Fonduks_.

One of these out of the way places is Dougga, where the Roman ruins are
so beautiful that no one should count the cost in fatigue and trouble
too great for a visit.

About two hours short of Tunis is the station of Medjez el Bab, the gate
of the ford. In olden days a triumphal arch and a fine bridge across the
Bagrada (Medjerda) justified the name. Both have now vanished, and the
new bridge, built of the debris, is absolutely picturesque with age. One
of the chief roads of Roman Africa passed over the original bridge,
uniting Carthage with Theveste and continuing to the borders of Numidia.
Military boundary stones all along the route still bear this
testimony—_Karthagine ad Thevestem ... usque ad fines Numidæ_.

The walled town nestles on the river banks almost under the shade of a
wide avenue, much appreciated in the burning sunshine of May.

In obedience to orders a carriage and pair awaited our arrival in the
station-yard. This sounds imposing, but its appearance was utterly
wanting in dignity save that conferred by the dust of ages. The vehicle
was a rattling old shandrydan of a waggonette, roofed after the fashion
of the country, and with leather curtains, which could be buttoned
together closely to keep off the sun or rain; and, strange as it may
seem, the darkness and shadow of this box were after a time a relief
from the glare. Heat shimmered over the plain—blue, with a flickering
haze. The white ribbon of the road looped carelessly round the olive
groves, or stretched boldly across undulating fields, already golden and
ready for harvest. The men amongst the corn, the very horses on the
road, were steeped in lazy drowsiness. They worked, but it was as in a
dream—just a pretence suited to the placid prosperity which brooded over
all. Now and then, as the hours passed by, towns and villages came into
view crowning the heights, all fortress-like, many with towers,
picturesque in outline and dirty within.

One of these, surrounded by ruins, bears the name of Chehoud el Batal,
or the false-witness; for once, so runs a legend, men, women, and
children united in bringing lying evidence against a man great and holy,
much beloved of Allah, so in the very act they were all turned to stone,
and the stones remain where they fell for a witness to this day.

At mid-day we halted at Testour, once Colonia Bisica Lucana, though
little is left to tell the tale. Really it is a bit out of Spain, an
Andalusian hill city, with minarets that recall the old belfries of that
country. The inhabitants are still called _Andaleuss_, and are said to
be direct descendants of those Moors who escaped from Spain in the time
of Ferdinand and Isabella.

Donkeys, laden with huge water-pots, led us up the steep hill, into the
town, towards an open space, or _plaza_, with arcaded cafés blinking in
the sunshine. Low one-storied houses with tiled roofs are built on
either side of a street which is both wide and straight—a most unusual
plan in a Moorish town, and very unsuitable for great heat.

Every scrap of shade was occupied by listless Arabs, who just roused
themselves sufficiently to take part in the slight bustle of our
arrival, followed by the diligence, and then crept back to doze once
more. There is no inn, but the postmaster’s wife provides food in her
cool, clean rooms for dusty, wayworn travellers. Her patient face, sad
with the loneliness of exile, lighted up with pleasure at the chance of
a chat with some of her own sex who knew _la belle France_. Only three
or four European families live at Testour, and she and her husband are
the only French inhabitants. Many men pass through on business, but
ladies are comparatively rare. In the summer, traffic almost ceases, for
the heat is so trying, and, notwithstanding the breezy situation, the
thermometer occasionally rises to 112° Fahrenheit. There was a note of
plaintive endurance in all the talk of the hostess, an attempt to make
the best of things, a certain pride in the knowledge of Arabic and of
triumph over housekeeping difficulties, mixed with a thorough dislike
for the country, and contempt for the _indigène_ and all his ways. Yet
the country is beautiful, almost homelike, and could be made very rich.

A little further on is Ain-Tunga, or _Thignica_, a small village now,
whose importance in the past is shown by the ruins scattered round a few
poor houses. The Byzantine fort still preserves an air of solid
strength, but only fragments enough remain to excite a languid interest
in the two temples, the theatre, and a triumphal arch.

As the shadows lengthened, the country became more and more charming,
for we were nearing the borders of Khroumirie, the most beautiful part
of Tunisia. Clear streams and glades of olive trees became more
frequent, and peeps of distant mountains gave variety to the hills and
dales of a pastoral land.

Wonderful legends of lions are told of all this district. As many as
sixteen are said to have been seen together at one time in one valley,
through which we now drove so carelessly. The scenery is too peaceful to
suggest the thought of wild beasts, and it is easier to believe in lions
amongst the rocks of El Kantara, or the mountains of the Atlas and the
Aures, than in this sylvan spot.

Teboursouk, the goal of the day’s journey, appeared at last on the brow
of the hill, its walls and minarets rising from a silvery sea of olives,
the witchery of the sinking sun increasing the effect of height and
distance, and throwing a veil of light over the few modern houses on the
outskirts.

Notwithstanding the noise and clatter caused by our arrival, the inn,
with its imposing name of Hôtel International, seemed fast asleep; but
at last the shouts of the travellers by diligence produced an Arab
servant. Happy-go-lucky is the only way to describe the place. The
Italians who kept it were fettered by no ordinary ideas of the
proprieties. Dogs and babies, food, empty plates, pans and brushes,
decorated the staircase and upper hall; pretty girls trotted about in an
artless _négligé_ of chemise and petticoat, with their hair down and
their feet bare, until the second _déjeuner_, when they appeared in
flowery cotton wrappers, with their hair elaborately dressed. It was not
till dinner-time that they donned a full toilette, and enjoyed little
flirtations with the officers. They made a cheerful din, with loud
shouting and much laughter, but the Arab servant did all the work,
smiling and willing as usual. The rooms were fair, and the food,
considering all things, quite tolerable, though when hot water was asked
for, it made its appearance in a small, rather dirty, saucepan.

Another of the peculiarities of Teboursouk was that it contained no
carriages, so that we were bound either to retain our rattling,
boneshaking conveyance at a fee of twenty francs a day, or else pay the
penalty by making the return journey in the diligence, a still sorrier
vehicle, always crowded to suffocation with colonists and Arabs with
their bundles, who, not content with over-filling the seats, perched
themselves on the top of the baggage on the roof.

Though Teboursouk looks its best from a distance, it is still an
attractive country town, with few pretensions and almost unspoilt. Two
mosques, one with many domes, and both with good square minarets, stand
in its narrow, winding streets. There are only a few tiny shops—hardly
enough to call a bazaar, but the whole effect is picturesque. The
children are particularly pretty and charming, playing games gaily in
every nook and corner. Small girls dance about with still smaller
children, riding in a sort of pick-a-back fashion, with legs round the
bearer’s waist instead of their shoulders. The colour adds to the
effect; in no other village have we seen such perfect shades, or such
variety of red, yellow, and orange. Many of the boys were in pale blue,
and the women were as gay as the children. A dancing negro, a terrible
monster in a mask, dressed in a shirt and kilt of skins, with animals’
tails and foxes’ brushes, and charms dangling from his girdle, drew all
the small folk after him like the Pied Piper, as he danced, sang, and
played his odd home-made guitar on his way through the town. His
head-dress was a marvel in itself—a sort of fool’s cap of red and gold
embroidery, set with coins and shells, and with another fine brush
hanging down like a feather.

Columns and fragments of the Roman city Thibursicum Bure are built into
the walls, and near the old fountain is an inscription recording its
name. In the walls are also to be seen the remains of a triumphal arch.
There is a Byzantine fort formed for the most part of ruins. Several
bishops of this See are mentioned by Saint Augustine, and it is also
known as the place of martyrdom of a Christian called Felix, in the
reign of Diocletian.

Early morning saw us once more on the road, or rather the rough
cart-track, to Dougga. The air was deliciously fresh and pure, and laden
with the fragrance of the wild flowers that covered the sward. The
horses did not like their work, and jibbed at the constant hills.
Progress, therefore, was slow, as they only behaved properly on the down
grades. A few Arab boys, who had invited themselves to places on the box
and roof, jumped down and pushed and shouted lustily, but the last hill
was too steep, so we climbed it on foot. However, the driver insisted on
the poor horses going to their orthodox stopping-place half-way up, and
rewarded them by fetching us in the evening with a team of three,
harnessed abreast.

               [Illustration: TEMPLE OF CELESTIS, DOUGGA]

A primitive Arab village covers part of the site of the ancient Thugga.
This is the simplest form of the name, but an inscription near the
temple gives the following elaborate title, much too ponderous for daily
use: “Respublica Coloniæ Liciniæ Septimiæ Aureliæ, Alexandrinæ
Thuggensium.” The name was probably derived from the Berber, and means
green grass. The city stands on a green hill, olive groves surround the
ruins, and the valley of the Oued Khaled, a tributary of the Medjerda,
is rich with green also.

Undoubtedly the most beautiful of all the ruins here is the great temple
of Celestis, sometimes called the Capitol, which stands on the top of
the hill, commanding a wide outlook, a really exquisite view of wood,
valley, and mountains. The fine lines and proportions of this building,
the situation, and even the warm, mellow tones of the stone, bring
memories of Athens.

Time and weather have worn away the stone and added tender greys to the
colouring, but have not greatly injured the grace of the fluted columns,
the delicate work on the Corinthian capitals, or the richness of the
mouldings. The sculpture on the pediment, however, has suffered much,
giving the opportunity for many discussions as to whether it represents
a lion, the rape of Ganymede, or the eagle of Jupiter. Wings are
certainly visible, but the rest is a blur. The fine door of the _cella_
is still perfect, and consists of three huge stones bearing an
inscription; there is another on the portico, which states that the
temple was built by two brothers at their own expense:—

                   L. MARCVS · SIMPLEX · ET · L · MAR
                CIVS · SIMPLEX · REGILLIANVS · S. P. F.

It was dedicated to Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva.

At the present time workmen are busy rebuilding the walls of the
_cella_—a work which seems a sad waste of time and energy. The existing
masonry, of a later date than the rest of the temple, possibly
Byzantine, is of a style much used in North Africa, consisting of
courses of stone laid horizontally, with upright bars of stone at
intervals of about four feet, the square interstices filled with odds
and ends of stone, like “the long and short bond” found in Roman and
Saxon work in Britain. Bruce thought this “one of the most beautiful
ruins of a temple in white marble in the world.” Playfair considers it
as built of nothing less than Lumachella Antica, one of the lost
Numidian marbles, now worth its weight in gold.

The theatre is also a gem, and though there is now no performance, it is
still a joy to sit in the deep, cool shade on the almost perfect marble
seats, and look across the stage and the broken columns to the sunny
landscape beyond. It is finer in every way than the theatre at Timgad,
and almost as large as the well-known theatre of Taormina.

At the entrance to the olive groves stands a triumphal arch of the
decadent period, called _Bab el_ _Roumi_, or Gate of the Christian.
There are also the remains of the temple of Saturn, baths, an aqueduct,
seven cisterns like those at Carthage, a circus, a fortress, monuments,
and many other ruins too numerous to mention. Last, and perhaps most
important of all, because it dates from the Phœnician times, is the
great Mausoleum, wrecked by the Arabs employed by Sir Thomas Reade to
remove the celebrated bilingual stone now in the British Museum.

Though the men and boys spent the day in a circle round us to watch and
to criticise, thoroughly absorbed in the sketch, yet they had charming
manners, dignified and smiling faces, and not even the smallest boy
dared to be troublesome—a great contrast to many in Algeria, who have
picked up the bad ways of the modern town-urchins. The same may be said
of Teboursouk.

At Medjez el Bab another display of fine courtesy was found in a most
unlikely quarter. The hotel was said to be quite impossibly dirty, so we
were advised to dine and wait for the late train to Tunis at a cabaret
near the station. The place was a shanty, full of men drinking and
smoking, _colons_ and railway employés. Every one took our appearance as
a matter of course, bowed politely, and did their utmost to make us feel
at home, the smokers retiring outside. Dinner was served for us at a
table apart, quite nicely laid and cooked. There was good soup, chicken,
wine and dessert, all for a ridiculously small sum. After dinner some of
the men wished to talk, asked many questions about home and foreign
affairs, and discussed the latest news of the war in the East. The
wistful little woman who did the cooking could hardly make enough of us,
and when the train arrived at last, no one would say good-bye, but only
“Come again.”



                               CHAPTER IX
                                 TUNIS


Through darkness broken by hardly a gleam of light, and silence stirred
by no sound but the throbbing of an overworked engine, in much weariness
and at night, Tunis is reached at last with a suddenness which almost
startles the traveller. The hours that passed so quickly in the morning,
grow in length with the day, and after sundown every minute counts, and
the hours in the dimly lighted carriages seem interminable; for travel
in this part of North Africa is tedious and uncomfortable to a degree
only known in Spain and perhaps sometimes in Italy.

Consequently the first impression of Tunis as one enters it by train is
neither artistic nor Oriental, but rather a mingling of bustle and glare
with much noise, followed by a rattling drive over paved streets, and
the comforting assurance of rest. The arrival by sea has much the same
disadvantages, for the steamer has a way of getting in after nightfall,
so that the new-comer drives from the quay, along brightly lighted
streets, side by side with an electric tram. This may be a blessing in
disguise, as the darkness hides the sordid details, and makes it
possible, with some luck in the choice of a room, to find that a glance
out of window next morning reveals the old Moorish city in the first
blush of the morning light.

Tunis is still the “white city”—still also, in more senses than one, the
“odoriferous bride” of the Arab writers. The other name of El Hadhera,
the green, hardly seems so suitable from this point, for at an early
hour the whiteness is more noticeable. The sunlight falls on the houses
at an angle that suggests pre-arrangement, a scheme without a shadow.
This gives a look of unreality, a curious lack of substance. If the
actual lines were finer the effect would be that of a fairy city built
of pure light, but as it is now, a later moment is more beautiful, when
the shadows creep across the white walls and give value to the graceful
forms of the minarets.

All this pearly whiteness is full of colour, though in the ordinary
sense of the word there is little or none. What there is, however, is
green, as becomes a Moslem stronghold. Far below, as it seems looking
down from the roof, lies a garden full of orange trees and one feathery
palm. This hardly comes into the picture, but a few other trees do, and
one or two lonely palms, and the colour of the foliage is repeated in
the wondrous green of some of the domes. The minarets and two or three
of the mosques have pointed roofs of green tiles, and green also
predominates in the tiles used for decoration; so that even in the heart
of the city there is more than a mere suggestion of green.

                         [Illustration: TUNIS]

The walls and roofs rise terrace-like one above the other to the Casbah,
which, as usual, is built on the highest point—blank walls mostly, with
few windows (often mere holes), though occasionally a balcony with a
tiled roof, shading a carved window-frame inlaid with bright tiles,
gives a hint of taste or wealth. All these straight lines and plain
surfaces are redeemed from monotony by the curves of domes and the
height and variety of form shown in the minarets. The small fluted domes
of the great mosque are dazzlingly white; the minaret is square, with
delicate Moorish tracery in a yellowish stone; the upper story of marble
is set with coloured tiles, and with an open gallery of horseshoe
arches.

The minarets of Sidi Ben Ziad and Sidi Ben Arous are slender, octagonal
towers of the same warm-hued stone, surmounted by turrets with jutting
balconies quaintly roofed with green tiles, from which the muezzin sings
the call to prayer. Much older, but not so imposing, is the square
minaret of the mosque of the Casbah, said to date from A.D. 1232. Such
is Tunis, a compact mass of white buildings, with no open spaces and no
streets visible.

So old, and yet with such a continuous history, that although founded
before either Utica or Carthage, it is still known by its original name.
This name of Tunis is in Punic characters Tanaïs, and is identical with
the name of the Persian Venus. Probably the city was called after her,
as other towns in Tunisia bore the names of deities. In those days
Astarte, or Ashtaroth, combined the attributes and duties of Venus,
Minerva, Juno, and Ceres, and was not only the goddess of beauty, the
mother of love and queen of joy, but also the protectress of chastity,
of war and of arms, and the patroness of corn and of husbandry. Such a
divinity might well be invoked to take charge of a city, and in this
case she evidently succeeded.

The city shared in the prosperity and also the evil days of Carthage and
Utica, and, as a Roman province, endured all the changes in the life of
Rome down to the fall of the Empire in Rome and Constantinople.

When the Vandals were cast out of Europe in A.D. 430, they devastated
the north coast of Africa till they in their turn were driven by the
Greeks beyond the mountains of the Atlas. Next, the Arab invaders swept
over the land like a torrent, and in A.D. 644-648 took possession of
Tunisia, which was thenceforward governed by Emirs appointed by the
Khalifs.

The later history of Tunis, like that of Algiers, tells of a period of
calm and culture, followed, after the expulsion of the Moors from Spain
under the Christian kings, by a long chronicle of fighting and piracy;
for thus these fugitive Moors vented their rage and avenged their wrongs
on all seafaring people, merely because they were Christians. Slavery
was carried on to the same terrible extent, for in 1535 no fewer than
20,000 Christian slaves escaped from the Casbah to open the city gates
to Charles V.

Amongst other noted captives St. Vincent de Paul spent two years here in
slavery, and in consequence devoted his after life to helping prisoners
and galley slaves. An old house still exists with a fine courtyard,
called even now the house of the Christian, which is said to have been
built by a slave, who was killed by his owner as soon as the work was
complete. The mosque of Sidi Mahrez, with its many domes, is supposed to
have been the design of a French architect captured by the Corsairs.

A great part of the old walls and many of the gates still remain, and
though modern buildings are closing round and gradually replacing the
Moorish dwellings in the outlying quarters of Bab Djazira and Bab
Souika, yet, within the magic circle, Oriental style, manners, and
customs hold their own.

This is one of the many ways in which the French have gained experience
in Algeria and profited by it in Tunisia. The old cities are left
intact, instead of being destroyed to make way for new boulevards, and
the French quarter, its public buildings, theatre, shops and
restaurants, grow up outside the walls. The two races dwell apart, but
both flourish together. Street names, lighting, and cleaning have been
introduced, and the old town itself is incredibly clean for an Eastern
city—cleaner by far than many cities of France and Italy. Though trams
encircle the city and run through the suburbs, all proposals to
disfigure the central quarter, the Medina, have met with a stern
refusal. To walk through its gates is to step into another world—a world
as full of surprises and romance as it is of variety.

The old water-gate, the Porte de France, a simple horse-shoe arch, opens
into a great hive. There, in a little open space, a swarming crowd, busy
and noisy as bees, pushes towards the narrow streets which mount to the
bazaars. At first East and West mingle. Then, step by step, the
half-French, half-Levantine element gives place to the real East. “_Bara
Balek_” (“Take care”) is the continual cry; and one must be watchful, or
pay the penalty. It is true that wheeled traffic almost ceases, for the
few carts generally only succeed in blocking the way, and must take
hours to reach their destination. But strings of tiny donkeys, hardly
larger than dogs, do all the work, helped occasionally by camels, which
shove through the throng regardless of consequences. Then there are the
porters. At first it is startling to see wardrobes, beds, or huge cases
walking apparently on their own feet; but after a time the oddest loads
are taken as a matter of course, a part of the universal strangeness of
things. Yet it is wonderful to see these men in their characteristic
dress, with bare arms and legs, and scarlet kerchief by way of turban,
coolly walk off with a heavy weight that would take two men to lift at
home. If it is so easy to bear a burden on the back by means of a rope
passed round the forehead, why has not this simple method been adopted
in the West? Thus, slowly, and in stately fashion, with all due regard
for each other’s dignity, the crowd presses onwards to the heart of the
city, the great Souks.

                [Illustration: SOUK DES ÉTOFFES, TUNIS]

There are no such Souks in all the near East. In Constantinople the men
have discarded their turbans and flowing robes, and the vaulted halls
though fine in form are cold and poor in colour. The bazaars of Cairo
are quaintly informal, but lack architectural style, though the people
are picturesque enough. In Damascus the buildings are modern, and look
outside like railway stations with arched roofs, though within is seen
the true and perfect life of the East, so unspoiled that the passing
stranger feels his European clothes a positive eyesore, and knows that
it is barely possible that the picture will be marred for him by any
other intruder. Here the long vaulted halls, lighted only by rays of
sunshine falling through square holes in the roof, are as fine as in
Constantinople, and, in addition, are full of life and colour. The crowd
is even more picturesque than in Damascus,—though here, alas! it is
twice as difficult to dodge European figures,—whilst Cairo itself cannot
show more quaint corners.

Each of the trades has its own Souk, and each Souk its peculiar
character. Some only contain goods for sale, but most of them are
workshops as well—a far more interesting arrangement. Bewildering, yet
enchanting—a pageant of pure colour, where dusky twilight holds its
restful sway, harmonising the tints, veiling the forms, filling the dark
recesses with mystery.

Hour after hour, day after day, may be spent threading the mazes,
watching and trying to decipher the open book that seems so full of
ideas, some half-remembered, others wholly new, but all subtle and
elusive, so different to our usual life. Bible stories mix themselves
hopelessly with the _Arabian Nights_, and the whirl of thought is as
rapid as the change of colour.

The first day it seems impossible to think of finding one’s way alone
through this intricate network, but gradually the main lines become
clear, and then it is easy enough to wander in and out at will, with the
certainty that confusion, or even total loss of bearings, means nothing
worse than another turn or two, and then the sight of some well-known
landmark.

Such a landmark is the Souk des Etoffes, very formal, absolutely
straight, but decidedly the most distinguished of all. A low archway of
horse-shoe form opens into a hall with three aisles, of which the centre
forms the actual street, and the two others the side walks. Short and
sturdy pillars, roughly but effectively painted in pure scarlet and
green, support the arched roof. Rows of square cells on either side,
dark yet glowing with colour, are packed with piles of silk and
embroideries of every tone and texture, overflowing the narrow space
within. They are hung on the walls and from the pillars in well-arranged
disorder. Persian and Kairouan carpets deck the walls with rich, soft
hues, old brass lamps from the mosques, of fine damascene work, stand
side by side with inlaid furniture, odd-shaped mother-of-pearl caskets,
weapons, and other treasures, all placed by a master hand so as to tempt
customers to the utmost. In each tiny shop the owner sits dreaming over
a cigarette, or entertains a friend or possible purchaser with coffee.
In one corner, bright with coloured tiles, a man whose whole equipment
appears to consist of a charcoal stove, a pan of water, a wee
coffee-pot, and some microscopic cups, does a thriving trade, and trots
up and down the Souk continually to supply this pressing need; for
without coffee nothing could be settled, nor any business done.

Watchful touts with keen eyes lie in wait for the unwary, whom they
inveigle into the shops, whilst in a high-handed fashion they order
about the real owner, who meekly obeys their orders. They pretend to
bargain, but really raise the prices, which are preposterous even for
the East, and of course pocket a large percentage themselves. However,
they are very quick, and never forget a face, so that it is only the
casual visitor who suffers. After a day or two one is free of the
bazaar, and begins to have many kindly acquaintances. Bargaining is the
game of the place, and a most amusing game it is to play. It demands
infinite patience, much diplomacy, some instinct for fun, and, above
all, either a real or a well-feigned indifference. The shopkeeper,
impassive and smiling, has no hesitation in announcing that he will be
ruined and his throat cut if he sells at such low prices. He is sure
that anyone so exceedingly tall must be also extremely rich, or he tells
you that your face speaks of riches. This was said to a very thin woman.
But if the would-be customer answers in the same strain, the prices will
descend by leaps and bounds, and on the conclusion of the bargain the
ruined man implores his victims to come again to-morrow: “For, see, I
have given it to you because I like you; you are my friend.” In
out-of-the-way shops a few words of Arabic are a great help, as the
owner often says, “_Makansch Francees_,” which means, “No French here.”
The language is a dialect, and few of the familiar Egyptian phrases are
of any use. Even to be able to count in Arabic is something, as the
officious person who usually appears to translate invariably doubles the
price. But though the Arabs often talk excellent French it is a terrible
drawback neither to understand nor to talk Arabic easily.

The Arabs declare that under the old régime business in the Souks was
better regulated, and every trade had its own Sheikh, who ruled it with
a rod of iron. He fixed the prices, and woe to the man who charged less
or more, for when convicted the rod descended, and he was beaten then
and there. The value of fruit, meat, and vegetables, etc., was announced
by a crier at night, and next day each shop was bound to obey the order.
This sounds somewhat tyrannical, but they liked it.

                 [Illustration: SOUK EL ATTARIN, TUNIS]

The Souk el Attarin, or scent bazaar, is the aristocratic quarter, and
the owners of these square cupboards, with huge painted shutters, are,
it is said, nobles, the descendants of the Corsair chiefs, and often
very rich; but, as good Moslems, they do not care to meet in each
other’s houses, for that would upset their harems. Clubs do not exist,
but in the bazaars all the news is to be heard and social life is to be
found. So they spend their days sitting calm and imperturbable each in
his niche, to which they mount with the assistance of a cord suspended
from the ceiling. Enormous candles, gilded and fantastically coloured,
hang like a curtain round them. In the mysterious recesses are jars and
bottles, containing the priceless attar of roses, essence of jasmine,
geranium, or amber, and countless other sweet scents. The whole bazaar
is full of perfume, making it a pleasant place to tarry in. On the
ground are baskets and sacks filled with dried leaves, or piled with
green powder, both preparations of henna. Outside each shop stands a
chair or two, on which grave elders rest and talk. Younger men stroll
about, true types of Moors, their handsome, smooth faces equally calm.
They are great dandies, and wear robes of soft cloth and silk of most
delicate tints. On festivals they place a flower coquettishly between
their turbans and their ears, which gives a curious touch of the
feminine to their appearance. Some also carry a rose or carnation in
their hands “to live up to” in true æsthetic style.

No one bothers about business: they are too dignified for that. Only
once did anyone ask us to buy, and when we said “another day,” we were
adopted as friends, to be greeted placidly and talked to occasionally,
and we found ourselves remembered and on the same footing another year.

The Souk el Blagdia, or the shoe bazaar, is quite different. The street
is narrow, there are no gay pillars, the roof is of wood, the shops are
a trifle larger, and hold one or two men who are ceaselessly at work.
They make the soft yellow and red slippers which the Arabs wear, and
keep on so easily, though they are such a failure when Europeans try
them. Here life is earnest enough, and so it is in the bazaar of the
tailors, where the shops are larger, and divided one from another by the
usual green and red columns. In each shop eight or ten men and boys,
many of them Jews, in the distinctive dark blue turban, squat on the
floor, sewing busily. They stitch, embroider, and decorate most
elaborate outfits, cloaks of every colour in and out of the rainbow, and
of the most perfect shades. You can see them at work upon gandourahs of
deep red silk, embroidered in green, and tiny jackets for boys, of pale
yellow, orange, and red, whilst the finished garments hang as draperies
behind their heads, and the sun peeps through the rough splintered
boards of the roof and sends shafts of light that flicker and change as
they touch the moving crowds. The jewellers dwell in a narrow passage,
and hardly display their goods at all; some silver jewels, mostly hands
of Fathma, and a pair of scales, being perhaps all that is shown, but a
big safe gives promise of hidden treasures. Near by is the old
slave-market, a picturesque hall, dark and lonely, with the usual gay
pillars and but few quiet shops.

The Souk des Femmes, like many others, is a white tunnel lined with
shops. It is very crowded in the early morning, and is almost the only
place where many women are seen together. Some sit on the ground and
sell their own handiwork, others are busy bargaining for veils and
embroideries. All are of the poorer class and heavily veiled, if two
strips of black crépon covering the face like a mould, with half an inch
gap between them for the eyes, can be called a veil. It is quite
hideous, and, as the rest of the dress is white, makes them look like
negresses.

                  [Illustration: SOUK EL TROUK, TUNIS]

One bazaar is full of terrible compounds of dates and figs, dried fruit
and grain. Another small street is given up to the sieve-makers, who
weave their webs at looms which look like strange musical instruments.
In many places baskets and mats are made. Silk weaving and the making of
belts and scarves are other flourishing industries, and to stand and
watch the long, slim fingers moving quickly at the old-world looms is a
sight that one never tires of watching. Hands and feet come into play
together at the turners and the cabinet-makers in a long street of many
arches. Deft fingers and delicate handling are seen also at the
copper-workers. In fact, at every turn there is something strange or
beautiful, and at the least entirely different to anything we do, or see
at home. The harness-makers rival the tailors in the brilliance of their
goods. Gorgeous saddles there are, with red and gold and silver
decorations, marvellous saddle-bags also, gay with stripes and tassels.
They sell huge hats, at least a yard in diameter, with narrow crowns a
foot high, ornamented with quaintly-cut leather and bright balls of
wool. They make cushions and odd-shaped pouches and money-bags, and
leather amulets to carry the charms without which no one can live, and
round mirrors for the women. Their bazaar is also noted for the tomb of
a Marabout, a gaudily painted sarcophagus which almost blocks up the
narrow gangway.

After this the Souk where the lawyers sit waiting for business, and now
and then writing a few letters which earnest men dictate to them, seems
tame, and the libraries are quiet too; but another turn lands you
amongst truly magnificent boxes painted and inlaid.

So the show goes on, at once grave and gay, from year’s end to year’s
end, always the same, as it has always been, and so may it long
continue.

All the more important Souks have thick roofs, and consequently keep
cool in the hottest weather, so that even when the thermometer stands at
100° in the shade, the bazaars seem quite fresh, almost chilly at first,
as one steps into the dark out of the sunshine.

Some of the small bazaars, however, in the poorer quarters are only
protected by shutters, blinds, awnings, rags, or anything that will keep
the sun away. How strange this sounds to us! Such a street is the Souk
el Belat, a name which is said to mean “a paved street”—hardly a
distinctive title in a town where all the streets are paved. The shops
are queer little places, some full of strange, unknown commodities, and
others full of food of various sorts, which the owners have to protect
by flicking it with fans or whisks, as the flies are so troublesome. The
beauty of this street lies in its windows, which are screened with
ornamental wrought ironwork.

                  [Illustration: SOUK EL BELAT, TUNIS]

Another constant amusement is to watch the informal sales by auction.
Men walk up and down laden with various goods and chattels,
embroideries, or lengths of silk, shouting a price as they move along.
The bystanders occasionally make a bid, or nod, and in time a bargain is
made. Furniture and carpets are sold in an open space at the end of the
Souk of the tailors, just under the windows of the Bey’s Palace. The
auctioneer usually sits on the object, if it is big enough, and the
bidding goes on in leisurely fashion, but with a deafening noise, for
hours together. It is a grand place for seeing life, for crowds always
collect, especially on the days when the Bey comes to Tunis, and they
stand and watch him as he sits in a gilt chair near a window, resting
after his morning’s work. He has a decided advantage over his subjects,
as they cannot see him properly, whereas he has a series of
peeping-holes in all his principal rooms, and can see and hear all that
goes on in the Souk, without any one guessing at his presence.

A gem of a mosque, that of Sidi Ben Ziad, stands in this street,
catching the sunlight on the characteristic black and white marble
façade, on the splendid green tiles of the roof, and on the most
beautiful minaret in Tunis. When the call to prayer is heard at mid-day
echoing from the gallery, the listening crowd of Arabs set their watches
and disappear, some to prayers, others to dinner, and the noise and
bustle is succeeded by the silent emptiness of a buried city.

In all Tunisia, except at Kairouan, it is a forbidden pleasure to visit
the interior of the mosques. Even furtive peeps are guarded against, by
large green screens in all the open doorways. This is especially
disappointing at the great feasts, though the scene in the bazaars ought
to be compensation enough.

On the 26th of May, the birthday of the Prophet, the Bey goes in state
to the great Mosque, a pilgrimage that he only makes twice in the year.
It is situated in the heart of the Souks: doors open into the court from
every side—one with a flight of steps, a terrace and colonnade; another,
in the Rue des Libraires, with a beautiful porch and green-tiled roof;
the rest with no architectural interest. It is called Djama el Zitouna,
the Mosque of the Olives, and many of its pillars are spoils from
Carthage.

In honour of the occasion, or of the Bey, the Souks are decked with
carpets and wonderful embroideries; every space on the walls is covered
till the whole is aglow with colour. The way to the mosque is packed
with the Faithful in gala dress—men and boys alike in exquisite tints;
for the Tunisians have an innate sense of colour, and blend and combine
hues that would be unthinkable elsewhere, although the result in their
hands is charming. The Arabs say that it is the sunshine that makes the
harmony, and that that is the reason why imitations of Moorish
decoration look so garish under our cold grey skies. On such a day the
flowers behind the ear add a touch of perfection to the radiance on
every face. Each shop in the street of the tailors looks like a
collector’s cabinet of idols, for the master sits cross-legged in the
centre, motionless as an image of Buddha, with his men round him. When
the Bey has passed, the shops are closed and the festivities commence.
As night falls the illuminations begin. All the minarets are outlined in
light, and the square in front of the Palace is a fairyland of
cherry-coloured Chinese lanterns. It is almost impossible to move, and
the gendarmes are already closing the entrances to the Souks, but way is
promptly made for such important people as ourselves, and we walk down
the familiar street with our proud guide and find it all new and
strange.

The details are extraordinary, a true picture of the East, where horrors
in the shape of European novelties are set side by side with treasures
of Oriental art. Here no sort of contrivance for giving light has been
despised. Queer old lanterns and sconces alternate with common lamps,
flambeaux, old lustres, and glittering glass chandeliers. It is all
incongruous—absolutely wrong from a properly artistic point of view, but
that does not matter in the least. Light and an air of festivity are
what is wanted, and, let purists say what they will, the effect, though
amusing, is as delightful as it is unusual, making the colour of the gay
crowd if possible more entrancing than in the morning. From the
dignified shelter of one of the biggest shops we sit and watch the
moving throng, and prepare to receive the Bey. Presently the procession
appears, and adds a last touch of incongruity by its want of order.
Soldiers and guards in a travesty of European uniforms lead the way.
Some look like old watchmen, as they stoop and carry lanterns dating
from the days of Dogberry. The Bey is also in uniform, with stars and
orders, and jewels in his fez, and is followed by his chief officers.
Even for this occasion they abjure native dress, and so the very least
of all his subjects appears with more dignity than himself. The great
man approaches smiling, salutes the owner of our shop, condescends to
enter, drink a cup of coffee, and talk a little, then passes through the
rooms, and every one rises and bows, whilst he with many salutes goes
his way to the mosque. He never fails to pay a yearly visit of ceremony
to this old dealer, or to traverse all the main bazaars, and he
sometimes calls on one or two other merchants. After the service is
over, fireworks wind up the proceedings. Thus do the Tunisians celebrate
the birthday of Mohammed, whom they believe to have been so unlike and
so superior to other men; because, as the legend says, all children are
born with a black spot in their hearts, and when God chose His prophet,
an angel opened his heart and took the natural stain out of it, so that
he alone of all mankind had no taint of original sin.

                [Illustration: TUNIS FROM THE BELVEDERE]



                               CHAPTER X
                             LIFE IN TUNIS


Even in the quiet and silent streets of Tunis, where every footstep
echoes between the high white walls, the hum of the distant hive can
still be heard. The streets even of the rich quarter are never straight,
but meander in and out, and are withal so narrow as to fit to a nicety
the lumbering old carriages that convey their stately owners about the
city. No two vehicles can ever attempt to pass each other, but have to
manœuvre down side alleys. Now and then the red blinds are tightly
closed, which means that the ladies of some harem are taking an airing.
But this is rare, for the poor things have a very monotonous life in
Tunis, are never allowed to walk, do not seem, as at Algiers, to picnic
in the cemeteries, and seldom even drive.

Poor women are little seen in the streets, and those of their rich
sisters who have no pretensions to rank are only permitted to walk about
occasionally, and then do so under the surveillance of servants, and
with such heavy silk veils that they must be almost smothered. These
so-called veils are of black silk, with decorative borders and fringed
ends of many colours. The width is considerable, and the length
sufficient to cover the head and fall nearly to the ground on either
side. Exactly in the centre a small square of thinner material is let
in, but the wearer, in order to breathe and see the ground at her feet,
lifts the lower border a few inches with both hands, and then toddles
along in her high-heeled slippers. Over the black veil comes the white
haïck completely covering the whole figure.

               [Illustration: A STREET OF ARCHES, TUNIS]

These veiled women, the closed carriages, the elaborate wooden or
wrought-iron screens that mask the windows, and the air of reserve about
the houses, all hint at a strange life within. The very doors open in
such a way as to reveal nothing of the inner court, and the gay flowers
in the windows alone show visible signs of a woman’s care. The closed
doors are the symbol of secrecy as impenetrable as the women’s veils.
When, as occasionally happens, some story of the life of the harem is
allowed to leak out, the tale is always of terror, cruelty, and
persecution. Not that a visit to a harem is at all tragic—quite the
reverse; for though it is no new thing to be amused, it is rather
unusual to find oneself so amusing, to see that no detail escapes
criticism, to hear endless comments, and understand nothing but the
smiles, the gestures, and the stroking of soft fingers. It is all
guesswork from the moment that the beautiful being, who acts as Cavass
to the Consulate, hands over his charges to a smiling woman, with a
great horn on her head, covered by a haïck, the dress of a Jewess, who
is to act as escort. With becks and nods and many smiles, for she knew
only two words of French, she dived down street after street and along
narrow passages, which we could never find again, till at last she stood
at a door and knocked. Almost noiselessly it opened, and we found
ourselves exchanging solemn greetings with our host, who sat on a divan
in the entrance. Having welcomed us, he allowed our guide to lead us
into the covered court filled with a gay throng. Such a hubbub! Music
and singing and long drawn-out trilling cries of joy, for this was a
party after a wedding. A group of women with musical instruments sat on
a mattress in one corner, and sang and played at intervals, while the
rest of the company formed a circle on chairs and divans. As soon as we
entered every one crowded round us, and we were stroked and patted,
given coffee and chairs, before the serious business of examining all
our possessions began. Our first breach of etiquette was that we forgot
to unveil. Our hostesses frowned and pointed till the objectionable bit
of net was removed. Hats were of no consequence, as head-dresses were
worn, handsome kerchiefs of all colours with fringes, and many jewels on
the forehead. The dress consisted of sleeveless embroidered coats over
lace jackets or ordinary low bodices, full trousers of rich brocades and
satins, or, in the case of visitors, of white cotton with stripes of
insertion and ribbon down the front, white stockings and smart shoes.
Beneath all this finery their necks and arms were covered by ugly
striped vests, so, decidedly, the inherent good taste of their lords is
not shared by the ladies of the harem. They were all short and generally
stout, handsome in a rather heavy way, with thick, painted eyebrows,
darkened eyelashes, and henna-stained hands. They peered into our faces
to try and discover paint and powder, took off our gloves to see our
hands, admired some real old lace, and, having got over their first
fear, fell absolutely in love with a fur stole with little tails and
claws. Our simple gold chains and watches and our lack of other
ornaments evidently surprised them, as they were adorned with golden
cables and plaques of gold and brilliant blue enamel. It was most
embarrassing to talk by signs, and our few words of Arabic were soon
exhausted. All their treasures were displayed: the mother-of-pearl
coffers, the great divans, the French bedsteads hidden in alcoves. On
one divan, two pretty imps of children were lying with their faces
buried in the cushions. The women explained that they were in terror at
our great height; they had never seen such monsters. By force of
contrast our slender, dark figures may have appeared gigantic, but what
would they have thought of some of our six-foot friends? Before we left
we had the pleasure of watching some of them dress to go away. Some
changed their socks into commoner ones for the street, then the black
veils went on, and after that, with deft grace and subtle twist, the
haïcks were arranged. Then they were ready to face anyone, even their
host in exile at his own front door.

There was nothing remarkable about the house, but the interior of many
of the old buildings is very fine. The rooms, opening out of the usual
courts, have carved ceilings and delicate stucco work, after the fashion
of the Alhambra. The effect is generally spoilt by European hangings,
carpets and furniture of the worst period of the nineteenth century.

The Bey has some beautiful rooms in his town palace of Dar el Bey, where
fine old work is, with the same want of knowledge, marred by the
addition of gilt clocks, glass chandeliers, and poor carpets, so that it
is a relief to escape to the roof and look out over the city, and try to
trace the whereabouts of streets and bazaars hidden in the mass of
white.

The Bardo, or show palace, in the country suffers even more from the
same want of artistic feeling. Built mostly of marble, an imposing
staircase, flanked by lions couchant, four on each side, leads to an
open loggia and a fine court with horse-shoe arches, slender columns,
and the usual fountain. Other halls and courts, beautiful in Moorish
style, have the exquisite lace-like stucco that is almost a lost art
nowadays, and wonderful ceilings; but each hall contains gilt chairs,
the inevitable clocks, glass chandeliers, terrible portraits, even cheap
lace curtains and Brussels carpets with glaring patterns, for which
there is no possible excuse, as the bazaars are full of splendid native
carpets and hangings of harmonious colourings and suitable designs.
However, the guardians are prouder of the enormities in the way of
portraits than they are of the place itself.

In the rich quarter the only other buildings of note are the many white
domes of the Marabouts, or tombs of the Saints, and the yet more
attractive green domes that cover the burying-places of the Beys. These
can only be admired from the outside, as they share the sacred character
of the mosques. Green tiles also appear as roofs for fountains, and are
sometimes supported by antique columns. Numbers of these columns may be
found all over the city embedded in the walls and covered with
whitewash.

The Hara, the old Jewish quarter, no longer holds the enormous
population. The old rules are things of the past, the gates are no
longer closed at night, so the overflow fills the surrounding streets
and gives its own indescribable touch to the whole district. The old men
still wear the dark turbans and blue or grey clothes, but the younger
imitate the Moors if poor, and if rich the Europeans. Driving is now a
favourite amusement, possibly because formerly those who possessed
donkeys might only ride them outside the city walls, and horses were
entirely forbidden.

Now every peculiarity of Eastern life seems intensified if not doubled.
Twice as many people as in the Arab quarter crowd into still narrower
streets. Noise and confusion never ceases. There are certainly fewer
shops, but the dirt is more than double, and as for the smells, the
variety is greater and twice as strong. Even the name of the main
street, Souk el Hout, or “Fried Fish Street,” suggests this.

      [Illustration: THE ZAOUÏA OF THE RUE TOURBET EL BEY, TUNIS]

Women and children abound, so do beautiful faces. This is difficult to
realise, till the first shock caused by seeing so many unwieldy forms
has been got over. All the married women, however young, are moving
mountains of fat. It is considered their greatest adornment, and they
are systematically fed on sweets and fattening foods all day long till
the requisite result is attained. No one ever seems to fail in the
effort!

Before the process begins the girls are lovely and graceful, and their
method of winding a wide piece of striped material round them by way of
a petticoat shows their slender frames to great advantage, whilst the
gay kerchief on their heads contrasts brilliantly with their dark hair
and eyes.

The married women wear a quaint head-dress consisting of a gold
embroidered horn, kept in its place by twisted scarves of black and gold
silk. Out of doors the haïck is draped over it—a fashion said to be a
legacy of Crusading times. The rest of the costume is hideous, and
appears to be designed to accentuate the stoutness as much as possible.
A short and loose coat is worn over white trousers that are also short
but tight; and though the coat of silk in vivid colours is worn over a
lace shirt with full sleeves to the elbow, that does not help matters
much. Out of doors the all-enveloping haïck is useful as a cloak, but
indoors, in one of the big courtyards where countless families live and
work together, these prodigious figures can neither be overlooked nor
ignored.

Going from quarter to quarter sketching is like moving into a different
country. Amongst the Arabs and the Moors, whether rich or poor, the same
courtesy is always to be found. Although an Arab thinks it wrong to draw
any living thing, and believes that an artist in reproducing a man’s
image gains power over his soul, yet he will gravely permit his shop to
be used, and quietly prevent anyone getting in the way. Some Mohammedans
carry this curious belief still further, and imagine that in the next
world a painter will be surrounded not only by the souls he has thus
appropriated, but also by those he has created through the power of
imagination; but in any case, and whatever their creed (though here and
there a saint may frown), the men of Tunis are always considerate and
kindly. As for the boys, they are a marvel—almost too good. The magic
word “_Balek_,” or a wave of the brush, keeps them at a reasonable
distance, and there they will stand quietly watching for hours. The
regular street-urchin with his short striped coat and hood, his ready
basket, and his cry “_Portez, Portez_,” is just as virtuous as the
dainty little gentleman in silks and fine linen.

Only once did a difficulty occur, and that was in the Place Halfaouine,
where the story-tellers draw such crowds. As we walked down the very
untidy picturesque Souk (it is a poor district), an unearthly yell was
heard, as a huge gaunt man leaped up from a divan. His hair was matted,
and he was so filthy that lumps of dirt stood up on his bare legs, so
there could be no doubt that he was a saint. A small sketch-book or a
kodak excited his ire, and he dogged our footsteps, circling round us
like a bird of prey. When we stopped he sat down uttering strange shouts
or yells from time to time. If we looked at anything or moved the camera
the yells became more fierce and insistent. As he was obviously crazy
and an extremely powerful man, it would have been out of the question to
upset his holiness any further. So, as no story-telling was going on, we
turned back. He followed us up the bazaar, under a running fire of
half-jeering remarks from all the shops, which troubled him not at all.
His duty was done: he had succeeded in getting rid of another painter,
and when he reached his own divan he cast himself down with a final howl
of relief, and we were free once more.

                  [Illustration: SOUK EL HOUT, TUNIS]

One statement often made in the Arab quarter comes with rather a shock
to insular prejudice. Sometimes an Arab, but more often a Maltese,
Indian, or Levantine, in full national costume, says, “You Ingleez? I
Ingleez same as you,” and promptly relapses into French, as those are
the only words he knows of the language which he claims as his own. It
is usually quite true, nevertheless, because even now they gain security
and protection by naturalisation, and formerly it was their only
safeguard.

In the Jewish quarter sketching is by no means so easy as amongst the
Mohammedans. Not from any want of civility or friendliness, but from
over-interest and want of comprehension. Strangers are uncommon and
therefore exciting, a crowd soon gathers, and becomes so dense that the
victims are almost smothered. One day a big smiling fellow came to the
rescue and proceeded to keep order in his own way: first with a stick,
and, when that failed, with splashes of water from a copper pot, which
he replenished continually. Naturally there was a tremendous outcry; the
crowd beat a hasty retreat, only to re-form immediately. It took two men
all their time, with much assistance from gendarmes, to enable us to get
that sketch finished, whereas in the Souks one small boy was ample
protection. Another quarter is called “Little Malta,” and the curious
arrangement in black silk that the women wear, half-hood, half-veil, is
a picturesque addition to the many national costumes seen in Tunis.

The Italians have also their own quarter, which might be a fragment torn
from Naples or Palermo, so identical are the manners and mode of life.
Even the macaroni hanging out to dry is not forgotten. They greatly
outnumber the French, and have been a source of considerable trouble, as
Tunis was the refuge of fugitive criminals from Italy and, indeed, all
parts of the Mediterranean. Although their advent is now forbidden by
law, and murderers are calmly returned to their own countries, yet there
are still enough desperate characters left to make things difficult for
the authorities, who would like to keep up a pose of virtue on behalf of
all Europeans. In sober truth, however, most of the frays and robberies
are the work of the mixed low-class population.

               [Illustration: RUE TOURBET EL BEY, TUNIS]

In Mohammedan Tunis, outside the Medina, perhaps the most typical
quarter is that of Bab Souika, of which the Place Halfaouine, already
mentioned, is the centre. Full of cafés, it is the scene of wild
excitement during the month of Rhamadan, the great fast of the
Mohammedans, kept, it is said, because Adam wept for thirty days when he
was driven out of Paradise, before he obtained God’s favour and pardon.
The fast is so strict that from sunrise to sunset no food whatever is
taken, not so much as a cup of coffee, or even a drop of water on the
hottest day, and smoking is also forbidden. Then when the sunset gun is
fired, feasting and revelry begin, and are kept up all night. A certain
gaiety and good humour is visible at all times. There are as many cafés
as in the main street in Damascus, and in the afternoon they are always
full of men smoking, and playing games. A young story-teller with the
face of a monk holds his audience entranced by his dramatic talent. He
not only tells his tales, but lives them. He has an endless flow of
words, and never pauses except for effect. The listeners form a circle
round him, either standing or sitting on the ground, wholly absorbed in
the story. Snake charmers are his only rivals in the afternoon, but at
night dancing goes on in some of the cafés.

Silk weaving and pottery are the industries of the district: one long
bazaar is given up to weavers, and a row of queer, square shops to the
sale of pottery. Porous water-jars, beautiful in form—some plain, others
roughly decorated in dark lines, both wonderful for cooling water by
evaporation—cost only a few sous. Green pottery for ordinary household
use of a more durable kind, designed with a most unusual quaintness, is
also to be had.

Another open space, devoted to snake charmers and a sort of rag fair, is
to be found near Bab Djedid, the finest of the old gates. Old rubbish of
all sorts—brass and iron, rugs, rags, glass and pottery, mostly
broken—is spread out on the ground, and behind each little heap sits its
watchful owner. A few women, usually Bedawin or negresses, bring food
and grain, which they pile up on cloths, laid in the dust. Hither come
all the strangers—men from the country and the desert, and here again
the triumph of Tunis over all the cities of North Africa in the matter
of clothing, of all varieties of shape and colour, is made manifest.

Here is no dull uniformity, no monotony, as in other places. The
well-known white folds of the burnous may be admired once more, but
raiment of camel’s-hair, in tones of warm brown, quite alters the scheme
of colour. It is fashioned into a gandourah—a long, hooded coat or shirt
reaching to the knees. Sometimes, however, the gandourah is hoodless, of
a very dark brown tint and braided with white. Again, it is often
striped in natural colours, or with threads of red and blue, but
occasionally plain dark-blue is seen. Very often the wearers of brown
burnouses might be taken for Franciscans, but when blankets with stripes
and fringes are in question, no one but an Arab could arrange them with
such unconscious art.

                        [Illustration: RAG FAIR]

Long draperies and floating folds may outshine the Turkish dress of
embroidered coat and vest, gay girdle, and full, short trousers,
supplemented by a cloak, but it is equally popular. The same costume,
without the coat, in white or drab, is worn by pedlars and
fruit-sellers. Their legs are bare and their feet slippered; socks and
shoes are pure luxury. These fruit-sellers are a joy. They own tiny
donkeys, and lade them with huge open panniers of sacking, or queer
double twin-baskets, lined with green, and filled with oranges in
winter, and by the end of April with apricots or almonds. Fruit is both
plentiful, cheap, and varied. The province was once the Roman granary,
and could still do much for Europe in the way of luxuries, as well as
send over great supplies of corn and olives.

The cook-shops have also fascinations. They are all dim and dark,
mysterious with the smoke of ages and the steam of the moment. Dim
figures flit busily to and fro, stirring strange ingredients in huge
pans over their charcoal fires. Coloured tiles give relief and gaiety to
the entrance, cover the stoves, and form a sort of counter. In early
morning the maker of pancakes has it all his own way; at dinner-time he
of the cous-couss does a thriving trade, and at night, and all night
through, it is said there is a great sale for a special kind of peppery
soup.

The walls and gates on this the southern side of Tunis are of great
antiquity, and consist not only of the original walls of the old town,
but also of an outer circle with five gates enclosing the suburb of El
Djazira. Within its boundaries are held horse and cattle markets, which
no doubt account for the variety of tribes and costumes to be seen.

Through the outer gate come caravans from the desert, and camels laden
with fodder and fuel. Men and camels find a lodging in the many
_fonduks_ near the Bab el Fellah—resting-places as primitive and
patriarchal as the caravans themselves.

From the hilltop outside the walls is a superb outlook over the city,
and also across the salt lake to the mountain of Zaghouan, though for
pure charm it is outdone by the view from the park-like grounds of the
Belvedere, some distance out of town through the curious double gate of
El Khadra.

Only a few years ago the barren hillside was skilfully laid out and
planted with trees, and already the ground is carpeted with wild
flowers, and the eucalyptus has reached a respectable height. The
delicate grace of the pepper trees and the silvery grey of the olive
mingle with masses of mimosa and acacia, Judas trees, and many flowering
shrubs, to give their own brightness, and fill the air with perfume. So
once more the country has a chance of returning to its earlier aspect
before the Arabs cut down forests and olive groves for firewood, after
their usual extravagant custom.

It is a pleasant place truly in spring and in summer, and the nearest
refuge from the heat. Here many jaded Tunisians linger in the
comparative freshness till long after midnight, though, being French,
they must needs have a theatre and casino to amuse them. They have also
transplanted and restored two Moorish pavilions that were falling into
ruins, owing to the curious local custom by which no Bey, or
exceptionally rich man, may dwell in the same house in which his
predecessor died, but has to abandon it entirely. Probably a survival of
ancestor worship.

                [Illustration: THE FRITTER SHOP, TUNIS]

Whether the Arabs appreciate the ever-changing beauty of their country
or no, their descriptions never vary. Tunis incontestibly merits the
title of the “white” as it stretches across the isthmus dividing the
stagnant lake of El Bahira from the salt lake, Sedjoumi. It certainly
might be “a diamond in an emerald frame,” though a pearl would express
the white wonder amongst the green with more precision. As for the
familiar “burnous with the Casbah as the hood,” surely they might have
invented a new simile, though it is apt enough.

The forts on the hills are no concern of theirs, for, like the aqueduct
in the plain, they are picturesque legacies of Charles V. The harbour
full of shipping is a thing of to-day, and so is the modern town. La
Goulette (Halk el Oued, or the throat of the canal), glittering at the
further side of the lake, is of yesterday; its importance gone with the
new canal, but its Venetian charm happily undimmed. Carthage and La
Marsa, a third lake towards Utica, El Ariana, the village of roses, the
holiday resort of the Jews, are all visible from the gardens, the whole
held tenderly in wide-reaching embrace by the mountains and the sea.

The new town, which starts from the Porte de France in such imposing
fashion, a wide, straight avenue bordered by flowering acacias, reaches
its finest point where the Residency fronts the Cathedral across some
gardens, then gradually diminishes in grandeur till it ends in a
collection of huts, cabarets, and warehouses standing on untidy wharves.

Twenty years ago, so an old officer told us, the land was a desolate
morass, unspeakably dirty. Now it is a flourishing city, and though
fault may be found with the style of the building on account of the want
of shelter from heat and glare, and the unsuitability of such high
houses in case of earthquake, these are minor details. The great need
now is for some system of draining the Bahira, which has received the
filth of ages, and takes its revenge in sending in hot weather and in
certain winds a truly terrible smell to torment the city. It is an
unaccountable fact that some perfect quality in air or soil fights
against this evil and overcomes it, keeping the city free from epidemics
and noted for its general healthiness.

The harbour has as yet a very unfinished appearance. The native boats
with lateen sails are its great attraction, though ships of all nations
and considerable tonnage can now approach the quays. Gay little scenes
occur when the fish comes in, or when timber is being landed by gangs of
Arabs wading in the still water; for all that is evil in this remarkable
lake is hidden by the calm loveliness of a lagoon.

                     [Illustration: UNLADING WOOD]

What is known to the Tunisians as _les chaleurs_, or real summer heat,
sets in towards the end of May or beginning of June. With the heat come
many changes. The town Moors drop their many cloaks and display the
wealth of silk and embroidery usually hidden. The men from the country
wear yard-wide steeple-crowned hats over their turbans; for if the
burning sun is trying in the city, what must it be in the country, where
no cool shadows offer shelter? The Europeans, soldiers and civilians
alike, appear in white, and the tyranny of the shirt collar is ended
with the coming of sun helmets and umbrellas. Ladies don their thinnest
muslins, and do not venture out before the evening. Everyone seeks the
shade except the Italian women, who will stand bareheaded, idly swinging
their closed parasols, where no Arab would keep them company.

A scirocco or wind from the desert intensifies the heat to an unbearable
degree, night brings no relief, and this burning blast may last three,
five, or nine days; and a nine days’ scirocco is an experience to be
remembered. A resident gave us this warning encouragement: “If you stay
till June and come in for a bad scirocco you will think you will die,
but you won’t.” The sensation of misery could hardly be better
expressed: one gasps for breath, sleep is impossible, and the only
tolerable moments are those passed quite close to an electric fan.
Plants and trees shrivel up, so that the gardens look as if they had
been actually burnt. The country is scarcely cooler than the town, and
at the seaside there is little relief, as four or five degrees’
difference does not help much when the thermometer is once over 100°
Fahrenheit.



                               CHAPTER XI
                                CARTHAGE


The realm of the Queen of the Seas is now desolate—desolate, but
untouched by sadness. Tragedy and doom are hidden beneath the brightness
of summer flowers and the promise of an abundant harvest. The ruins that
remain are not fine enough in themselves to call forth memories of a
glorious past. The greatness is gone. Nothing is now left to speak of
bygone ages with an insistent voice; nothing strong enough to break down
the dulness and create an interest in ancient history. Those who expect
to have their historic sense awakened and quickened by the sight, turn
empty and disappointed away, for all enjoyment rises from the dreams and
imagination born of some knowledge or wide reading, and not from what
Carthage can now show; for the Phœnician city was so utterly destroyed
by the Romans under Scipio in the year 146 B.C. that the plough was
driven over the site. Subsequently city after city rose from the same
ground to be destroyed almost as entirely. Columns and capitals from the
Roman, Vandal, and Byzantine cities may be seen in Tunis, Kairouan, and
Sicily, and even so far away as Italy and Spain. Here there are few
left.

Traces of the original city are still harder to find, and must be sought
far below the earth’s surface under successive layers of ruins and soil.
Three mosaic pavements of different periods have often been discovered
one below the other, whilst the foundations of Punic temples and
inscriptions in that language thus buried still show signs of fire. The
story of Carthage is also shrouded in mystery; even the date of its
foundation is uncertain. All that is known is that in the dawn of
history, when the Israelites took possession of Palestine, the
Canaanites retreated to Tyre and Sidon, and there built up a mighty
state. From these two cities daring mariners set forth in frail coasting
vessels to found settlements in Asia Minor, Greece, Africa, and Spain,
extending their voyages of discovery in later times, gathering riches
and treasures from the distant ends of the then known world.

One of the earliest of these colonies was the city of Utica, and
probably when Dido arrived in Africa (if she ever did), after her flight
from the cruelty and treachery of the Tyrian king, there were already
other cities on the plain. Her taste and judgment must have been equal
to her beauty and artfulness when she chose this spot for her city of
refuge, and beguiled the inhabitants into granting her the land that the
traditional oxhide would cover; for the situation is as lovely as any on
the north coast of Africa, the harbour good, and the country rich. The
colony was known at first as Kirjath-Hadeschath, or New Town, to
distinguish it from the older city of Utica. The Greek name was
Karchedon, and the Romans called it Carthago.

             [Illustration: THE ANCIENT PORTS OF CARTHAGE]

Strangely enough we depend on the enemies of Carthage for accounts of
her history, as, with few exceptions, her own records were destroyed. No
great poems are left, no annals, nothing remains but a few inscriptions,
some fragments, and the three treaties with Rome. The Roman narratives
are tinged with envy and hatred, yet even so the fame of Carthage stands
out clearly, and the deeds of her sons, both as sailors and soldiers,
surpass those of other days and other peoples. What admirals of any time
would so gallantly have dared such a voyage in small vessels as did
Hanno, who almost reached the equator from the north coast of Africa, or
Himilco, who, in a four months’ voyage, “keeping to his left the great
shoreless ocean on which no ship had ever ventured, where the breeze
blows not, but eternal fogs rest upon its lifeless waters,” discovered
the Scilly Isles, Ireland, and the wide isle of Albion? These admirals
have left records of their doings which still exist. Generals more
famous still, vied with each other in their country’s service, fighting
bravely on in face of neglect and want of support, knowing that success
met with scant praise, and that failure meant death if they returned to
the capital. Such names as Hamilcar Barca and the still greater Hannibal
recall to memory the tales of the genius of those who upheld her power.

Yet for all this Carthage was no warlike city, but was given over to the
arts of peace, to the pursuit and enjoyment of wealth. It was a city of
merchant princes, an oligarchy like that of Venice in later times, and
the Romans were astounded at the luxury and beauty of the buildings and
the far-spreading suburbs.

Agriculture was apparently a favourite pursuit, as a treatise on the
subject, in twenty-eight books, was written by Mago, who was called by
the Romans the father of husbandry. This book they saved from the
general destruction of Carthaginian literature and translated into their
own language. Varro, whose own work on ancient agriculture is the most
valuable we possess, quotes Mago as the highest authority.

As the city was looted and the treasures carried to Rome it is idle to
expect to find anything very noteworthy to show the Carthaginian skill
in art. But the White Fathers have in their museum a large collection of
bronzes and pottery, and a few jewels of all periods, some of them of
peculiar interest because of the strong resemblance between the Punic
designs and those of Egypt. Many of the gods are the same, and sacred
eyes and scarabs are plentiful. Curious bulbous vessels, used as
feeding-bottles for babies, have faces roughly painted on them, the
spout taking the place of a mouth. The bronzes have much in common with
those of Pompeii, and some fine tombs with full-sized figures might be
Greek. The garden of the Monastery is also full of fine fragments and
inscriptions, and stands on the brow of the hill that was once the
Byrsa, and is now known as the hill of St. Louis. It faces the Gulf of
Tunis, charming in outline, glorious in light, and full of colour.

            [Illustration: THE OLD PUNIC CISTERNS, CARTHAGE]

The twin peaks of Bou Korneïne, the Gemini Scopuli of Virgil, soft as a
dream in the early morning, are the distinctive beauty of the curve of
the bay to the right. On the other side rise the heights of Sidi Bou
Saïd, or Cap Carthage. The Mediterranean and the lagoon of the Bahira,
“the little sea,” or lake of Tunis, are of a wondrous blue, the water
shimmers in the sunshine, the town of La Goulette gleams likewise, and
so do the houses scattered along the coast. The slopes of the hill and
the whole of the plain towards the sea are covered, as it were, with
cloth of scarlet and gold and green, poppies and marigolds and waving
corn, in masses such as can rarely be found elsewhere. The ancient ports
of Carthage, now so reduced in size, still retain something of their
original form. The military harbour is circular, with an island in the
centre where the admiral once dwelt. These tiny lakes, calm as glass,
and almost more definitely blue than the Mediterranean itself, hardly
suggest themselves as the busy harbours of the Queen of the Seas, but
look rather, as a French author says, like the lakes of an English
garden.

Here and there shapeless masses of masonry can be seen scattered over
the plain, either hardly visible under the living veil of green, or
showing like scars, but there is nothing that is in any way an addition
to the picture. The view on all sides is beautiful, which is more than
can be said by the most charitable of the buildings which crown the
hill. Neither the Cathedral of Cardinal Lavigerie, the Chapel of St.
Louis, nor the Monastery are worthy of their position in style or
treatment. On a bare hillside it might be possible to conjure up fine
temples and stirring scenes, to imagine the terrors of the last days of
the siege, and the heroic death of the wife of Hasdrubal. Now even St.
Louis is too picturesque a figure for the prevailing commonplace, and it
would be almost a relief to think that he died at Sousse, as some people
suppose.

One remarkable work, and one only, has survived all the changes and
chances in the life of Carthage, and still endures to show that the vast
size of the original city was in no wise exaggerated. Not only have the
aqueduct and cisterns outlasted all the other buildings, but they have
been restored, and once more fulfil their purpose, bringing fresh
spring-water to a thirsty city—no longer indeed to Carthage, but to the
equally ancient and still flourishing Tunis.

Modern Tunis does not require nearly as much water as the greater
Carthage, so that only the smaller group of cisterns, lying near the sea
and the ruined baths, is now in use. These cisterns are eighteen in
number, and can only be called small by comparison, as they are said to
be 135 mètres long, and hold nearly 30,000 cubic mètres of water.

                 [Illustration: THE CARTHAGE AQUEDUCT]

The larger group is quite ruinous, and is broken down in the midst,
forming an open space on to which the cisterns face, built as they are
in parallel rows. Here the Bedawin dwell who have turned the Punic
cisterns into the Arab village of La Malga. These underground homes are
supposed to be far superior to tents or huts, as they are cool in
summer, and warm and dry in winter. They look like vaulted halls, as the
lower half has become filled with soil, and they are closed at the
ruinous ends by rough wooden walls and doors. At any rate if not quite
ideal dwellings, they are picturesque and at least unusual. Though there
are many theories on the subject, the design and much of the actual work
is considered to be Phœnician, though considerably restored and in part
rebuilt by the Romans. Some authorities find traces of Punic work in the
aqueduct also, others suppose that the Carthaginians used the cisterns
merely to store rain-water, and think that the Romans, when they defied
the curse and rebuilt the city, found the water-supply insufficient, and
therefore made an aqueduct in the reign of Hadrian, A.D. 117-138. It
underwent many disasters, and was partially destroyed and rebuilt over
and over again. First, the Vandals, under Gilimer, did their worst to
it, and Belisarius restored the damage; then the Byzantines had their
turn, and it was put in order by their Arab conquerors, only to be again
injured by the Spaniards. Finally, some part of it began useful life
once more under a French engineer in the reign of Sidi Saduk, the late
Bey.

One spring still rises in the Nymphea, or temple of the waters, amongst
rocks and trees and flowers at Zaghouan, Mons. Zeugitanus, and the other
is brought from Djebel Djouggar, Mons. Zuccharus. The great aqueduct
stretches out like a chain connecting the mountains and the plain—a
chain of massive links, sadly broken and often interrupted in its long
course of over sixty Roman miles. The channel is carried down the
mountain-side, sometimes over and sometimes under the ground, and on the
plains it is often raised on immense piers. Near Carthage it has been
broken up and entirely destroyed, and the water has then to find its way
through ordinary modern pipes.

There is a look of grandeur and beauty about the ruined arches, as they
are seen rising from the sunny, flowery fields, that is usually wasted
on an unappreciative world, as few drive far enough out from Tunis to
enjoy the sight.

At Carthage the masses of flowers give a certain charm to ruins of no
intrinsic beauty. Brilliant marigolds crowd every nook and cranny in the
Punic tombs, shedding the glory of their golden life over the dreary
maze of catacombs, where formerly the dead rested, but which are now
bare and empty; though in another district one curious tomb, formed of
three solid blocks of stones, in form like the beginning of a house of
cards, is built with a few others in the side of a shadeless, barren
cliff. Flowers fringe and cover the Basilica, surround the newly
excavated Roman villa, contrasting daintily with the broken columns and
mosaic pavements, and touch with their brightness the elliptical
outlines of the Roman amphitheatre, where many Christian martyrs
suffered for the Faith. Of these St. Nemphanion was the first (A.D.
198), though the best known and most loved are Saint Perpetua, and Saint
Felicita, to whom the little chapel in the centre is dedicated.

The flowers harmonise with thoughts of the young and beautiful widow who
gave up child and wealth, and who herself wrote of her joy and suffering
in prison. She tells us of her vision of a golden ladder, beset with
swords and lances, and guarded by a dragon, whom she quelled in the name
of Christ, and so mounted to a heavenly garden, where a white-haired
shepherd, surrounded by his flock, gave her a welcome and a piece of
cheese, whilst thousands of forms in white garments said “Amen.” The
vision foretold her martyrdom, which took place between A.D. 203 and
206. According to a custom peculiar to Carthage—a relic of old Phœnician
days when human sacrifices were offered to Baal-Moloch, and men
worshipped the horned Astarte—the men were expected to wear scarlet
robes, like the priests of Saturn, and the women yellow, after the
fashion of the priestesses of Ceres—a reason perhaps for the wealth of
scarlet and yellow blossoms that now flourish so abundantly. The
Christians refused, saying that they suffered in order to avoid such
rites, and the justice of the plea was allowed.

A cross marks the spot on a little hill between La Malga and the Byrsa
where St. Cyprian was beheaded in A.D. 258. An interesting fact, to
which Archbishop Benson calls attention in his Life of Cyprian, is that
long before any Bishop of Rome appears with the title of Papa, or Pope,
in any sense, it was used as a formal mode of address to Cyprian by the
clergy of Rome. And it is clear from the history of his times that there
was then no idea of Papal supremacy, but that, on the contrary, the
Bishop of Carthage once at least overruled the decision of the Bishop of
Rome.

Strange as it seems now, with Mohammedanism all around, Christian
Carthage became in its turn a great power, with a long line of bishops,
whilst North Africa not only counted some six hundred Episcopal sees,
but also produced such famous men as Tertullian, Cyprian, Lactantius,
and Augustine. Nothing is now left anywhere except the ruins of three or
four basilicas, some lamps with Christian emblems, and a few
inscriptions.

        [Illustration: THE SITE OF CARTHAGE FROM SIDI BOU SAÏD]

To see all the ruins at Carthage is no light matter. Distances are so
great, and there is such a dearth of conspicuous landmarks to guide the
search. The nine miles’ drive from Tunis is mostly considered very
monotonous, as the road itself is straight and dull, though the beauty
of the mountains and the lake, the flush of scarlet from the flamingoes
in its marshy edges, the marvels of the flower-clad meadows, the dark
tents of the nomads, and the picturesque workers in the fields, are
surely enough to make even a longer distance seem short. The first
impression is altogether finer if it is gained by driving through the
country to the gay villas of La Marsa, and so up the hill to Sidi Bou
Saïd, than by taking the railway and then walking from point to point.
The Arab town of Sidi Bou Saïd is so holy a place that no unbelievers
were formerly allowed to live there, hardly even to walk its streets,
and yet the saint after whom it is called is no other than St. Louis of
France, the Crusader who died of pestilence before the walls of Tunis.
The Mohammedans, however, believe that he adopted their religion, died
and was buried in this village, showing how even his enemies admired his
saintliness, and also that the God whom both worshipped was the same God
as Mohammed always taught. The small town is piled up on the highest
point of the hill in true Oriental fashion, and from the lighthouse on
the summit the view is superb, with the Mediterranean almost surrounding
the cape. The whole site of the ancient city is visible, from the rocky
headlands in front to the distant town of La Goulette on the promontory
that separates the open sea from the lake; a wide sweep of plain, the
many low hills, the Byrsa marked by the whiteness of the new Cathedral,
the whole circle of mountains, the summer villages gleaming at their
feet, Tunis, the villas and gardens of La Marsa, the site of Utica, now
more desolate than Carthage itself, the beautiful line of cliffs towards
Bizerta—all combine to give some idea of the possibilities and beauties
of ancient Carthage.



                              CHAPTER XII
                           SOUSSE AND EL DJEM


A refreshing uncertainty, almost amounting to a touch of adventure,
gives zest to plans for a trip southwards. Beyond the one undisputed
fact that the inn at Sousse leaves nothing to be desired, information is
vague and scanty.

The journey opens in a fashion that promises much. There are only two
trains in the day, and both are inconvenient. One starts too early and
the other too late. The railway carriages with their narrow seats and
hard cushions proclaim by sheer discomfort the unfrequented route and
the dearth of travellers. The windows, that are either wide open or
shut, but know no happy mean, guarantee a pleasing alternative of cold
or stuffiness, for it soon becomes impossible to hold a heavy frame
perpetually at a proper height.

It is delightful to feel that all sorts of possibilities lie hidden in
the immediate future, and that the rate of progress already lifts the
journey out of the commonplace. It is slow enough to be phenomenal, and
gives time not only for observation but for quiet meditation on every
detail of the landscape before it disappears.

There is no objection to this for some distance out of Tunis, as the
route is pretty. The line skirts the edge of the bay, passing through
the gay watering-places full of sunshine and flowers that lie at the
foot of Bou Korneïne. During the sunset hour, when the plains are
flooded with glory, the train might stop entirely, and welcome. But when
the last tint of colour has vanished and no consolation is left, then
the long, purposeless halts at wayside stations become exasperating. It
does seem wasteful to spend so much time over so short a distance.

When morning comes, this mood flies away at the unexpected sight of a
mediæval town on the opposite side of the harbour; for Sousse follows
the Tunisian fashion, and the French colony dwells apart. The old town
stands on a gentle rise beside the waters of the Mediterranean, a
complete survival from the Middle Ages. Not grey and timeworn like our
northern strongholds, but radiant in the sunshine, a mass of glittering
white, crowned and girdled by gold—towers and bastions and crenellated
walls. The reflection of these old-world defences in the calm waters
below is almost as brilliant as the reality.

In the evening a change comes over the spirit of the place, the
brightness fades away and is succeeded by a gentle melancholy, a slight
film, the dimness of age, as if the warriors of bygone times returned at
sundown to hover over their old castle, full of unavailing regret that
their day is over, and that from the topmost battlements an alien flag
now floats.

                         [Illustration: SOUSSE]

Sousse, under its old title of Hadrumetum, has a quite respectable
antiquity. Sallust mentions it as a Phœnician colony of older date than
Carthage. Under the Emperor Trajan it became a Roman colony, the capital
of the Byzacene or mid-Tunisia. No one knows when or how it received the
name of Sousse, and even the fact of its being Hadrumetum at all was
once a matter of dispute. Hercha and Hammamet are both supposed by some
to have a better claim to the distinction, and Ruspina has been given as
the original name of Sousse. It fell into the hands of the Normans from
Sicily during the twelfth century, but has otherwise remained a Moslem
fortress from their first invasion to the time of the French occupation
in 1881.

Now the French colony seems bright and prosperous, and the inhabitants
talk more cheerfully of their fate than usual; for there is much to do,
and the recently opened harbour is a great improvement, as formerly the
roadstead was defenceless in certain prevalent winds, and now ships can
ride safely at anchor and take in immense cargoes of corn and oil, the
staple produce of the district.

Once within the old gates the Arab town, though most picturesque, shows
little that is distinctive. It possesses narrow Eastern streets, whiter
even than usual, and small bazaars, after the manner of Tunis, but with
no individuality of their own. Tunis, Algiers, and Constantine have so
much character that their identity could hardly be mistaken by anyone
who knew the tokens, even if he were dropped unawares into one of their
streets. The architecture, the colour, and the appearance of the
inhabitants are all so different in type.

From every side Sousse presents a striking picture, and from the towers
of the Casbah the view over the sunny terraces to the wondrous blue of
the bay and the soft green of the olives is beautiful. But the only
building that is really curious in the town itself is the Kahwat el
Koubba, or café of the dome, a small Byzantine basilica. Unfortunately,
it is so built into the bazaar that it is difficult to see its
peculiarities. It is quite square for rather more than the height of a
man from the ground, then round for the same distance, and has a fluted
dome.

The rue Halfaouine, the street where pottery is sold and mats are made,
is quainter than in Tunis, for there the two trades work separately.
These men were very busy, and with one exception had not the slightest
objection to being watched or painted. The one man who did object wore
the green turban of the descendants of the Prophet, and built up an
elaborate screen of plaits to hide himself. He soon forgot his dread,
gradually used up the plaits, and forgot to replace them.

Granted a little patience with the shortcomings of the train service and
it is no trouble to see Sousse, but the excursion to El Djem is quite
another matter. Until quite lately difficulties strewed the path, and
the drive alone took one long day or even two. Now, thanks to the
introduction of a postal motor-car service, the journey between Sousse
and Sfax is smooth enough.

               [Illustration: THE BASKET-MAKERS, SOUSSE]

The shaky old diligence still runs for the benefit of second- and
third-class passengers, and takes a wearisome time about the journey,
which the motor accomplishes in rather more than three hours. This motor
is a heavy, but very roomy vehicle, somewhat like a coach with six
places inside, two beside the driver and more on the roof, and moves
with the steady, resistless force of great weight. As a rule, all the
seats are taken some days beforehand, for there is much coming and going
of business men between Sousse and Sfax; but we were lucky enough to
secure ours after only two days, and to have only one other passenger in
the interior, which meant heaps of space and a clear view with no
intervening heads. The straightness of the road is at first mitigated by
the beauty of the old olive trees, but when these give place to new
plantations, the young trees and bushes are so few and far between that
they only accentuate the dreariness of the landscape. Still, a look of
wellbeing is coming over the land, and if all goes well, the arid plains
will once again become fruitful, and the mischief wrought by El Kahina,
the celebrated chieftainness of the Aures, who destroyed all the farms
and villages, will be remembered no more. Formerly the whole country
from Tripoli to Tangiers was wooded and fertile, but the destruction of
the forests has given the land its present inhospitable character, so
that where twenty inhabitants flourished in Roman times, it was hard
work for one man to get a living, till the French came and began to
restore the ancient order.

One village of importance, and one only, breaks the monotony of the
route, and the motor passes through its narrow streets, which it almost
fits, hooting and scattering the people right and left, shaking them out
of their dreamy ways with its message of speed and progress. Yet though
some grumble more admire.

Even on this frequented road, where the motor passes twice daily, the
same amusing precautions are taken by the Arabs as at Hammam Meskoutine.
The camels are ridden off into the plains, carts are dragged to the side
of the road, and the horses’ heads covered up—even the donkeys are held
very tight. And if any man is too sleepy to attend to them, his animals
give him enough to do to pacify them after the horror has passed.

After this village the olives disappear. Nothing is visible but a wide
plain, literally carpeted with wild flowers, mostly common ones, but
exquisite from pure abundance of colour. Amongst them are masses of
small purple gladiolus, the most beautiful flower of them all.

For miles ahead the road stretches out straight as a gigantic ruler,
diminishing in perfect perspective to a vanishing point on the horizon,
the effect enhanced by the slight undulations of the plain. The road is
without shade or trees, there are not even villages to be seen, only a
few Bedawin camps, and an occasional house surrounded by fragrant mimosa
and olive trees, the dwellings of the French road-surveyor. Innumerable
traces of the Roman occupation are to be found on every side, ruined
farms, old walls, and fragments of buildings, showing that this must
have been almost as densely populated as the district between Hadrumetum
(Sousse) and Carthage, which, as a Roman historian tells us, was shaded
for the whole length of the road by villas and beautiful gardens.

At last, dimly discernible in the distance, a vast form rises, desolate
and alone upon the earth, a forlorn relic of Roman splendour, the
African rival of the Colosseum at Rome—the amphitheatre of El Djem. It
is only a few feet smaller than its great original, is built on the same
lines, is of the same massive breadth, and what it loses in actual
measurement is regained by its isolated position. A building of such
proportions is sufficiently impressive in the heart of a famous city,
but out here in the wilderness the effect is overwhelming. The very
existence of such a huge place of amusement so far from the present
haunts of men, on a spot so bereft of all visible means of supporting a
city large enough to send 60,000 spectators to witness the games, is
strange, almost unthinkable. The land, of course, is good, but water is
not here in any abundance, and there is no stone in the
neighbourhood—the fine white limestone used in the building having all
been brought from Sallecta on the coast.

Nothing now remains but this, the wonder of North Africa, of the whole
city of Thyrsus mentioned by Pliny and Ptolemy, except a half-buried
Corinthian capital of colossal size, a road, fragments of a villa, some
baths and a few mosaics, all more or less hidden and much scattered
among the olives.

The Proconsul Gordian rebelled against Maximin, and was proclaimed
Emperor at the age of eighty, at Thyrsus in A.D. 238, about the time of
the building of the amphitheatre, which is sometimes supposed to have
been his work as Emperor. But this could hardly be, as he was defeated
in battle, and died by his own hand within two months.

The amphitheatre was looked upon by the Arabs as a place of refuge in
troublous times, and was often used as a fortress. It is called Kasr el
Kahina, or Palace of the Sorceress, after the celebrated El Kahina, of
whom many legends are told. When she was besieged in this singular
castle of hers, she caused subterranean passages to be made to the sea
coast at Sallecta, and had this done on so large a scale that several
horsemen could ride through them abreast. The Arabs believe firmly in
these marvellous passages, but the entrance to them has not yet been
found. However, later on, another siege had to be raised, because the
defenders were so well supplied that they mockingly threw down fresh
fish to the besiegers, who were already suffering from want of food.

            [Illustration: THE ROMAN AMPHITHEATRE, EL DJEM]

In modern times the great breach made in one of the sieges has been
enlarged by the Arabs, who used it as a quarry, and built their large
village beneath its shelter entirely out of the spoils. Now this
quarrying has been stopped by law, happily in time, and the breach,
overgrown as it is with moss and plants, only serves to make the ruin
more beautiful as it lies among the prickly pears and olives. On the
side nearest the village, however, it is in such good preservation, and
the four galleries are so perfect, that with the regularity comes a
certain loss of picturesqueness. The village is quite unusual: the
stolen stone has been used as if it were mud, the houses are built like
huts with large walled courts, and big doors, which are defended by
barking dogs.

The men are indifferent to strangers, but the children, pretty as they
are, become a positive torment. They have learnt the value of a _petit
sou_, and keep up a never-ending litany in the vain hope of obtaining
one. This comes of the bad habit of throwing coins from the automobile
for the pleasure of seeing a scramble.

In the evening some sort of a fête was on hand, absolutely different to
any we had seen. Bowers had been built, flags and greenery were
festooned across the street, and in one large booth, covered with green,
a crowd was gathered to watch a performance of howling dervishes,
probably Aïssaouas. A long row of men and boys with streaming hair were
working themselves into a state of frenzy, with violent rhythmic
movements of their heads, as they threw them backwards and forwards, and
panted like steam-engines. There were also groups of masqueraders with
unearthly masks, pretending to be animals and going on all fours, and a
mock bridal party with a soldier arrayed as the bride, his feet and
gaiters alone betraying him.

There is no inn of any sort, so travellers stay at the school, which is
also the post-office. The French schoolmaster, his wife, and a little
girl, are the only Europeans in the place, though it contains one Jew
and one Maltese—so Oriental as not to count.

The school is an old building, once the house of a Bey; it was then a
big open cloister. Now walls, doors, windows, and partitions have been
added to form large double cells, vaulted as in a monastery, but with
horse-shoe arches. These cells are scantily furnished, so that they look
both bare and spacious. Once they were used for storing gunpowder, which
has left the walls sadly discoloured. In fact, the appearance of the
house was well in keeping with predictions which we had received about
roughing it; but we found that instead of starving, the meals were quite
elegant, consisting of many courses, and including such luxuries as
chicken, lamb, and quails. The bread was very dry, and there was no
butter; but much experience had foreseen that difficulty, and jam,
biscuits, and tea travelled with us. The schoolmaster was silent, but
contented. His wife, however, suffered much from the loneliness; for the
small doings of the household, teaching a native servant and
superintending the cooking, could not fill her life. She was pining for
friends and sympathy, and her nearest neighbours, a detachment of
soldiers, lived fourteen or fifteen miles away. The diligence and the
motor cars alone brought variety, and they passed quickly with some
pleasant bustle, and then silence came once more. The school itself is a
success: the boys seem to learn well, and are eager to air their French
and pick up new ideas.

At night, even when the little garrison has been raised to five, there
is a strange eerie feeling of loneliness, which camping somehow does not
give. The great doors are bolted and barred, the watch-dog is on duty in
the court, which the moonlight makes almost as light as day, brightening
the treasured but miserable garden with its tender touch. All is made
perfectly safe. Yet the thought recurs insistently, what could one man
do, should anything rouse the hundreds of half-wild Arabs in the village
out of their ordinary quiet hatred? A life of this sort is only possible
where the fascination of the East is strongly felt; but for a poor woman
like this, out of sympathy with the country, its people and their ways,
it is little short of martyrdom.

Quiet is not a feature of the nights at El Djem. Every house in the
village owns several dogs, and the only dog that does not seem to bark
all night is the dog at the school. As for the cocks, they begin to crow
at bed-time and keep it up till morning. Jackals and an occasional hyena
swell the chorus. Then in the small hours the diligence arrives, with
rattle and rumble along the road and a thunderous knocking at the great
door, till the whole household is awake to give it welcome.

The motor appears at the respectable hour of nine in the morning, and
manages with infinite cleverness to catch the mid-day train to Kairouan,
although it should have started before the time at which the motor
arrives. There is so much leisure and so little punctuality that, with
friendly assistance, seats are taken, luggage registered, and lunch
purchased before the train finally starts.

                   [Illustration: EVENING, KAIROUAN]



                              CHAPTER XIII
                            THE SACRED CITY


Seven visits to the sacred city of Kairouan are equivalent for the
devout Mussulman to one pilgrimage to Mecca. A pleasant alternative for
those who wish to gain a high degree of sanctity at a small cost, for
since the railway simplified the journey there are neither terrors nor
difficulties to overcome.

Picturesque hill towns are passed on the way, and also the first of the
chain of _Chotts_, or shallow salt lakes, almost or quite dry in summer,
strange reminders of the time when the Mediterranean penetrated the
desert as far as Biskra. Plans have often been proposed for letting in
the water again from the Gulf of Gabès to the Ziban. But though in some
ways this might bring added prosperity, in others the change of climate
would probably spell ruin. The date harvest at Gafsa and Gabès would be
spoilt, and most likely that of Biskra and Tougourt as well.

The Tunisian oases vie with, if they do not surpass, those of Algeria,
but they are little visited, partly because it is not the fashion, but
much more in consequence of the discomforts to be faced, as travellers
are mostly dependent on their own resources, a native _fonduk_, or the
kindness of some French officer. The _fonduks_ by all accounts are
intolerably dirty, and sleep has to be snatched during a lull in the
noisy talk, in the corner of a crowded space, with a portmanteau for a
pillow, the mud floor and a rug by way of bed. No food or refreshment
are offered except coffee. The inns when they exist give rise to
pathetic tales of food and dirt. Birds apparently made of india-rubber,
quite black and utterly impervious to the blunt knives, pose as chicken,
the eggs are of untold age, and the bread sour. Cous-couss is the best
thing; it is not at all a bad variety of stew when well made, rather
like curry, but laid on a bed of semolina instead of rice, with a very
hot, piquant sauce. The number of ingredients is always rather
mysterious, and when ill-made it is horribly greasy.

These various drawbacks make even the excursion to the fine Roman ruins
of Sbeitla too uncomfortable without a camp, as it is a two days’ ride
from Kairouan. The road is supposed to be fit for carriages, but owing
to the badness of the track, a strong country cart cannot stand the
strain, and is always coming to grief, or losing a wheel at critical
moments, so that a rider finds he has chosen the better part. Then it is
rather a shock to be told on the return journey, with many miles yet to
travel and darkness coming on apace, that no Frenchman considers this
district safe without a revolver loaded and ready to hand.

Altogether it is decidedly annoying as well as disappointing, because
drawings and photographs of curious places and buildings make the
longing for adventure in the wilder regions so strong as to be almost
unbearable. There are houses at Tozeur with decorative façades, built
with raised designs in projecting sun-dried brick. At Matmata and
Douïrat the Troglodytes dwell in rock-hewn cells, forming hill cities
cut out of, not built on, castellated crags, whilst at Medénine the
houses are built one above the other, five stories high, with doors that
serve as windows. Most of these houses are reached by climbing up on
jutting stones built into the wall, which, even with the assistance of a
cord, needs a steady head, though a few have the luxury of an outside
staircase.

There is great consolation in the thought that until quite lately
Kairouan itself was almost a sealed book, for travellers could only see
it when provided with an escort and a special permission, and these were
not sufficient to admit them to the mosques, or to protect them from
insult or stones in the streets, so that little joy came from a visit
even so late as 1888.

Now the nervous need have no misgivings, as the train crawls like a
snail over the barren waste, redeemed from desolation by the flowers,
more glorious than ever in contrast with the monotonous brown-hued
desert framed by distant mountains.

The old walls that encircle Kairouan, with their tones of dusty brown,
blend with the plain they rise from, and would be invisible at a little
distance were it not for the white minarets and domes within their
bounds, which stand out clear-cut as a cameo against the blue of the
sky, the purple of the hills, and the faded tints of the soil.

Tradition says that in the year fifty-five of the Hegira (675 A.D.) this
was a vast forest, almost impenetrable, and full of wild and terrible
beasts of prey and still more alarming serpents, huge and poisonous.
Hither, surrounded by his conquering host, came the warrior-saint, Sidi
Okba. Here he planted his lance in the ground, saying, “This is your
‘Kairwan’” (caravan, or resting-place). After which he caused fifteen
chosen men, the companions of the Prophet who were with the army, to
come together for prayer. Then advancing he called out, “Serpents and
savage beasts we are the companions of the blessed Prophet; retire! for
we intend to dwell here.” At the sound of his inspired voice they fled
in a body with their young, and took refuge in the wilderness, whilst
the woods that had been their home vanished also. Moreover, it is said
that this miracle so astounded the Berbers who dwelt in that land, that
they were one and all converted at once, and further it is alleged that
it is for this reason that the holy city continues to stand in the midst
of a desert unto this day.

Mohammed is said to have taught that there are in this world three
gardens of Paradise, four cities, and four oratories. The three gardens
include Mecca and Jerusalem, whilst Kairouan is the best known of the
oratories or gates of heaven.

                [Illustration: LA GRANDE RUE, KAIROUAN]

Kairouan has evidently no doubt about its own sanctity, and tries to
live up to its reputation, for it is most serious, full to overflowing
with mosques and Zaouïas, or tomb-mosques, which are often both
oratories and schools.

An air of austerity seems part of the religious character of this place,
as yet untouched by the stir and onward rush of modern life. The easy
ways of Tunis, the smooth, smiling faces of the Moorish dandy, the
wealth of harmonious colour, are not found here. The men are of a grave,
stern race, not given to bright garments, but content, as a rule, with
white, or tones of brown. A woman is a rare apparition in the streets,
and her closely shrouded form in its sombre black reminds one of a
misericordia brother in Tuscany,—though she, poor thing, scurries away
as if in search of a hiding-place instead of boldly begging an alms.

The main street, or _Zankat Touila_, runs from the Bab Djelladin to the
Porte de Tunis. Though unusually wide and nearly straight it has a charm
of line that makes the irregular grouping of minarets, mosques, and
domes, set as they are amidst a tangle of booths, shops, and balconies,
into a bewildering succession of ready-made pictures. Both minarets and
domes are as white as white can be, like those of any and every city in
Tunisia, nevertheless Kairouan, whitewashed as it may be with the same
brush, has a few little peculiarities to distinguish it from its
fellows. Some of the minarets, for instance, severe to plainness in
their construction, have for their sole decoration an inscription in
projecting bricks, carried round all four sides, setting forth the creed
of the Mohammedans. “There is no God but God; Mohammed is the messenger
of God.” Many of the domes, again, differ from those in other places by
being fluted, which not only gives variety to the surface, but also a
peculiarly graceful curve.

The well-house of El Barota stands in this street; outside it resembles
a marabout, but instead of the tomb within there is the sacred well, the
only well in Kairouan. The water is brackish in taste, and was
discovered after the orthodox legendary method in time of need, by a
greyhound scratching up the soil. To add to its sanctity it is said to
be in touch in some mysterious way with the still more sacred well of
Zemzem at Mecca. This underground communication is in such perfect
working order that a pilgrim who lost his drinking-vessel by dropping it
into the fountain at Mecca, found it again, on his return to his native
city, in the waters of El Barota.

The entrance to the bazaars is through a gateway decorated with black
lines, whilst black and white are used alternately round the horse-shoe
arch. Inside the bazaar is simple—a whitewashed tunnel, dimly lighted
from above, with the usual square, cavernous recesses. Shoemakers,
coppersmiths, and tailors are to be found, the latter have already
succumbed to the fascinations of a sewing-machine—one of the first signs
that the thin end of the wedge of so-called improvement is being driven
in. Most of the shops, however, are given up to carpets, the well-known
industry of the place. Here, though there is some dread of the coming of
aniline dyes and other European enormities, the work is still carried
on, as it always has been in hundreds of homes, principally by the women
and children. The designs and methods are matters of tradition, vary in
different families, and are handed down like heirlooms from generation
to generation.

                     [Illustration: CARPET-MAKING]

It is purely a home industry; there is nothing of the factory or
workshop about it as yet. The loom, large as it is, with its heavy beams
and many cords, takes a good deal of space in the characteristic narrow
room, yet it is set up in the guest-chamber opening out of the quiet
court. It is placed as near the door as may be, for the sake of light
and air, the windows being small and of little account. It casts a dark
shadow over the divan in the alcove, which in Kairouan is often of wood
elaborately turned or carved, gilt and painted in brilliant colours. The
mother sits and works steadily; the babies play with her skeins and
balls of wool; the husband dozes or meditates; other women come and
chat, and prepare vegetables, though the cooking is done in another room
on the other side of the courtyard. All the time the threads are being
deftly tied and knotted, clipped with big scissors, and beaten down at
intervals with much energy and a heavy iron comb, shaped like a hoe. The
carpet grows visibly in a rather mysterious way, as often there is no
pattern to be seen, the worker apparently evolving the design out of her
inner consciousness, which accounts for the delightful irregularity and
vagaries of hand-made rugs.

The maze of the narrow streets is more puzzling than usual; there is a
mean and squalid look, a hopeless sameness about them that makes
threading one’s way difficult at first. The great Mosque has to be
sought carefully, although from outside the town it is the most
conspicuous object. Massive walls, huge buttresses, and towers with
fluted domes, protect the inner court, which is entered by gateways
under the towers. Vastness and simplicity as befits its name are the
keynotes of the building, the slight efforts at decoration lost in the
blinding whiteness that is almost unbearable in those hours when the
noonday sun beats down upon the city.

Sidi Okba is said to have traced out the foundation of the mosque
himself, which he called the Mosque of Olives, and on this ground,
already held sacred, he caused prayers to be celebrated before the work
of building was even begun. The great difficulty was to find the true
position of the _Mihrab_, the niche which indicates the direction of
Mecca. In all other mosques the Imaum who leads the prayers turns
slightly to one side or the other of this Mecca niche, to show that the
direction is not absolutely correct. Here, however, he stands perfectly
straight, because the _Mihrab_ was miraculously revealed to Sidi Okba in
this wise. Wearied out by long prayer he fell asleep, and in his dreams
an angel appeared unto him saying: “Thou favourite of the Ruler of the
Universe, thy prayer is heard. Behold, when day dawns, thou shalt take
thy standard and bear it upon thy shoulder, then shalt thou hear a voice
crying before thee _Allah Akbar_ (‘God is great’). No ear but thine will
hear this voice. Follow, and where the cry ceases, in that place shalt
thou build the _Mihrab_.”

             [Illustration: MOSQUE OF SIDI OKBA, KAIROUAN]

At daybreak Sidi Okba heard a cry, and when he demanded of his
companions whether they heard ought, they answered, “Nothing.” “It is
the command of God, the All Powerful,” he said, and raising the standard
he followed the voice till the cry ceased. Immediately he planted the
standard, saying, “Here is our _Mihrab_.”

The minaret stands at one end of an immense courtyard, partly paved with
Roman tombstones and surrounded by a double cloister. Underneath the
court is a vast cistern to hold a reserve of water. At the opposite end,
under a fine colonnade, in which Roman columns are found as usual, are
the nine great doors of the mosque. These doors are of good old Moorish
design, worn with age and softened in colour, but still truly
magnificent.

The sudden change from the glare outside to the darkness within
transforms the mosque into a forest, mysterious and vast, glowing with
rich colour beneath the gloom. And indeed it is a forest of stone, for
there are seventeen naves and who knows how many columns. The columns
are antique and of fine marbles, onyx, and porphyry, rubbed by the
shoulders of the Faithful till they shine. The capitals are also spoils
from other buildings, Roman or Byzantine, and one there is of a design
so unusual as to be considered unique in its treatment of plant form.
Matting is swathed round the base of the columns and covers the floor
with its cool cleanliness. The great horse-shoe arches are whitewashed,
the roof is rather plain, with heavy beams like a network between the
columns. In the central nave hang some wonderful old lustres, with
myriads of tiny lamps.

Before the _Mihrab_ is the one incongruous and tawdry decoration—a
crystal chandelier, but the darkness happily hides it, and prevents its
interfering with the general impression of stately simplicity.

The _Mihrab_, with its inlaid work and tiles, its coloured marbles,
graceful columns, and finely cut capitals, is worthy of the shrine, and
shares the admiration of the pilgrims with an exquisitely carved
_Mimbar_, or pulpit, polished and worn with age, which is said to be
made of wood brought from Baghdad on purpose.

Most of the pilgrims strive to squeeze themselves between two closely
wedded columns standing near by, because, so the old Sheikh said, “those
who can pass through this narrow portal will also be able to enter
Paradise.” Besides this appeal to the future, there is the less romantic
inducement that the passage of the pillars is a certain cure for
rheumatism. Whichever reason prevails, no one minds taking off cloaks
and burnouses and then trying hard to wriggle through. It is a less
difficult feat to accomplish than the trial of truth between two similar
pillars in the mosque of ’Amr at Cairo.

A few years ago, strangers of an alien faith had to content themselves
with a bare glance at the outside of this famous mosque as they rode
past. Now a solitary Christian, having duly deposited a pair of European
shoes amongst the Oriental slippers at the door, may enter boldly, rest
and dream the day away, tranquil and alone, without let or hindrance. No
rude word will be spoken, nor will angry looks trouble or annoy. Nothing
will disturb the quiet, for the pilgrims wander softly to and fro,
making no sound on the matted floor with their slipperless feet. Now and
again the voice of a reader echoes through the silence of this house of
prayer, and occasionally a man, bent on asking questions and trying to
pick up a few words of useful French, will take his place on the matting
beside the stranger, or, if sketching is going on, a small boy will come
and kneel for hours absorbed in wonder, watching each movement of the
brush, his eager face almost resting on the paper. Yet perhaps this
boy’s own father was one of those who indulged in throwing stones at the
_Roumis_ less than twenty years ago.

These peaceful ways are the direct result of war. The Sacred City alone
resented the coming of the French sufficiently to resist in arms, and
therefore alone pays the penalty of its daring in being forced to throw
open the mosques and holy places to the tread of the Infidel.

The upper gallery of the minaret commands a wide view over a scene
curious enough to attract those already accustomed to Eastern cities.
The houses are more like cubes than ever, and lie so close together that
their flat roofs seem to form one continuous terrace, broken only by
domes and minarets. Every house is square, with a central court. The
court and the house-tops are the women’s domain; etiquette does not
permit a man to enjoy the air on his own roof, but if business calls him
there, he must send warnings to his neighbours, so that their womenfolk
may withdraw from courts and terraces and seek refuge indoors.

Quaint and characteristic as the outlook from the minaret undeniably is,
yet there is no doubt that its own picturesque outline adds much to the
charm of the view from other housetops. The sturdy tower with its warm
tones has a look of strength that matches the equally massive walls of
the city, and suggests a watch-tower crowned by the white galleries of a
minaret.

All round the city walls, towers and battlements dating from the
fifteenth century draw a strong dividing line between the white houses
and the sandy waste, still dreary, desolate, and treeless as in the time
of Okba.

The breach made by the French in 1881 is still left, partly as a
warning, and partly because it is now used instead of the old Tunis gate
on account of its greater width, and also to avoid an awkward turn; for,
like many Moorish gateways, there is a double turn in the thickness of
the wall, to assist in keeping out the foe. With this exception, the
walls and gates are perfect as in the days of old: perfect not only in
preservation but in form. But of all the gates none is so fine as this
same Porte de Tunis with its double arch. Both façades are remarkable
for the skill shown in the use of black and white marble as decoration.
Deep shadow throws a mysterious gloom over the interior of the gate, now
a picturesque Souk with an arched roof, beneath which many merchants
spread out their wares.

               [Illustration: MOORISH GATEWAY, KAIROUAN]

Outside the gate, more stalls and booths nestle against the walls, and
the large open space beyond is crowded with all the bustle and confusion
of a market. Men come and go, or gather in wide circles round the snake
charmers and story-tellers. Horses and donkeys furtively steal a meal
from the piles of grain and fodder. Camels snarl and growl whilst men
pack burdens on their unwilling backs, as the caravans prepare to start
on their journey. Other camels hop about on three legs, the fourth being
doubled back and bound up in what looks a cruel fashion, but which the
Arabs declare to be quite comfortable, and the only effective way to
prevent their straying.

Beyond the market, again, are some curious reservoirs, called the
_Bassins des Aghlabites_, which receive water from the Oued Merguelli in
time of flood; they were probably constructed by Ziad el Allah, who
restored the great Mosque.

Still further on, amongst hedges of prickly pears, or _figues de
Barbarie_, rises the mosque of Sidi Sahab, the barber, the rival to the
mosque of Sidi Okba, both as regards sanctity and beauty.

A square minaret slightly decorated with coloured tiles is surrounded by
an apparently uninteresting pile of white buildings and a dome, but
these walls conceal a series of halls and cloistered courts, full of
exquisite Moorish work worthy of the Alhambra, though, alas! like the
Alhambra they have suffered somewhat at the hands of the restorer, with
his distressing want of taste in colour.

Roman columns support the arches in the quiet courts, the floors are
paved with marble, tiles of rich design line the walls, the light
filters through coloured glass, set jewel-like in tiny windows, and the
stucco work adds to the whole effect a touch of light and grace.

The tomb-mosque itself is a domed building of no great size, where
behind an open-work screen lies the sarcophagus in which reposes the
body of Abou Zemaa el Beloui, the companion and, as some suppose, the
barber of the Prophet. Carpets and embroideries cover this tomb, numbers
of lamps and ostrich eggs are suspended before it, and all round are
ranged quantities of flags, the standards and colours of Islam.
Tradition says, that during his life this singular man carried three
hairs from the Prophet’s beard—one under his tongue, another next his
heart, and the third on his right arm. These three precious hairs are
now united in a silken sachet placed on the dead man’s breast, and
whether the reputation of the saint or these relics of the Prophet have
the greater power in drawing pilgrims to the shrine, is a doubtful
question.

Delicate finish, suited to its smallness of scale, makes a yet more
perfect shrine of the tiny forecourt, and dome over the tomb of another
Marabout, Sidi Abid el Ghariani. Of all the Moorish work in the city,
this Zaouïa is perhaps the gem—at any rate the hand of time has touched
it lightly, so that nothing has been done to spoil its charm of colour.

        [Illustration: THE MOSQUE OF THE THREE DOORS, KAIROUAN]

Quite other considerations make it worth while to go on pilgrimage to
the Mosque of the Swords, though its only beauty lies in the distant
effect of its seven fluted domes. It is dedicated to a comparatively
modern saint, who had great influence in Kairouan. His name was Sidi
Amer Abbada, and he began life as a blacksmith. To astonish his admirers
he made, and they now say he used, gigantic swords, covered with
inscriptions, one of which prophesies the coming of the French. His
pipes are the pipes of a nightmare—too huge for mortal man to smoke. As
for the colossal bronze anchors he is said to have carried on his
shoulders from Porto Farina, quite unaided and alone, are they not now
reposing in a courtyard close by? There the sceptical can go and see for
themselves and come away abashed, saying, “Truly this was a great
Marabout.”

The Djama Thelata Biban, or Mosque of the Three Doors, is noteworthy
because of its great age (some six or seven hundred years old) and also
for the decorative value of its façade. The plan is not in the least
original, the outline is elementary—a square block with an equally
square minaret beside it. But it is the treatment of the flat surface
that is remarkable. The upper part of the front is shaded by a tiled
roof supported by wooden brackets, old and mellow in tone. Underneath
comes a broad space of golden stone, adorned by alternate bands of
raised inscriptions in Cufic characters, and fragments of Roman carved
work. Below this all is white, the surface broken by three archways with
old capitals and columns, that cast fascinating shadows on the three
brilliant green doors that give the mosque its name. Coloured tiles in
the same way relieve the whiteness and add to the charm of the minaret.
Unfortunately the building is badly placed across the end of a dull
street, so that it cannot be seen at a picturesque angle.

The pleasures of Kairouan are by no means exhausted by merely walking
through the streets, visiting the mosques, and wandering outside the
walls, not even by watching the life of the people either out of doors
or at the cafés.

Sunsets as beautiful as those of Biskra may be enjoyed from the roof.
Afterglows, with a depth and glory of red and crimson unrivalled even in
Egypt, created by the magic atmosphere of the dry and somewhat dreary
plain, which they transform into a land of mystery and romance.

When the moon rises, another scene of enchantment is revealed. The pale
moonlight of our island home is unknown in Africa: here the contrast is
wonderful, the brilliance positively startles. The first impression on
leaving a lighted room is that it has been snowing heavily. Then
gradually one begins to grasp the extraordinary depth of the shadows,
the absolute clearness of each outline, the suffused glow, the positive
warmth that throws such glamour over each common thing. Last of all, one
sees that in this moonlight there is colour, soft and low in tone, but
yet distinctly recognisable.

As a little change, or perhaps because sunset and moonlight might be
thought dull, the authorities kindly decreed that a military tattoo
should be held. Gay sounds of martial music, the light tramp of marching
feet, the hum of many voices, drew every one to the balcony, to find the
street bright with flaming torches. The lights flared up, casting weird
shadows over the crowd of eager faces as the wind blew the flames to and
fro. The gay uniforms, the lightly stepping, almost dancing feet of the
soldiers as they marked time, contrasted strangely with the statuesque
pose of the sober citizens, or the wild unkempt figures of men from some
distant oasis, or nomads from the desert. How they all enjoyed the
show!—soldiers as much as any one else, and the band seemingly most of
all.

The terrible rites of the Aïssaouas may be witnessed every night. The
sect is powerful in Kairouan, has its own mosque, and they welcome all
those whose curiosity is strong enough to overcome their feelings of
horror or of self-contempt for wishing to look on at such doings.

The Marabout Aïssa (a name which means Jesus), who came from Morocco,
was once wandering in the desert, far from home and friends, and
suffered much from hunger. In fact he would have died of starvation had
he not been endued with miraculous power, and this enabled him to eat
all kinds of impossible food, including snakes, scorpions, fire, glass,
and leaves of prickly pear, spines and all. His followers imitate him,
or pretend to do so, to this day, having previously worked themselves
into a state of frenzy after the manner of the Howling Dervishes. Their
feats in this direction, and also with swords and daggers run through
their bodies, seem so hideous and disgusting even in the telling, that
one wonders how any Europeans can bear to see the sight. Yet numbers do,
and get so excited that they forget to be horrified or feel sick till
they get home.

A wedding feast is a very different ceremony, so that to be invited to
see one in old-world Kairouan is a piece of real good-fortune. After
dinner the Arab servants hurried us off, with two French officers and
their wives, through the still marvel of a moonlight night. The music of
the tom-toms and the trilling cries, half-shrill, half-sweet, of
rejoicing women, could be heard long before the house was reached.

The outer gate, decked with boughs, stood wide open, though as yet only
the ladies were allowed to enter and cross the courtyard to an inner
court full of flickering lights and a bewildering number of restless,
ever-moving women. Gay as butterflies they fluttered round us, whilst
with pretty gentle ways they patted and stroked our hands and clothes,
pulled, pushed, and led us in and out of three tiny rooms, showing us
all the preparations, the embroidered linen and hangings, the lights,
the robes, the state bedstead, and, last of all, within a circle of
elder women seated on the floor, the bride herself. Demure, a little
wistful, with a studiously impassive expression, in all her finery of
silk and veils, bedizened with jewels, she posed like an image, aloof
and very lonely in the crowd.

                   [Illustration: A DESERT AFTERGLOW]

Then suddenly the cry was heard, “The bridegroom comes,” and in the
twinkling of an eye we found ourselves alone in an empty court, the
women had all vanished, though how they packed themselves into those wee
rooms was a mystery.

Our loneliness was only momentary, for the men swept in like a flood to
the sounds of the usual wild music and much banging of tom-toms. Then a
group of Aïssaouas began their prayer or incantations, swaying and
shouting as they swung themselves backwards and forwards. Happily the
bridegroom was impatient, and stopped the performance before any horrors
occurred. Whereupon the men were all hustled off the premises, the
French officers very reluctantly going with the rest. As the last man
disappeared, out fluttered all the butterflies again. It was the woman’s
hour, and they made the most of it. They enthroned the bridegroom, a
handsome young man, on a dais, covered his head with a beautiful new
burnous, arranged to fall like a veil on either side of his face, which
it almost concealed. Like the bride, he was preternaturally solemn, and
sat there with his eyes shut, pretending to see nothing, whilst
thoroughly enjoying many furtive peeps.

Then the revels began, pretty girls danced round him laughing, with
lighted candles held on high. With a certain quaint grace they mingled
merciless chaff with all manner of elfish tricks, pinching and giving
him saucy kisses, deceiving him with pretences that his bride was
coming, even going so far as to play at being the bride themselves, and
doing their utmost to make him laugh. Only Rembrandt could have done
justice to the delightful effects of light and shade, the marvellous
play of colour. The girls, with their bright beauty enhanced by the
quaint horned caps, the gay silk veils, and chains and jewels gleaming
under the flickering lights, the lace sleeves falling away from their
bare arms, and their lithe, graceful forms wrapped in bright-hued silk,
were a perfect picture.

The bridegroom bore all the teasing with a stolid countenance and a mock
air of meekness—it is considered most unlucky to smile—but at last he
received his reward. The real bride stood before her lord, veiled, with
her head slightly bowed. He rose, lifted her veil, and kissed her. The
little ceremony was at an end.



                                 Index


                                   A
  Ain-Tunga, 129
  Aïssaouas, 201, 223
  Algiers, 3-33, 38, 40, 42, 195
      Arab Cemetery, 25
      Bois de Boulogne, 31
      Carpet school, 8
      Casbah, 5, 31
      Cathedral, 33
      Chateau Hydra, 31
      Colonne Voirol, 27
      Embroidery school, 7
      Fort des vingt-quatre heures, 33
      Jardin d’Essai, 20, 25
      Koubba, 31
      Marabout of Sidi Noumann, 27
      Moorish houses, 7
      Moorish villas, 23
      Mosque of Sidi Abder Rahman, 9
      Museum, 33
      Notre Dame d’Afrique, 31
      Penon, 12
      Tiger Gateway, 12
  Atlas Mountains, 130
  Aures Mountains, 74, 78, 83, 95, 130

                                   B
  Batna, 42, 93, 94, 98
  Belisarius, 109, 185
  Berbers, 78, 82
  Biskra, 42, 44, 58-89, 207, 222
      The races, 84
  Bizerta, 189
  Bône, 46
  Bougie, 46
  Bou Korneïne, 183, 194
  Bouzareah, 27, 28
  Bruce, 98, 103, 134

                                   C
  Carthage, 127, 141, 154, 173, 179-189, 199
      Aqueduct, 185
      Byrsa, 182, 189
      Cathedral, 184
      Chapel of St. Louis, 184
      Museum, 182
      Punic cisterns, 184
      Punic tombs, 186
      Roman amphitheatre, 186
  Cervantes, 32
  Charles V., 142, 173
  Chehoud el Batal, 128
  Cherchell, 30, 126
  Chotts, 207
  Claudian, 30
  Col de Sfa, 83
  Constantine, 107-115, 195
      Baths of Sidi Meçid, 115
      Bridge of el Kantara, 108
      Casbah, 112
      Cathedral, 114
      Chemin des Touristes, 112
      Gorge of the Roumel, 110
      Mansoura, 110
      Palace of the Bey, 115
      Sidi Rached, 111
  Constantine the Great, 108
  Creuly (General), 125

                                   D
  Damrémont (General), 109
  De Bourmont (General), 30
  Dely Ibrahim, 20
  Dey of Algiers, 5, 11, 32
  Dido, 180
  Diocletian, 132
  Djebel Ahmar Kreddou, 81
  Djebel Chenoua, 29
  Djebel Djouggar, 185
  Dougga, 126-135
      Bab el Roumi, 134
      Mausoleum, 135
      Temple of Celestis, 133
      Theatre, 134
  Douïrat, 209

                                   E
  El Ariana, 173
  El Bahira, 173, 174, 183
  El Biar, 17, 21, 28
  El Djem, 196-203
  El Guerrah, 40
  El Kahina, 197, 200
  El Kantara, 43-54, 67, 75, 78, 130
  Exmouth (Lord), 11

                                   G
  Gabès, 207
  Gafsa, 207
  Gates of the desert, 43
  Gildon (Count), 97
  Gordian, 200
  Goums, 87

                                   H
  Hadrian, 185
  Hædo, 32
  Hamilcar Barca, 181
  Hammamet, 195
  Hammam Meskoutine, 119-126, 198
      Le mariage Arabe, 122
      The hot springs, 120
      The subterranean lake, 123
  Hammam R’hira, 121
  Hammam Salahin, 83
  Hannibal, 181
  Hanno, 181
  Hercha, 195
  Himilco, 181
  Honorius, 97

                                   J
  Julius Cæsar, 108
  Justinian, 108

                                   K
  Kabylia, 18, 78
  Kairouan, 153, 207-226
      Bab Djelladin, 211
      Mosque of the Barber, 219
      Mosque of the Olives, 214
      Mosque of the Swords, 221
      Mosque of the Three Doors, 221
      Porte de Tunis, 211, 218
      Well of el Barota, 212
      Zankat Touila, 211
      Zaouia Sidi Abid el Ghariani, 220
  Khroumirie, 129

                                   L
  Lactantius, 188
  Laghouat, 86
  La Goulette, 173, 183, 189
  La Malga, 185
  La Marsa, 173, 188
  Lambessa, 95
  Lavigerie (Cardinal), 73, 184
  Lucius Munatius Gallus, 97

                                   M
  Mago, 182
  Masinissa, 108
  Matmata, 209
  Maximin, 200
  Medenine, 209
  Medjerda (River), 127, 133
  Medjez el Bab, 127, 135
  Micipsa, 107
  Mohammed, 66, 154, 156, 189, 210, 212
  Mustapha (Lower), 19, 25
  Mustapha (Upper), 5, 17, 19, 21, 27, 39

                                   N
  Nero, 97

                                   O
  Optatus (Bishop), 97
  Oran, 33
  Ouled Naïls, 88

                                   P
  Perrégaux (General), 109
  Playfair, 134
  Pliny, 200
  Ptolemy, 96, 200

                                   R
  Robson (John), 24
  Ruspina, 195

                                   S
  Sahara, 50, 57, 61, 72, 80, 83
  St. Arcadius, 30
  St. Augustine, 97, 132, 188
  St. Cyprian, 187, 188
  St. Felicita, 187
  St. Louis of France, 183, 184, 188
  St. Marcian, 30
  St. Nemphanion, 186
  St. Perpetua, 187
  St. Vincent de Paul, 143
  Sallust, 108, 195
  San Geronimo, 32
  Sbeitla, 208
  Scipio, 179
  Sedjoumi (Lake), 173
  Sfax, 197
  Shaw, 98, 109
  Sidi Bou Saïd, 183, 188
  Sidi Mohammed Bou Kobrin, 26
  Sidi Okba, 82, 210, 214
  Sidi Okba (village), 80
  Sophonisba, 108
  Sousse, 193-197
  Staouëli, 30
  Syphax, 107

                                   T
  Tacitus, 97
  Tebessa, 126
  Teboursouk, 130
  Tertullian, 188
  Testour, 128
  Tibilis, 124
  Timgad, 93-104, 134
      Arch of Trajan, 103
      Baths, 102
      Forum, 100
      Market, 101
      Museum, 99
      Salle de réunion, 100
      Via Decumanus Maximus, 100
  Tipaza, 30, 126
  Tomb of the Christian, 29
  Touaregs, 78, 85, 88
  Tougourt, 84, 88, 207
  Tozeur, 209
  Trajan, 97, 195
  Tunis, 11, 139-175, 195, 196
      Bab Djazira, 143, 171
      Bab Djedid, 170
      Bab el Fellah, 172
      Bab el Khadra, 172
      Bab Souika, 143, 168
      Bardo, 163
      Belvedere, 172
      Casbah, 141, 173
      Dar el Bey, 153, 163
      Hara (Jewish quarter), 164
      Harem, 160
      Medina, 143, 168
      Mosque el Zitouna, 154
      Mosque Sidi Ben Arous, 141
      Mosque Sidi Ben Ziad, 141, 153
      Mosque Sidi Mahrez, 143
      Place Halfaouine, 166, 168
      Porte de France, 144, 173
      Souk des Etoffes, 146
      Souk des Femmes, 150
      Souk el Attarin, 148
      Souk el Belat, 152
      Souk el Blagdia, 149
      Souk el Hout, 164
      Souk el Trouk (tailors), 150

                                   U
  Utica, 141, 173, 180, 189

                                   V
  Vandals, 78, 109, 142, 185
  Varro, 182

                                   Z
  Zaghouan, 172, 185
  Ziban, 81, 207


                                THE END


           _Printed by_ R. & R. Clark, Limited, _Edinburgh_.

                     [Illustration: _Sketch Map of_
                            ALGERIA & TUNIS]

           PUBLISHED BY A. AND C. BLACK, SOHO SQUARE, LONDON.



                            A COMPANION VOLUME
                            IN THE SAME SERIES

                                 MOROCCO

                         PAINTED BY A. S. FORREST
                       DESCRIBED BY S. L. BENSUSAN

             CONTAINING 74 FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOUR

                              PRICE 20s. NET
                           Post free, 20s. 6d.

  A. J. Dawson in _The Speaker_ says:—“It is a carefully finished piece
  of work, capably written and sincerely thought out; this, with the
  numerous and beautiful illustrations, makes the whole a very desirable
  book.”

                               Published by
                  A. & C. BLACK, Soho Square, LONDON, W.

                      AGENTS
  America
              The Macmillan Company
                64 & 66 Fifth Avenue, New York

  Canada
              The Macmillan Company of Canada, Ltd.
                27 Richmond Street West, Toronto.

  India
              Macmillan & Company, Ltd.
                Macmillan Building, Bombay
                309 Bow Bazaar Street, Calcutta



                     Beautiful Books about the East


EACH CONTAINING FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOUR, REPRODUCED IN THE
SAME STYLE AS THOSE IN “ALGERIA AND TUNIS”

            PAINTED AND DESCRIBED BY R. TALBOT KELLY, R.B.A.
                                 BURMA
            CONTAINING 75 FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOUR
                                                       _Price 20s. net._

Burlington Magazine.—“Mr. Kelly says but little of Burmese history and
architecture, but he has wandered away from the beaten track, and draws
the jungle as well as he draws pagodas, rendering without harshness the
difficult greens of tropical foliage and the blaze of tropical
sunlight.”

The Speaker.—“The result is a narrative delightful in its quiet zest,
and a series of pictures that have the hues of landscapes hung in a
heaven of dreamland.”

The Athenæum.—“His landscapes—in which nature is seen unforced by the
hands of colour-loving men and women, and seen, more often than not, by
early morning or evening light—have an exquisite delicacy.”

                       PAINTED BY WARWICK GOBLE.
            DESCRIBED BY PROF. ALEXANDER VAN MILLINGEN D.D.
                             CONSTANTINOPLE
            CONTAINING 63 FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOUR
                                                       _Price 20s. net._

Constantinople ranks high as one of the picturesque cities of the world,
and Mr. Warwick Goble, in his fine series of pictures reproduced in this
volume, reveals it to us under many interesting aspects; we see it, for
example, at early morning, with its spires and minarets emerging through
the haze, when it seems like an enchanted city of the “Thousand and One
Nights.” We get glimpses of life in its streets; we are shown its
flower-markets, its bazaars, its cafés, its walls, its churches, its
mosques, its cemeteries, and several types of its inhabitants form the
subject of special sketches.

Dr. Alexander van Millingen, the author of the book, is Professor of
History at Robert College, Constantinople, and is a recognised authority
on all that pertains to the city. He has written out of the fulness of
his knowledge in a way that cannot fail to interest the reader.

                PAINTED AND DESCRIBED BY R. TALBOT KELLY
                                 EGYPT
            CONTAINING 75 FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOUR
                                                       _Price 20s. net._

The Academy.—“Amongst books of its class Mr. Kelly’s deserves a high
place. It is sincere and distinctive, and the artist records atmosphere
and sky with more than ordinary understanding.”

The Bookman.—“Rarely can this old, old country have received more
beautiful homage than here—the happily inspired work of a true artist
revealing her countless charms.”

Black and White.—“This is a magnificent production of his, abounding
with fine pictures beautifully reproduced and teeming with fine
descriptive touches and bright anecdotal matter.”

                     PAINTED BY J. FULLEYLOVE, R.I.
              DESCRIBED BY THE REV. J. A. M‘CLYMONT, M.A.
                                 GREECE
            CONTAINING 75 FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOUR
                                                       _Price 20s. net._

The object of the writer is to supply a congenial atmosphere in which
the famous scenes and objects depicted by the artist may be
intelligently and sympathetically viewed. Some amount of description has
been given from recent personal observation, but the letterpress is
mainly devoted to the historical associations connected with the
different places of which pictures are shown. Some information is also
given, incidentally, regarding the condition and prospects of modern
Greece.

                     PAINTED BY J. FULLEYLOVE, R.I.
                DESCRIBED BY THE REV. JOHN KELMAN, M.A.
                             THE HOLY LAND
        CONTAINING 92 FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS, MOSTLY IN COLOUR
                                                       _Price 20s. net._

Westminster Gazette.—“To those who have been in Palestine Mr. Kelman’s
book will recall much and suggest many new ideas. To those who have not,
it will give, perhaps, a more accurate impression of the land and the
people than any other work on Palestine.”

Daily Chronicle.—“Even people who care nothing for art are interested in
faithful representations of the Holy Land as it is seen to-day. And here
they have the whole country laid before them in scenes of extraordinary
beauty—the mountains so full of history and poetic memories, the ancient
river and the accursed sea, the holy city with her relics and her
mosques, the brilliant Syrian crowds, and then the open country of
‘those holy fields over whose acres walked those blessed feet.’”

                        BY MORTIMER MENPES, R.I.
                         TEXT BY FLORA A. STEEL
                                 INDIA
            CONTAINING 75 FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOUR
                                                       _Price 20s. net._

The Standard.—“There can be no two opinions about this book. It takes
us, so to speak, to India without the trouble or expense involved in the
journey.”

Notes and Queries.—“This eminent painter has caught—by methods which are
partly his secret and partly his discovery—the means of reproducing
Indian and Japanese scenes with a fidelity and beauty until recently
unattainable.”

The Scotsman.—“The volume is an uncommonly desirable book. If the
Horatian maxim be correct, it should carry every point, for it is as
happy a mixture as could be made of the profitable and the sweet.”

                        BY MORTIMER MENPES, R.I.
                       THE TEXT BY DOROTHY MENPES
                                 JAPAN
            CONTAINING 100 FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOUR
                                                       _Price 20s. net_.

Black and White.—“It is a charming volume, and contains some of the most
delightful of Mr. Menpes’s Japanese studies. The reading matter, too, is
very bright, and accords most agreeably with the delightful pages in
which the artist holds unquestionable possession of the stage.”

The Times.—“Mr. Menpes’s pictures are here given in most perfect
facsimile, and they form altogether a series of colour-impressions of
Japan which may fairly be called unrivalled. Even without the narrative
they would show that Mr. Menpes is an enthusiast for Japan, her art, and
her people; and very few European artists have succeeded in giving such
complete expression to an admiration in which all share.”

                        PAINTED BY A. S. FORREST
                      DESCRIBED BY S. L. BENSUSAN
                                MOROCCO
            CONTAINING 74 FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOUR
                                                       _Price 20s. net._

The World.—“It is certain that the Morocco of to-morrow must needs be
very different from the Morocco of to-day; and so we should be grateful
for a really handsome presentation, in print and in pictures, of the
country as it is. In _Morocco_, painted by A. S. Forrest, described by
S. L. Bensusan, we have the very thing; and this book should soon find a
place upon the shelves not only of every lover of past and passing
conditions, but of every student of travel and history, and of every one
who is capable of being interested in foreign politics.”

Pall Mall Gazette.—“This is a wonderful series of pictures of life in
Maghreb-el-Acksa.”

            PAINTED AND DESCRIBED BY A. HENRY SAVAGE LANDOR
                            TIBET AND NEPAL
          CONTAINING 75 FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS (50 IN COLOUR)
                                                       _Price 20s. net._

The Academy.—“The present writer can only say that, for his part, he
believes his author to be sincere and correct, and one of the pluckiest,
truest-hearted, and most enterprising men in the world to boot. To this
encomium might be added, one of the cleverest, too, for the drawings in
colour and black-and-white display a very acute artistic sense and
exquisite perception of the beauty and grandeur of mountain scenery.”

The Onlooker.—“The book does not contain a dull page (or a dull
illustration) from beginning to end.”

                             BY LADY BUTLER
            PAINTER OF ‘THE ROLL CALL,’ ‘SCOTLAND FOR EVER’
                       LETTERS from the HOLY LAND
 CONTAINING 16 FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOUR FROM PAINTINGS BY THE
                                 AUTHOR
                                                    _Price 7s. 6d. net._

The Outlook.—“Charmingly natural and spontaneous travel impressions with
sixteen harmonious illustrations. The glow, spaciousness, and atmosphere
of these eastern scenes are preserved in a way that eloquently attests
the possibilities of the best colour process work.”

St. James’s Gazette.—“The letters in themselves afford their own
justification; the sketches are by Lady Butler, and when we have said
that we have said all. Combined, they make a book that is at once a
delight to the eye and a pleasure to handle. The coloured illustrations,
marvellously well reproduced, provide in a panoramic display faithful
representations of the Holy Land as it is seen to-day. They make a
singularly attractive collection, worthy of the distinguished artist who
painted them.”


         PUBLISHED BY A. & C. BLACK · SOHO SQUARE · LONDON · W.



                          Transcriber’s Notes


--Research into publication date and location determined that this book
  is in the public domain.

--Corrected a few palpable typographical errors.

--In the text versions only, text in italics is delimited by
  _underscores_.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Algeria and Tunis" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home