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: About Algeria - Algiers, Tlemçen, Constantine, Biskra, Timgad
Author: Thomas-Stanford, Charles
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 "About Algeria - Algiers, Tlemçen, Constantine, Biskra, Timgad" ***


                          Transcriber’s Note:

This version of the text cannot represent certain typographical effects.
Italics are delimited with the ‘_’ character as _italic_.

Footnotes have been moved to follow the paragraphs in which they are

The full-page illustrations are indicated here by their captions, which
have been repositioned to fall on the nearest paragraph break.

Minor errors, attributable to the printer, have been corrected. Please
see the transcriber’s note at the end of this text for details regarding
the handling of any textual issues encountered during its preparation.


                            _ABOUT ALGERIA_


                            THE SAME AUTHOR

                             LEAVES FROM A
                             MADEIRA GARDEN

                          CROWN 8vo, 5_s._ NET


                            _ABOUT ALGERIA_

_ALGIERS *flower* TLEMÇEN *flower* CONSTANTINE *flower* BISKRA *flower*
TIMGAD *flower* *flower* *flower* *flower* BY CHARLES THOMAS-STANFORD
F. DORRIEN THOROTON AND FROM PHOTOGRAPHS_ *flower* *flower* *flower*
*flower* *flower*


                  _LONDON: JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD_





The following pages are a record of impressions received from a visit
Algeria in the early months of 1911. In a former volume I dared to
ridicule the pretensions of those who, on the strength of a short stay
in a foreign country to enlighten the public. My chickens have come home
to roost.

If I must seek an excuse for hasty conclusions I may find it in the
motor-car. It has revolutionized the relations of time and space, and
abolished the barren interludes of travel. It has increased fourfold the
traveller’s opportunities of observation. Algeria, a land of great
distances and admirable roads, is especially suited to its use. And it
is a country brimful of interest, historical and actual. The scholar may
dig in the debris of the Roman and Byzantine dominions; the connoisseur
revel in the relics of Moorish art; the politician contemplate the
colonization of a conquered territory in the face of a subject
population alien in race and religion; the ordinary traveller will be
content to sip a little at each source. So have I sipped in these pages.
Much that I have written will be trite to those who know the country.
But perhaps I shall induce others to go and see for themselves. And on
their gratitude I rely with confidence.

The reproduction here of some of Mr. Thoroton’s admirable drawings of
Arab doorways may serve to lead the attention of travellers—and perhaps
of the authorities—to these interesting features of the old town of
Algiers. The destroyer is busy, but here, as elsewhere, his ruinous
energy makes what he has spared more precious. There are signs that his
days are numbered, of the rise of a more enlightened public opinion
concerning the preservation of features of antiquarian value or natural
beauty. The excellent work of the _Service des monuments historiques_ is
bearing good fruit. At Timgad it has given a Roman City to the modern
world; at Tlemçen it is safeguarding the treasures of Arab decorative
art; the less important antiquities of Algiers and Constantine, and of a
hundred less considerable places, should be its future care.

It is too much to expect that a trading and agricultural community
should wax enthusiastic over such matters for their own sake. The point
we have to emphasise is that there is money in them; that they have a
very distinct and rising commercial value, easily destroyed, and, once
lost, irrecoverable.

The guide-books to Algeria, in the English language at all events, are,
in view of modern conditions of travel, hopelessly out of date. The
motorist will, of course, provide himself with Messrs. Michelins’
admirable road-book. There he is furnished with precise and condensed
information as to distances, surfaces, and hotels. The traveller who
desires to look beyond these primary facts will find in M. Maurice
Wahl’s “L’Algerie” (Cinquième Edition, Paris, 1908), a compendium of
information—concise, logical, and complete, after the French manner; and
he will regret that its usefulness is much diminished, in accordance
with an unfortunate French fashion, by the absence of an index.

                                                            C. T. S.

BRIGHTON, _July, 1911_.


                           I—ARABY’S DAUGHTER


 Europe and the Mediterranean—Algiers—The clash of                    17
   civilizations—Things ancient and modern—The strangers’
   quarter—Arabs, Berbers, Moors, Jews, and others—A tale of
   a telegram

                           II—THE CORSAIR CITY

 The old town—The Arab ménage—The Penon—Barbarossa—French             48
   achievements and shortcomings—The Arab house—Christian
   slavery—Lord Exmouth

                      III—NEW ROADS AND OLD CITIES

 Rome’s successors—The Road and its influence—Algerian                77
   highways—The motor-car and modern travel—An aqueduct—
   Cherchel—Cleopatra’s daughter—Tipasa—The French as

                     IV—A GARDEN AND SOME BUILDINGS

 Jardin d’Essai—A lost opportunity—Some suggestions—The              104
   villas of Mustapha—A model museum—Arab art—Its origins—Its
   limitations—Its significance

                           V—SWORD AND PLOUGH

 Great events and trivial causes—The Dey’s fan—France roused—        122
   England as dog-in-the-manger—The French expedition and

                           VI—TLEMÇEN THE HOLY

 Western Algeria—Sidi Bel Abbès—The Foreign Legion—A city of         148
   learning—Its inhabitants—The Mosque of Aboul Hassan—
   Mansoura—Its story—Sidi Bou Medine—Oran—Spanish immigrants

                       VII—THE CITY OF PRECIPICES

 Road and rail to the eastward—Constantine—Its remarkable            178
   site—Its chequered history—French Conquest—Roman remains—
   Fronto—The Mairie—The road northward—The Aurès

                         VIII—THE ALLURING OASIS

 El-Kantara—The Gateway of the Desert—Biskra—Its attractions—        201
   The dancing-girls—"Hichenstown"—A garden and a vision—
   Railway extension—Conquering Mohammedans—Sidi Okba—The
   Arab’s point of view

                              IX—THE SAHARA

 The desert in imagination and reality—Underground water—            228
   Artesian wells—Mozabites—Touaregs—The camel—Recent
   developments—Railway projects—The Army of Africa


 The Roman frontier—Lambessa—The Empire ruined by bad                242
   finance—African Emperors—The plan of Timgad—Buildings,
   inscriptions, and mosaics—Prosperity of Roman Africa—Local
   patriotism—The Roman tradition

                           XI—A PUBLIC LIBRARY

 A romantic find—A municipal library of the third century—A          266
   Roman Carnegie—Christian Africa—The Donatists—Genseric the
   Vandal—Justinian—Timgad and Pompeii

                      XII—THE ROAD THROUGH KHABYLIA

 Sétif—The Chabet pass—A fishless river—A lovely coast—              285
   Bougie—Khabylia—Greek types—Fort National

 INDEX                                                               305



 Algiers: Doorway in the Rue Kleber                       _Frontispiece_

                                                           TO FACE PAGE

    "    Carved Stone Doorway in the Native Quarter                  17

    "    Doorway in the Rue de la Kasbah                             24

    "    Moorish Doorway, Rue Porte Neave                            35

    "    Marble Doorway, Rue Bruce                                   36

    "    Doorway, Rue Medea                                          48

    "    Doorway in the Rue Ben-Ali                                  54

    "    Entrance-door of the Mosque, Rue de la Marine               68

 Cherchel: the Aqueduct                                              90

 Algiers: Garden of the Hotel St. George                             104

    "    Fountain in the Kasbeh                                     108

    "    Dragon Tree in the Garden of the Hotel                     112

    "    Fountain, Rue de l’Intendance                              118

 Evening Prayer                                                     138

 Caravan of a Caid                                                  141

 Tlemçen: the Minaret of Agadir                                     153

 The Walls of Mansoura                                              164

 The Tower of Mansoura                                              169

 Sidi Bou Medine: the Bronze Doors                                  172

 Constantine                                                        181

 Zouaves                                                            191

 El Kantara                                                         201

 Old Biskra                                                         215

 Biskra: Statue of Cardinal Lavigerie                               217

 Sidi Okba: a Street                                                222

 The Outskirts of the Sahara                                        228

 An Artesian Well                                                   232

 A Native Well                                                      234

 A Caravan                                                          238

 A Street at Timgad                                                 245

 Timgad: Arch of Trajan                                             255

    "    The Public Library                                         271


                            _ABOUT ALGERIA_





                            _ABOUT ALGERIA_


                          _I—ARABY’S DAUGHTER_

Europe and the Mediterranean—Algiers—The clash of civilizations—Things
    ancient and modern—The strangers’ quarter—Arabs, Berbers, Moors,
    Jews, and others—A tale of a telegram.


              “E’en now the devastation is begun
              And half the business of destruction done.”

Some of the ashes of the Roman Empire have been recovered. The
Mediterranean is once more a European lake. The Turk indeed still holds
its eastern shores; the amazing Sultanate of Morocco yet persists in the
west; strong, after the manner of Barbary for centuries, in the
jealousies of Europe. Yet the Turk, while maintaining his assertion of
the Unity of the Godhead, which divides him from Christendom, is,
nevertheless, in other ways almost to be accounted a member of the
European family; and even in the vigorous days of the Empire the wild
tribes of the Greater Atlas recked little of the might and majesty of
Rome. These are the limitations; our concern is with the achievement,
and especially with the fertile country, once Rome’s granary, now after
a thousand years of neglect and abasement restored to the orderly uses
of civilized man. We are to visit a land unsurpassed in the variety of
its historical vicissitudes, and strewn with the stones of many empires;
a land where to-day a European nation, cherishing, perhaps more than any
other, Roman traditions in its law and polity, controls by force of arms
and of character a vast and heterogeneous population, previously united
only in its submission to the brooding blight of Islam.

“The grand object of travelling,” said Dr. Johnson, “is to see the
shores of the Mediterranean; on those shores were the four great empires
of the world; the Assyrian, the Persian, the Grecian, and the Roman. All
our religion, almost all our law, almost all our arts, almost all that
sets us above savages has come to us from the shores of the
Mediterranean.” The Doctor’s aspirations were doubtless confined to its
northern shore. If he had indiscreetly placed himself within the
jurisdiction of the Dey of Algiers or the Bey of Tunis he might have
found his value appraised on a basis different from that which prevailed
at The Club, and in default of ransom have been set to uncongenial
tasks. We are more fortunate in our generation.

To men trained in the traditional scholarship of English schools and
universities certain places of the earth are holy places. The Acropolis
of Athens, the heights and harbour of Syracuse, the Roman forum; perhaps
in a scarcely less degree, Constantinople seen from the Bosphorus;—these
stir to life sentiments born of youthful struggles and enthusiasms, but
buried beneath a load of years crowded with other interests. Such
sentiments may even prevail over those which attach to more recent
history and national predilections. The approach by sea from the
Atlantic to the Straits of Gibraltar is an experience to move the most
indifferent; to an Englishman a very moving experience. He has passed
Cape St. Vincent, with its undying fame, and the Rock is ahead, with its
triumphant symbolism of his country’s world-power. Across the straits
lies the rocky coast between Tangiers and Ceuta, a rampart of that vast
continent, the last home of mystery, which has played so great a part in
the lives of the present generation of Englishmen. And the Rock itself,
detached, impregnable, is rich in English memories from Blake to our own

Yet to him who has preserved some shreds of his classical learning, the
passage from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean has a still deeper
significance. It marks the separation of the old and the new worlds. At
the Pillars of Hercules the old world ended; they guarded the threshold
of the unknown. On the inland sea within were cradled the civilizations
on which our own is mainly based—Hebrew, Hellenic, Roman. Perhaps we may
wonder at their limitations, especially at the comparative inefficiency
of Rome in maritime affairs. If Rome with her vast resources had owned a
spark of the naval enterprise of ancient Phœnicia or modern Britain;
if she had spent on the sea a tithe of the energy she exercised on land—
exhibited nowhere more completely than in that Northern Africa to which
we are bound—the history of the world might, indeed, have taken a
different course. But it was reserved for the great awakening of the
fifteenth century to probe the secrets of the mysterious Atlantic, and
to throw open vast fields for conquest and colonization to the European
races. And when through the gathering darkness we look back to the twin
peaks, we recall the legend of the two dragons guarding the entrance to
the Garden of the Hesperides, and wonder if it was invented by ancient
mariners to cover their lack of enterprise.

Many Mediterranean cities present a fair prospect to him who comes by
sea, especially in the pearly radiance of the Mediterranean dawn.
Algiers surpasses all. The steepness of the hill-side which it fills and
its own white brilliancy give to it a special distinction. Many writers,
following a leader as sheep that have gone astray, have compared it to
the tiers of seats rising one above another in a Greek theatre—a
fanciful and baseless comparison. There is no such ordered arrangement.
The straight lines of modern houses enclose a central mass of strange
irregularity, so confused that from a distance it has the semblance of a
heap of ruins. This is the remnant of the Arab city, a swarming ant-heap
of native life, filled with strange and savage memories of the
astonishing pirates who were through centuries, and even until living
memory, the scourge of Christendom. The sea front has entirely lost its
ancient aspect; its long line of symmetrical houses, with its Boulevard
de la République, and its Boulevard Carnot, recalls Palermo or Messina.
And stretching south and east along the hills which encircle the bay the
city’s suburbs seem to have no end; white houses gleam amid dark foliage
and splendid villas crown the heights.

The first view of the streets is something of a shock and a
disappointment. We have heard of the ancient Arab city, we have seen
photographs of narrow lanes with quaint Moorish houses almost meeting
over the wayfarer’s head; and yet we find ourselves driving at a hand
gallop through wide, modern streets, with their normal garniture of
tramways and motor-cars. An occasional snow-white mosque, a public
building or two of Arabesque style, suggest the Orient; in other
respects the streets are those of a very prosperous and busy modern
French town. It is easy to see that Algiers enjoys a municipality
anxious to be in the forefront of civic progress; that M. le Maire is
determined that his city shall not be ashamed to look Marseilles and
Nice in the face; and that as the native and the stranger wander
incuriously through the streets, earnest committees—sanitary committees,
waterworks committees, lighting committees, tramway committees,
committees for the regulation of everything that can be regulated—are
seated in upper chambers eagerly concerting measures for their welfare.
And it may even be that civilization is sufficiently advanced for a
Ratepayers’ Association to be keeping a bilious eye on the proceedings
of its chosen representatives, and endeavouring to solve the eternal
problem—_Quis custodiet custodes?_

It will be recalled that the immortal Tartarin suffered a similar
disenchantment. He had figured to himself an Oriental town of fairy
mythology, holding a middle place between Constantinople and Zanzibar—
"_il tombait en plein Tarascon_." But that soaring and romantic spirit
refused to be bound in the chains of the commonplace, and, following
humbly in his wake, let us strive to see an Arab beauty beneath the veil
of our neighbour in the tram-car, and to hear in the rumble of a distant
train at night the roar of ravening lions.


The hasty and inconsiderate modernization of an ancient and historic
town such as Algiers suggests serious considerations. The process of
destroying what is noteworthy for age or beauty in the name of
improvement would seem to be generally accepted as one of the conditions
of progress. Cities and towns, it is not unnaturally held, are not
museums or curiosity shops; men are massed in them to gain their
livelihood, or to pursue their pleasures. The antiquaries, those who
admire and study the works of the past, because they are the works of
the past; the nature-lovers, who “cultivate the beautiful without
extravagance”; these are an insignificant section drawn for the most
part from that hard-working class which is known to politicians as the
idle rich. Their protests are of no great avail. Governments, if
well-meaning, are lukewarm; local authorities, eager to be in the
municipal movement, are commonly apathetic as regards the claims of mere
ancientry or natural comeliness. Of what the modern Italians are doing
to desecrate Rome and despoil Florence it is difficult to speak with
patience. And it is the work of their own fathers that they are pulling
down or vulgarizing. The conditions here are quite different, and the
reforming zeal of the French so far less flagrant. They have replaced by
their own civilization what they regard as the barbarism of a conquered
race; they wanted the city of that race to live in, and they found it in
every way repugnant to their tastes and unsuited to their needs. The
soldiers began the work of destruction; soldiers destroy ruthlessly in
the day of battle; but the persistent waste of the horde that follows
after—the engineers, the architects, the speculative builders, the
railway constructors, and the great industrial companies—is infinitely
more damaging in the long run.

And what are we that we should cast a stone at the French? How much have
we spared of old London and its suburbs? How much of the urban beauty
and rural charm of England did our rude forefathers of the nineteenth
century wantonly and light-heartedly destroy? When have railway projects
or proposed public works been stayed on æsthetic grounds? Do the station
and bridge at Charing Cross lend dignity to our great river? And, to
look further afield, to what fate have we, masters of the Nile,
condemned Philae?

In this changeful North Africa succeeding conquerors have imposed their
civilizations and their works upon those of the conquered in a manner
which has scarcely any parallel in Europe. Carthage destroyed, Rome came
in her might and built a hundred cities, conducted water, brought huge
areas into cultivation, and made roads after her manner; and in due time
overthrew her own ancient altars in zeal for a new faith. In the age of
her decrepitude Byzantium strove to maintain the Pax Romana, to curb the
Vandal usurpation and the Arian schism, and to keep the aspirations of
the indigenous population within bounds. All went down in a day before a
troop of Arabians who rode as conquerors from Egypt to the Atlantic.
Islam followed in their wake. The civilization derived from Europe
disappeared; the watercourses were broken, the desert resumed its sway,
and the stones of Roman temples and basilicas went to build the mosques
and villas of the visitors. For twelve centuries the creed of Mahomet
held dominion; Europe was busy with its own affairs, and endured the
insolent depredations and exactions of the Deys with scarcely a serious
attempt to suppress them. But at length the cup was full. An English
fleet struck the first blow; a few years later France took the
subjugation of Algeria seriously in hand; and to-day European
civilization is once more paramount in the ancient provinces of Rome.

There are hotels in the town, frequented, perhaps, more by commercial
than by leisurely travellers, and the visitor will probably prefer to
lodge himself at Mustapha Supérieur. Here, if he chooses a house in a
good situation, and obtains a room with a southern aspect, he may feast
his eyes untiringly on a scene of great beauty. At his feet lies the bay
where Charles V landed his ill-fated expedition—a shallow bay in which
often the waves breaking afar out roll to the land in foam. Towering
above the lesser hills which front its opposite shore are the snow-clad
mountains of the Djurjura range, guarding the highlands of Khabylia, and
glistening as if with crystals in the strong southern light. All around,
on the well-wooded heights, are countless villas, of high and low
degree, almost all of dazzling white, the whiter for the sombre foliage
of cypress and stone pine and olive in which they are set. Perhaps no
city of the earth possesses a lovelier suburb. The Englishman will find
himself quite at home. The villas and the hotels are to a great extent
occupied by his compatriots; and the institutions of his country are
fitly represented by an Anglican church and a nine-hole golf-course. If
he should be led to climb through an aromatic wood of eucalyptus to the
home of “le golf,” and be able to remove for a moment his eye from the
ball, he may enjoy a most glorious prospect. The snowy Djurjura of the
south-east finds a rival in the Lesser Atlas to the south-west, and
between the two lies a billowy champaign of cultivated and wooded hill
and plain. If his preconceived notions of Algeria, like the great
Tartarin’s, are dominated by the Sahara, if of Africa he knows only the
river banks of Egypt and the rolling veldt of the South, he will perhaps
recognize once more that Africa is ever the continent of surprise.

To return to the town. If at first sight the aspect of the French quays,
and the modern streets, shops, and boulevards, destroys pre-existing
illusions, ample amends are made by the colour and variety of the crowds
which frequent them, a very _colluvies gentium_. Jews, Turks, infidels,
and heretics jostle the faithful on equal terms; men and women sprung
from very diverse stocks in Africa, Asia, and Europe, impartially and to
all appearance fraternally throng the pavements and the public
conveyances. The eye is dazzled by the combination of European fashions
and smart French uniforms, with the outlandish aspect of Zouaves and
Spahis, the white-robed dignity of the stately Arab and the rich colours
of the impassive Turk. It is only after a time that one is able to
separate them into classes, and to perceive that the native inhabitants
fall naturally into further subdivisions.

The greater part of the inhabitants of Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco,
known collectively to Arabs as the Maghrab, and to our forefathers as
Barbary,—an island girt by sea and desert,—still represents those
original peoples who preceded the Phœnicians and the Romans. They
have endured and survived many conquests, for the most part
accommodating themselves to the conquerors’ institutions and religions.
The Arabs called them Berbers,—the origin of the name is doubtful. Being
to-day Arab in all but descent,—and very mixed in that,—they are
described in common parlance as Arabs.

In A.D. 647, when the Sultan Othmar decided to attempt the conquest of
North Africa, it was still under the rule of the weak Byzantine
Emperors, Gregorius being its governor. Othmar collected 20,000 of the
élite of the Arab forces, and added to them a similar number of
Egyptians. This small army performed a brilliant feat of arms. Advancing
against Gregorius, who was stationed at Sbeitla (in Tunisia), the Arab
leader, Abdulla Ibn Säad, offered the Christian leader terms: that he
should embrace Islam and render tribute to the Sultan. These being
declined, a fierce battle raged for several days. Gregorius was in
command of 120,000 men, but they were probably no match for the
disciplined Arabs. It is said that his daughter, a maid of incomparable
beauty, fought at her father’s side, and promised her hand and a fortune
to whoever should kill Abdulla. This seems to have been a somewhat
ill-advised proposal, for Abdulla, hearing of it, offered the same
reward to the slayer of Gregorius. After several days of desperate
fighting the Christian host was utterly defeated. Gregorius fell in the
final onslaught, and his daughter was bestowed on Ibn Ez-Zobeir, who had
slain him.

So ended the first Arab attack on Northern Africa. It had momentous
consequences. Not only did it bind to Islam for twelve hundred years the
provinces which for centuries before had been Christian and an appanage
of Europe, but it paved the way for the Arab invasion of Spain.

Abdulla’s raid was shortly followed by other military expeditions.
Eighteen years later Sidi Okba, having established a permanent
government, pursued his course through what is now Morocco to the
Atlantic Ocean. In order to complete the downfall of Christianity, a
special tax was imposed on Christians, a leaf out of the book of
Constantine the Great, who, in order to ensure its spread through the
Roman world, had ingeniously enacted that no pagan master should own a
Christian slave. The tax had the effect desired, and the whole
population embraced the faith and rule of Islam.

Four hundred years later a great Arab immigration took place. The
brigand tribes of Hillal and Soleim being driven from Arabia into Egypt,
speedily found their way thence into Northern Africa, which they overran
like a flight of locusts. From these nomad hordes are descended in the
main the Arabs of to-day.

If the true Arabs only represent a fraction of the total Mohammedan
population, variously estimated at a third and a sixth, they have
imposed on the remainder their language, their religion, their
institutions, and their customs, with the result that in a sense all are
Arabs, though not of race. The pure-bred Arab is of an aristocratic
type—tall, thin, muscular, and of dignified carriage. His narrow and
retreating forehead indicates no great brain power; this feature is
sometimes so marked as to give an aspect of semi-idiocy.

A rigorous childhood ensures the survival of the fittest; the Arab
children are left to themselves, naked in heat and cold, in sun and rain
and frost, and only the hardiest reach manhood. The result is seen in
the finely tempered physique of the race, in the Arab’s extraordinary
powers of endurance, and in his disregard of hardship and suffering.
Whole tribes are infected with what are called the diseases of
civilization; typhus and smallpox sometimes blaze like a flame among
them; the Arab scorns precaution or cure, and lives or dies with

As becomes his aristocratic traditions, he prefers war to peace, and
plunder to work. His nomad life, which accords with these tastes, is
probably an accident forced upon him by the climatic conditions of the
country. His wealth depends on his flocks and herds, his very existence
is tied to the necessity of finding pasture for them. New ground has
ever to be sought, different altitudes being visited according to the
season and the period of rainfall. For a people of filthy habits a nomad
life has many advantages; the constant change of camping-ground
counteracts in some degree the want of sanitary conditions.


According to European ideas the Arab is a barbarian, _sans foi ni loi_.
With some limitations, as in his hospitality, although he will not
scruple to rob his guest next day, he has no sense of honour, and aims
not at telling the truth, but at telling a lie adroitly. His women are
mere beasts of burden, absolutely at the mercy of their lord. A whole
world of progress lies between the Frenchman who works his fingers to
the bone to give his daughter a dower, and the Arab who sells his to the
highest bidder. And in love as in life the Arab is often a nomad, as the
desert towns bear witness. But as he stalks haughtily through the
streets of Algiers, he is an attractive and interesting figure. And who
may measure his disgust at the triumph of the infidel?

It is impossible to contemplate this strange being, moving among a
medley of races, without wondering what the future has in store. Will
the Arab live apart, as the Jew has often lived apart, or can he be
brought to assimilate the ideas and methods of his conquerors? At
present he seems dazed; his civilization founded on war has failed him
in war. It is useless to think of France converting him to Christianity;
you cannot convert a man to a faith you have abandoned yourself. And his
religion, absolute and absorbing—not of his life a thing apart, but his
whole existence—seems to oppose an impassable barrier to European
influences. You cannot reason with a man under a spell. Yet it is
impossible to suppose that the present situation can continue
indefinitely, and this is fully recognized by the French themselves. The
only solution so far attempted is in some kind of education for Arab
children. Our problem in India and Egypt is a less urgent one; we have
not colonized either country as the French have colonized Algeria.

The _sang pur_ of the original inhabitants, called Berbers by the Arabs,
is most fully represented by the Khabyles, who inhabit the mountainous
tracts of the littoral, both east and west of Algiers. They were
Christian under the later Roman rule, but adopted the religion of Islam
after the Arab invasions. Otherwise they have little in common with the
later comers; physically they are more nearly allied to the races of
Southern Europe. Living in their mountain fastnesses they have retained
their own customs and institutions, some of which are said to show a
trace of Roman influence. Their women are not veiled, and occupy a much
more independent position than is usual in Mohammedan countries. Their
men, to be seen in the streets of Algiers, may frequently be
distinguished from the Arabs by their fair complexions, blue eyes and
reddish hair. They have no inclination to a nomad life, and are
naturally industrious, freely offering their labour to the French
colonists. They would seem to present a more likely field for the spread
of social progress according to European ideas than does the lazy
indifference of the Arab; but in their case, too, religion is a bar.


The Mohammedan townsfolk, chiefly engaged in commercial pursuits, are
called Moors, a name which has no connection with Morocco. Chiefly Arab
or Berber in ultimate descent, there is among them much admixture of
Turkish and European blood. Their somewhat effeminate appearance
exhibits the influence of generations of town life. They affect brightly
coloured clothing, embroidered waistcoats and voluminous trousers
fastened at the ankle. They deal largely in embroidery, perfumes, and
fancy articles, and may commonly be seen lolling in their little shops
in attitudes of exaggerated indolence and unconcern. The Moorish women,
like those of the Arabs, are veiled; a white linen handkerchief is tied
closely across the nose, leaving the eyes visible, and perhaps somewhat
heightening their effect. A white shawl, called a _haik_, is thrown over
the head and extends to the knees or lower; the legs are encased in very
voluminous trousers tied at the ankles, and setting in a way which gives
them the appearance of being stuffed full. Altogether a very ungainly
costume. But even so they are less wanting in dignity than the
middle-class European women decked in a travesty of a mode which is
itself absurd. The veiling of all Mohammedan women for the last twelve
hundred years is due to the jealousy of the prophet of his young and
beautiful wife Ayesha.

Since the decree of 1870, which constituted them French citizens, the
Jews have gradually ceased to wear a distinctive dress, and have become,
as far as outward semblance goes, merged in the European population; but
their physiognomy bewrayeth them. It is, however, as far at least as the
men are concerned, of a less marked type than that of the German and
Russian Jews, with whom we are more familiar; and, possibly from some
admixture of Arab and Spanish blood, has an air suggestive of better
breeding. The Jews have existed in Algeria from early times; according
to tradition since the fall of Jerusalem. It is certain that the first
Arab invaders found many Jewish colonies which had made numerous
proselytes among the indigenous population. But the modern Algerian Jews
are probably derived in the main from the Jews who were expelled from
Italy in 1342, and from the emigrants from Spain in the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries. These Spanish Jews, better instructed and more
cultivated than their African brethren, have exercised a dominating
influence, exhibited to-day in their names, their customs and their
language. The Jew of the South is scarcely to be distinguished from the
nomads among whom he lives.

The Jew will go to any country, and live under any government; and he
can make a living anywhere, except, it is said, in Aberdeen. He has been
trained for countless generations to endure the restraint of princes and
the buffets of outrageous fortune; but probably at no time and in no
place has he had to put up with such treatment as was commonly meted out
to him by the Deys of Algiers. Habitually subject to every kind of
indignity, he was liable on the smallest provocation to be put to
torture and to death. If he raised a hand to the striker the hand was
lopped off. “But,” said one of them to an English traveller, “look what
a lot of money we make.”

Profits may no longer be what they were, but the ancient race has ceased
to quail before the oppressor. It is indeed not slow to exhibit the
contempt which it was long forced to conceal. A little Jew entered a
railway carriage in which every seat was taken but one, and over that
sprawled a big Arab, who showed no intention of making room. The Jew
pushed him aside with scant ceremony, whereupon the Arab turned and
said, “Est-ce que vous desirez me manger?” “Vous manger? Moi?” replied
the other; “je suis juif.” The refined insult of this reference to
Jewish rules of diet was doubtless lost on the barbarian, but it is a
happy illustration of the passing of the old order.

In Algeria the Jews number about 70,000, or in the proportion of one to
six of the European population. Since their admission to French
citizenship they appear to have performed the civil and military duties
attaching to it in the most exemplary manner. This has not prevented the
rise of a very strong anti-Semitic feeling among the European
immigrants. It is based partly on the objection to the Jews which is
felt in other countries, on the fact that they toil not, neither do they
spin, but that by commercial arts they grow rich where others fail, and
are able to make more money in five days than “Christians” can in six.
This is appreciated, it may be, with especial force in a new colony, to
which adventurous spirits resort in hope of fortune, only to find that
every avenue is already closed to all but Jewish enterprise. Partly this
animosity is due to local causes, to the solidarity with which they have
used their electoral privileges, with a view, it is said, to support
their own interests, rather than for public objects. It will be recalled
that in 1898, at the instigation of the notorious Max Régis, a mob
composed of the turbulent elements always present in Mediterranean towns
attacked and pillaged the shops and warehouses of Jewish traders in
Algiers. This tribulation, however serious in itself, must have seemed
comparatively slight to a race which remembered the rule of the Deys.
And the crisis past things have settled down again. An agitation for the
abrogation of the rights of citizenship granted in 1870 still exists,
but it is unable to produce serious grounds in support of such an
extreme step. To an observer it would appear that the commercial and
financial enterprise of the Jews must be of immense advantage. Algiers
itself is booming. Mr. Lloyd George’s mouth would water at the rise in
the value of suburban land from a few pence per metre ten years ago to
more than as many francs to-day; and building is progressing in all
directions. The command of capital which the Jews with their
international connections possess is almost certainly an important
factor in this prosperity. And the decline of credit in England, the
fear of spoliation by predatory politicians, from which its capitalist
classes, rightly or not, are suffering, may be having unsuspected
results in assisting the development of other countries.

Another race of traders will attract the attention of the observant
stranger. Of heavy build, flat-faced, broad-nosed, and thick-lipped, the
Mozabites have nothing in common with the physical qualities of the
Arab. They represent a section of the original Berber inhabitants;
although, it may be from the different conditions under which they have
lived for many centuries, their appearance bears no great resemblance to
that of their Khabyle connections. They inhabit a far country, the
district of El-Mzab, in the most arid part of the Sahara. By persevering
toil they have turned this inhospitable region into a garden; have dug
wells and created a complicated system of irrigation. They are no less
active as traders than as agriculturists. They have established markets
in their own oasis, and frequent others throughout the Sahara. A
considerable portion of the tribe has long lived in Algiers, being
encouraged by the Deys. They have almost a monopoly of certain of the
more humble trades; they are especially butchers and greengrocers.

The Biskris, a very low-class Berber tribe from the neighbourhood of
Biskra, are the water-carriers and scavengers of the city. They form
picturesque groups around the fountains in the Arab quarter. Their dark
complexions suggest a considerable admixture of negro blood. The true
negroes are also numerous, and with their alert and smiling faces offer
an agreeable contrast to the sombre impassiveness of the Arab. As
elsewhere, they do much of the hard work of the country, as masons and
workers on the roads and railways. Negresses are employed as servants,
and especially as masseuses in the Moorish baths.

Such, mingled with Frenchmen, Italians, Spaniards, Maltese, and a
sprinkling of almost every European race, are the numerous types of
diverse humanity which the streets of Algiers everywhere present. In so
rich a scene the artist will find fruitful sources of inspiration, both
of form and colour; the ethnologist will have scope for studying the
features and carriage of different races, and for tracing the effects of
their not infrequent intermixture; to the politician it will all give
furiously to think. During the last century or two a large portion of
the Mohammedan world has fallen under Western dominion. France, like
England, has acted on the Roman principle, _parcere subjectis et
debellare superbos_, but neither has succeeded in infusing the conquered
races with the ambition of citizenship, as Rome did. Their attitude at
best seems to be one of sullen acquiescence in the inevitable, at worst
that of a hunted beast who waits his opportunity to spring. And the most
incurious tourist will not escape a certain wonder at the strange and
varied inhabitants of a city so near his home that he may read his
Monday’s “Times” on Wednesday afternoon.

To outward appearance Algiers is a busy French town. But when we come to
probe below the surface we find that the Golden East, with its leisurely
and slipshod methods, holds us in fee. The mere sending of a common
telegram is no light matter. I desired to telegraph five words to an
inhabitant of the city of Funchal in the island of Madeira. I took the
despatch to a branch office at Mustapha, officered by female clerks. It
caused some commotion. The young women laid their heads together, pored
over several tattered volumes, and finally informed me, with a certain
touch of commiseration, that the charge was four francs and fifteen
centimes a word. Now as the charge from London is one shilling a word,
this was obviously too much. What visions of Madagascar or Macao they
had conjured up I know not; they are, I believe, both islands, both,
like Macedon, Monmouth and Madeira, have M’s in them, and both are
distant enough to justify some such charge. I tried to point out that
Madeira does not ride in such remote seas, but to no purpose; and
wearily I betook myself to the chief post office. This is a magnificent
building in the finest style of neo-Arab art, glorious within and
without. It is agreeable to find that the French authorities are now
erecting great buildings in the local style, instead of reproducing the
monotonous ugliness of the Third Empire. If only the Boulevard facing
the harbour could be so transformed, the view of the port would indeed
be worth looking at. In this resplendent Temple of Mercury one youthful
clerk is considered sufficient to receive the telegrams of Algiers. He
took my paper, counted the words backwards and forwards, and said
airily, “Un franc.” I inquired whether he meant for each word, or for
the whole. He replied for the whole. Now he was evidently erring on the
side of moderation, as his sisters had erred on the side of excess. I
protested that I would not pay so little. Books were consulted, higher
officials interviewed, many shoulders shrugged and many palms spread,
but to no purpose. Meantime in a somewhat impatient _queue_ the
telegraphic business of Algiers stood waiting. At length I was invited
to state what I would like to pay, and I suggested a suitable amount. It
was then discovered that as the charge for Teneriffe, which is also
situate in the Atlantic Ocean, is one franc twenty centimes (or
thereabouts) a word, this figure might not be unsuitable for Madeira; on
that basis the account was adjusted, and Algiers restored, after a
considerable interval, to telegraphic communication with the outer

Although the words colonization and colonists are on everybody’s lips,
Algeria is not in fact a colony. It is attached to the Ministère de
l’Intérieur, and is therefore technically a part of France. It is
divided into three departments, each of which sends to Paris two
deputies and one senator. The suffrage is “universal,” but confined to
citizens of French origin or naturalized. The Mohammedan natives are
subjects, not citizens. A colonial air is given by the existence of a
Governor-General, appointed by the President on the advice of the
Ministre de l’Intérieur. The organization of local government is similar
to that of France.


                         _II—THE CORSAIR CITY_

The old town—The Arab _ménage_—The Penon—Barbarossa—French achievements
    and shortcomings—The Arab house—Christian slavery—Lord Exmouth.


             “That execrable sum of all villanies.”—WESLEY.

A perambulation of the town of Algiers removes much of the impression of
its over-modernization which is received on landing. The boulevards
facing the sea and the streets immediately behind them are all new, but
where the hill begins to rise steeply the traveller will pass at a step
from the French city to the old Arab town. A greater contrast could not
be imagined. The French love broad streets, lofty houses, big windows,
open spaces, and above all straight lines. The Arab town is a labyrinth
of narrow lanes, twisting and curling according to no sort of plan, in
fact to all appearance so inextricably confused and so full of blind
alleys that one might suppose no living man capable of mastering their
meanderings. But a stranger need be under no apprehension of being lost.
He has only to keep ascending to reach the Kasbeh, the old Turkish fort
at the top of the town, or descending, a course which sooner or later
will bring him back to civilization. The lanes are very narrow, in many
cases only just wide enough to permit a horseman to pass a
foot-passenger; and as a rule the first floors of the houses, supported
on diagonal cedar poles, in themselves an interesting and picturesque
feature, extend over the footways, and almost meet. In many cases the
road is completely vaulted. Beyond the general suggestion of ancientry
there is really little in this old town to engage the attention of the
stranger; a few charming marble doorways of conventional Arab design; an
occasional glimpse of a colonnaded court-yard within; that is all.
Writers on Algiers have strained their vocabularies in frenzied efforts
to make something of this curious maze of dwellings; to produce any
effect they have generally had to fall back on their imagination of what
is happening behind those locked portals and those heavily barred
windows; of that life of the Orient of which we know and comprehend
nothing. Perhaps there is nothing very extraordinary to be known. The
sombre, tyrannical master and husband, the infantile and enslaved wife,—
that is our general impression of the Oriental _ménage_. Yet even Arab
wives are not dumb animals, and all men that are born of women are born
to be henpecked. Perhaps even here _les paroles de l’oreiller_ have
their force, and it may be that the stately lord sometimes meets his

                “From a vixen wife protect us well;
                Save us, O God! from the pains of hell,”

says The Gulistān. The conventional sternness of the husband’s control
suggests a sense of his own weakness. It certainly confesses a curious
diffidence as to his own charms, perhaps with reason, for, says an Arab
proverb, “Quand la femme a vu l’hôte, elle ne veut plus de son mari.” So
even if the Western idea of Mohammedan domestic tyranny is correct (I am
far from believing that it is), we may at least console ourselves with
the hope that the wife sometimes has as much of her own way as is good
for her.


And it would seem that women everywhere must still have chains to hug.
If in Western countries the husband is no longer lord, and the priest no
more director, the tyranny of the dressmaker is cheerfully, nay,
eagerly, accepted. In one decade a tight cape prevents the lifting of
the arms, in the next a skimpy skirt hobbles the legs; a mere man may
venture to see in these disagreeable manifestations a surviving badge of
ingrained servitude.

The lanes of this old town, with its squalid exteriors and possibly rich
interiors, are not very clean, and to the Western eye, if not nose, they
suggest insanitary conditions. But it is never safe to judge from
appearances, and it may be that your brand-new _hôtel de luxe_ is richer
in lethal germs than this ramshackle city. I am not armed with any
statistics bearing on the point. At any rate, these devious
thoroughfares appear to be admirably policed, and in spite of their
cut-throat appearance it is said that they are safe for passage by day
or by night.

If the aspiring word-painter has failed to convey any due impression of
this curious labyrinth, the artist has seldom been more successful.
Perhaps it passes the endurance of flesh and blood to sit and paint,
where there is too little room to sit, exposed to the torments of an
Arab crowd. Even the humble photographer must own defeat. The narrowness
of the lanes, the height of the houses and the unwelcome attentions of
the passers-by try his skill beyond endurance. The casual wayfarer,
content with his own impressions, has the best of it.

It appears that in Turkish times the streets of the city had no
distinctive names. It may be that everyone knew where everyone else
lived. The Arab, at any rate, had no address. Presumably he had no
extensive correspondence. And perhaps he seldom received callers. There
were certainly no public vehicles, indeed no vehicles at all. It was
all, and is, a strange tangle; an incongruous medley of great houses and
squalid shops, of “the grey homes of the people and the palaces of the
mighty,” as Mr. Lloyd George said at Mile End. With laudable intentions
the French set to work to unravel it—to give at least to every street a
name, for to the European mind a street without a name is inconceivable;
although we frequently see in new-fledged localities names bestowed on
streets which are as yet in embryo. The official who was entrusted with
the job deserves immortality in the pillory. A more hopelessly
inappropriate collection of titles it would be difficult to conceive.
Such aberration almost touches genius. Rue du 4 Septembre, Rue
d’Amfreville, Rue du Galmier, Rue Annibal,—such are the gems which greet
our astonished eyes. And, above all, Rue Sidney Smith! What is the witty
parson—or is it the admiral?—doing in this galley? If only he had lived
to know it. But so for all time, or until the next conqueror arrives,
will it be.

The amateur will look in vain in Algiers for fine examples of Arab art,
such as he may study at Cairo, at Granada, or at Tlemçen, in the
province of Oran. The ravages of war, the stress of successive
bombardments, amply account for this. The old minarets are gone; such
work of the best period as may have existed has long disappeared; what
the French have spared is chiefly of the Turkish domination.

But, in truth, during the great days of Mohammedan art Algiers was not
of much importance. Its site had been previously occupied by the Roman
Icosium, a town of little place in history, but the seat of one of the
numerous North African bishoprics of the fifth century. The Arab town
was founded in the tenth century, at which time numerous monuments of
the Roman period are said to have been still standing. About the year
1500, when the Moors were expelled from Spain, many settled here, and
adopted the profession of pirates. It is at this time that the
importance of Algiers in the history of Europe commences.


The Penon, the islet which, being connected with the shore by a mole,
forms the present inner harbour of Algiers, the old harbour of the
corsair fleet, is intimately connected with this period. Some good Arab
work is to be seen, notably a magnificent doorway in the Bureau de la
Marine, carved in white marble, or ornamented with inscriptions and with
tigers,—an infringement of the Moorish law which perhaps indicates its
Persian origin.[1] A small and very charming Arab house with good
carving and many tiles is used as the residence of the Admiral. As I
gazed deferentially at the exterior an obliging sailor invited me to
enter. “This,” he said, “is the _grand salon_ of the Admiral; and this,”
laying his hand on the handle of a door, “the Admiral’s _bureau_.” I
recalled the Oxford undergraduate who showed “his people” over his
college: “That,” he said, “is the Master’s Lodge, and that,” hurling a
stone at a window, “is the Master.” Perhaps my face showed some
apprehension of the possible apparition of a fierce French admiral with
bristling moustache hastening to repel the foreign invader, for my
conductor reassured me. “M. l’Amiral est absent,” he said. From a
pleasant flagged terrace, with a summer-house at the further end, the
Admiral may look down on the inner harbour, packed now with the French
torpedo-boats which have replaced the lateen-rigged vessels of its
former owners.

Footnote 1:

  See Chapter IV.

The island and its mole have a strange history,—not the least
astonishing episode in the annals of this astonishing city. The
depredations of the Moorish pirates soon became extremely harassing to
Spain; not only did they seriously interfere with Spanish commerce, but
they made frequent raids on the Spanish coast, pillaging towns and
carrying away their inhabitants to slavery. The evil became so pressing
that at length a determined effort was made to put a stop to it. In 1509
a Spanish expedition, under Cardinal Ximenes, captured Oran and Bougie,
and as a check to the pirates of Algiers occupied the island facing the
town. Here they built a fort, which still exists in part, and forms the
base of the lighthouse. This expedition, for which the Cardinal supplied
the funds, was known as the “Crusade of Ximenes de Cisteros,” and was
regarded as a holy war, bestowing certain indulgences on those who took
part in it.

For nearly twenty years the Spaniards held the island, commanding the
roadstead and controlling the maritime proceedings of the Algerines.
These found the position so irksome that their Emir, to his own undoing,
called in the services of the celebrated pirate, Baba Aroudj, known to
Christendom as Barbarossa,

           “A corsair’s name, linked with a thousand crimes.”

The romantic story of this king of robbers supplies a curious picture of
the times. At the beginning of the sixteenth century Lesbos, in
Mytilene, was the head-quarters of Turkish piracy in the Eastern
Mediterranean. A simple potter, or fisherman, as some say, of the island
had four sons, of whom two, Baba Aroudj and Kheir-ed-Din, rose to fame.
Aroudj was in particular of a soaring spirit. Marking the avenues to
fortune which the staple industry of the island presented, he became
“apprenticed to a pirate.” An early disaster seemed like to blast his
promising career; he was captured by a vessel of the Knights of Rhodes
and condemned to the galleys. But such checks are to the really great
only stepping-stones to higher things. Having, as was inevitable,
effected his escape, he betook himself to Tunis, determined in the freer
air of a new country to wipe out the memory of his early failure, and to
find a fresh theatre for his energies. His professional knowledge stood
him in good stead. He proposed to the Sultan of Tunis that they should
enter into a partnership, in accordance with which he should conduct the
active part of the business, and the Sultan receive half the profits, in
consideration of his countenance and support. The Sultan, with that
discernment that has so often characterized sovereigns, saw that he had
to deal with a man of mark, and jumped at the proposal. A pirate station
on the most approved lines was established at Djerba, where Aroudj was
shortly joined by his brother, Kheir-ed-Din. The enterprise met with
more than the success it deserved. Besides the ordinary dividends of the
business, the brothers were able to make many very handsome presents to
their partner and patron. On one occasion, it is recorded, they offered
to him fifty Spanish youths holding in leash hounds and hawks of the
rarest breeds, and four young ladies of noble birth, attired in splendid
garments and mounted on magnificent horses. Mulai Mohammed, the Sultan,
however keen a hand in purely business matters, was not the man to turn
a deaf ear to the appeal of a brother in distress. The plight of his
fellow-monarch, the Emir of Algiers, moved him deeply. With a quite
distinguished disinterestedness he proposed to his associates that they
should abandon for a time the ordinary course of their duties and
proceed to Algiers to turn the obnoxious Spaniards out of their eyrie on
the island. Baba Aroudj arrived at Algiers with 5000 men, and was hailed
as a deliverer. But the instincts of his trade were too strong for him.
Instead of attacking the Spaniards on the Penon, he put the Emir to
death, proclaimed himself King, and gave the town to pillage. Master of
Algiers, with his vessels dominant at sea, he set himself to win an
empire. He occupied Medea and Tlemçen, and menaced the Spanish position
at Oran. This was too much, and Charles V sent thither a powerful force
to check him. He retired on Tlemçen, and fell in an obscure fight at
Oudjda, on the frontier of Morocco, a town of some significance in
recent history, and now in the occupation of the French.

             “He left a name at which the world grew pale,
             To point a moral and adorn a tale.”

His brother, Kheir-ed-Din, assumed the reins of power at Algiers.
Lacking the vaulting ambition of the terrible Barbarossa, he seems to
have possessed a sounder business head. His first care was to assure his
position; and with this object he offered his African dominions to Selim
I, Sultan of Turkey. The Turk accepted the offer, and named Kheir-ed-Din
his “Captain-pasha.” So arose the Turkish domination of Algeria, which
lasted for three centuries, and inflicted on Europe unnumbered woes. If
Europe had only known it, now was the time to cut off the serpent’s
head; but Europe, as usual, was busy with its own quarrels. Charles V
did indeed conduct an expedition in person in 1535, but it was
half-hearted and proved abortive. No native prince arose to repel the
Turkish pretensions, which were consolidated by the capture of Tunis and
the occupation of Kairouan, the holy city.

Kheir-ed-Din next turned his attention to the Spanish garrison on the
Penon. Having procured heavy guns, he bombarded the position for fifteen
days with an incessant fire. The garrison of 150 men made a heroic
resistance, but when all save twenty-five were killed, the island was
captured and the survivors put to death.

The brave commander, Martin Vargas, was offered the alternative of
embracing Mohammedanism and a Mohammedan wife or execution. He chose the
latter, and was beaten to death with sticks, his body was dragged
through the streets, cut into pieces, and thrown into the sea. So did
the corsair treat a gallant foe.

It was then that Kheir-ed-Din conceived the project of uniting the
island and the city, with the double object of preventing any repetition
of the Spanish occupation and of providing a harbour for his fleet.
Thirty thousand Christian slaves supplied him with labour, and materials
lay near to hand. The ruins of the old Roman city of Rusgania strewed
the shore at Cape Matifou; and countless blocks of Roman hewn stone and
marble lie buried beneath the floor of the mole. The work, a very big
work for the period, was finished in three years, and henceforth for
nearly three centuries the corsair fleets lay within, safe from the
storms of the Mediterranean and the attacks of their enemies.
Kheir-ed-Din’s son mounted batteries on the Penon, and built the
lighthouse tower in 1544. It is of octagonal shape, nearly 120 feet
high, and visible for a distance of fifteen miles. A band of gleaming
tiles below the summit happily relieves the monotony of its elevation.

The present great harbour, covering 222 acres, was commenced by the
French in 1836. It was formed by continuing the line of Kheir-ed-Din’s
mole to the south-east, and building another of irregular form from a
point to the south of the city. In these works blocks of concrete were
used for the first time in such operations,—an experiment which has had
important results. In the making of this great harbour, as in so many
other constructive matters, the French have risen to the level of their
opportunities. Their genius in such large matters is unquestioned; and
if anyone doubts their pre-eminence in minor arts, let him compare their
coinage and their postage stamps with those of any other nation.

The French have done many great things; one thing they have omitted,—to
provide an adequate service of passenger steamers between France and
North Africa. They have generally fallen behind in the race of maritime
improvement in recent years; but the insufficiency of this particular
service may be due to the fact that trade between Marseilles and Algeria
is held to be French coasting trade, and therefore reserved to vessels
sailing under the French flag. The stimulus of foreign competition is
absent. But nothing can prevent the indirect competition of the superior
steamers of the North German Lloyd to Genoa, which are securing much of
the tourist traffic. This company is gradually establishing a network of
steamer lines in the Mediterranean. And a service of fast steamers
covering the voyage between Barcelona and Algiers in twelve hours is now
mooted. This may prove a further nail in the coffin of the Marseilles
route. But the French have it in their hands to retain the trade by
running adequate steamers properly equipped.

In spite of the heavy hand of the destroyer a few fine houses of the
Turkish domination survive, and some are put to public uses and are
accessible to the stranger. They exhibit a usual characteristic of the
Eastern house; they are insignificant, sometimes even squalid without,
but like the princess they are all glorious within. Christendom builds
its houses for the public eye. This is not entirely altruistic; not
wholly due to a desire to please the neighbours; a man’s credit and
importance (even, it is said, the amount of his doctor’s bill) bear some
relation in the opinion of his world to the outward appearance of the
house in which he lives. And in the northern view, at any rate, a man’s
house is a consideration prior to his equipage, his retinue, and his
personal adornment. And some value attaches to what is called “a good
address.” Wherefore our note-paper headings often contain a _suggestio
falsi_; and Glenalmond Villa or The Elms strive to conceal the banality
of a mere terrace.

All this is unmeaning to the Mussulman. He fulfils Bacon’s dictum that
“houses are built to live in, not to look upon, wherefore let use be
preferred before uniformity.” A bare wall with narrow and barred windows
facing a mean alley;—such is his house’s exterior. It seems rather to
desire to escape than to court observation. It has more the air of a
fortress than of a dwelling. The doorways are an exception to the
prevailing plainness. They exhibit a great variety of detail, but mainly
follow a Roman or Byzantine scheme, of a round arch supported on
columns, the whole copiously decorated. The doors themselves are
generally of simple woodwork, often heavily studded with iron, and
sometimes retaining their fine old handles and knockers. To the wanderer
in the Arab town they offer a never-failing source of interest and
study. The elaboration of the doorway when all else that is external is
plain would seem to be thoroughly congruous with Oriental taste and
tradition. The door of the house and the gate of the city stand for much
in private and public life, for the line that divides the intimate and
the stranger, the friend and the foe. Our fathers had some sense of the
dignity of the door, a sense which in our careless acceptance of
decadent conventions we have almost lost. We may strive to recover it in
contemplating these Arab portals. The charming drawings of Mr. Thoroton,
here reproduced, accurately represent their general scheme and the
variety of their ornament. A common decorative feature appears to be
based on the artichoke; the precision of its symmetry doubtless appeals
strongly to Mohammedan prejudices.

When you have passed the portal the very contrast of the squalor without
heightens the effect of the splendour and refinement within. The usual
type of house is one which the Arabs owe to the Romans, or both to an
earlier source. The doorway opens on to a long vestibule, with a row of
marble seats on either side, divided at regular intervals by columns,
often twisted and generally suggesting the Ionic order. From this you
pass into the main dwelling, a square marble court open, or partially
open, to the sky, round which are grouped the chief rooms. Marble
columns support the gallery of the first floor, the walls are a blaze of
tiles, a fine dark balustrade of open woodwork surrounds the gallery;
and in the centre of the court-yard perhaps the pleasant plash of a
fountain emphasises the pervading peace. It is all very splendid, and
yet most dignified. Such a beautiful house is used as the Bibliothèque
Municipale, a library with 35,000 volumes, many Arabian and Persian
MSS., and an up-to-date card catalogue. Another is the residence of the
Archbishop. This is said to be a fragment of the ancient palace of the
Deys. It is a pleasant touch of humour which lodges the Archbishop in
the last remnant of the harem. To these may be added the Governor’s
Winter Palace, with a modern front and rich interior decorations; and a
few other houses occupied by officials, and not open to inspection
without an introduction.

A mere civilian must bow before the requirements of the military
authorities, but he may be permitted to regret that they should have
seen fit to turn the Kasbeh, the ancient fortress of the Deys, into a
barrack. As may naturally be expected, the decorations and many of the
original features have disappeared; marble columns have been replaced by
wooden posts, tiles have been picked off,—and the Dey’s pavilion has
been repainted! Worse than all, a public road has been driven right
through the centre of the old compact mass of buildings surrounded by
their embattled wall. The visitor will turn away with disgust from this
reckless spoliation, which will some day no doubt be bitterly regretted.

Of the mosques of Algiers, that of Sidi Abd er Rahman, adjoining the
tomb of the saint, is the most picturesque. The great mosque of Djama el
Kebir has a very handsome exterior, notably a magnificent colonnade
fronting the Rue de la Marine. The entrance is pleasing, but the
interior rather bare. The mosque in the Place du Gouvernement, known as
the New Mosque, was built in 1660 to the designs of a Christian slave,
and is in the form of a Greek cross. The Catholic Cathedral was formerly
a mosque, and is now an eclectic monstrosity.


The interest which Algiers has for the traveller is closely bound up
with the hideous story of the Christian captives. Our literature,
especially of the seventeenth century, is full of allusion to their
miserable condition. Their numbers were prodigious. In 1646 it was
reckoned that there were not less than 20,000 such slaves. During our
Civil War the Channel was full of Algerine pirates, and their operations
extended to the North Sea. The Long Parliament passed an Act “whereby
they did manifest unto the world their resolution of undertaking that
Christian work of the Redemption of the Captives from the cruel thraldom
that they lay under,” and established a tax on merchants’ goods, called
“Algier duty,” to provide funds for the purpose. Many distinguished men
were at one time or another slaves in Barbary. Cervantes was in
captivity for five years, and has related some of his miseries in the
story of “The Captive” in “Don Quixote.” He who went to sea in those
days had to face the chance of “being taken by the insolent foe and sold
to slavery.” It will be recalled that before he set forth on his
immortal voyage Robinson Crusoe was captured by a Sallee-rover, and
worked as a slave. Samuel Pepys records (February 8th, 1660-1) a
conversation on the subject: “At noon to the Exchange to meet Mr. Warren
the timber merchant, but could not meet with him. Here I met with many
sea commanders, and among others Captain Cuttle, and Curtis and Mootham,
and I went to the Fleece Tavern to drink; and there we spent till four
o’clock, telling stories of Algiers, and the manner of the life of
slaves there. And truly Captain Mootham and Mr. Dawes (who have been
both slaves there) did make me fully acquainted with their condition
there: as, how they eat nothing but bread and water. At their redemption
they pay so much for the water they drink at the public fountaynes,
during their being slaves. How they are beat upon the soles of their
feet and bellies at the liberty of their padron. How they are all, at
night, called into their master’s Bagnard [prison]; and there they lie.
How the poorest men do use their slaves best. How some rogues do live
well, if they do invent to bring their masters in so much a week by
their industry or theft.” Other accounts give far more harrowing details
of the sufferings of the slaves and of the tortures they endured.

When a prize was brought in, the crew and the passengers were forced by
torture, generally the bastinado, to declare their quality and
condition. The Dey selected one in eight for himself, generally
preferring skilled workmen. The remainder were sold by auction for the
benefit of the owners and crews of the pirate vessels. The European
Powers maintained consuls at Algiers, and through them, and other
agencies, those of the captives whose friends could find the ransom
demanded, were, after much delay, redeemed.

That such an iniquity was more or less tolerated for centuries is one of
the curiosities of history. It can only be explained by the fact that
European nations found it a convenient scourge for their enemies. France
and England especially were continually intriguing to make infamous
treaties with the Dey to the benefit of each against the other. All
nations, including the United States of America, after they obtained
their independence in 1783, paid tribute to the Dey in one form or
another to secure the exemption of their vessels from capture; but the
Algerines never respected any treaty when they could violate it with
advantage or probable impunity.

The close of the Napoleonic wars gave England not only undisputed
command of the sea, but leisure to deal with the open sore of Algerian
piracy. She was not slow to use it. At the beginning of 1816 Lord
Exmouth was ordered to visit the Barbary States and obtain the release
of such slaves as were British subjects—chiefly Ionians—or subjects of
Great Britain’s allies. At Algiers the Dey readily released the Ionians,
and also the Neapolitans and Sardinians, on payment of a ransom. Lord
Exmouth proceeded to Tunis and Tripoli, and concluded treaties with the
Beys, who agreed to abolish the institution of Christian slavery
altogether. He then returned to Algiers and endeavoured to get the Dey
to make a similar treaty. The Dey declined to accede, but finally
consented to treat at London and Constantinople. Lord Exmouth took a
high hand; he told the Dey that he evidently had little idea of the
power of a British man-of-war, and that he would engage, if hostilities
became necessary, to blow the place to pieces with five line-of-battle
ships. Shortly after he had sailed for England matters were brought to a
climax by an attack by Turks and Arabs on a large number of
coral-fishermen, sailing under French and English colours, who had
landed at Bona on Ascension Day. About two hundred were massacred in a
church and hundreds more wounded. The British consul was killed, the
houses of Christians pillaged, and the British flag trampled under foot.
The British Government considered that the cup was now full, and that
strong measures must be taken against these barbarians. On Lord
Exmouth’s arrival a fresh fleet was fitted out. He was offered any force
he required, but he determined to rely on the five battleships he had
mentioned to the Dey. To these were added five frigates and some smaller
vessels. At Gibraltar he found a Dutch squadron of five frigates and a
corvette under Admiral van Capellan, who asked and obtained leave to

After some vexatious delays Exmouth arrived off Algiers on August 26th,
1816. His despatch, dated August 28th, is very interesting reading. He
had previously sent on the _Prometheus_, to endeavour to bring away the
British consul, Captain Dashwood. A landing party brought off his wife
and daughter, disguised in midshipmen’s uniforms. The surgeon was
following with the consul’s infant child concealed in a basket. As he
was entering a boat the child, unfortunately, cried, with the result
that the surgeon, three midshipmen, and others, in all eighteen persons,
were seized and confined as slaves in the usual dungeons. “The child was
sent off next morning by the Dey, and as a solitary instance of his
humanity it ought to be recorded by me,” says his lordship. Captain
Dashwood was closely confined in irons.

The _Prometheus_ brought word that energetic measures of defence had
been taken; that additional works had been thrown up, and a large army
assembled. The whole Algerine fleet was collected within the mole. On
the morning of the 27th the fleet was lying in sight of the city
becalmed, and Exmouth sent ashore a flag of truce with the demands he
was instructed to make. Receiving no answer, and the day breeze
landwards having sprung up, he moved his fleet in towards the mole, the
_Queen Charlotte_, the flagship, leading. The shore batteries opened the
engagement with a tremendous fire, whereupon the leading ship commenced
action. Before nightfall the enemy’s fleet was completely destroyed, his
batteries abandoned, and half the town in ruins. At midnight the ships
and parts of the town were still burning. Thus did Lord Exmouth
demonstrate to the Dey the power of five English ships of the line. The
battle was of quite an unprecedented nature; it was a new departure to
bring a fleet up close under the guns of formidable batteries. The fleet
had poured 50,000 shot, weighing over 500 tons of iron, into the town,
and used 118 tons of powder. A little touch illustrates the close
quarters of the combatants. A vast crowd of Arabs was collected on the
shore, and before he opened fire Lord Exmouth called out and waved to
them to depart. The warning had no effect, and thousands were killed.

The English losses were considerable, 123 men killed and 690 wounded.
The Dutch had 13 killed and 52 wounded. Lord Exmouth himself was struck
three times, but escaped unhurt. It was pointed out at the time that, in
proportion to the number of men in the English ships engaged, the
casualties were far higher than in any of Nelson’s victories.

The Dey must have passed an uncomfortable night, and morning found him
in a very humble mood. He agreed to all the English demands; these were,
the abolition of Christian slavery for ever, and an undertaking to treat
prisoners of war according to the usage of civilized nations; the
immediate delivery of all slaves; the repayment of the ransom of the
Neapolitan and Sardinian captives; an apology and reparation to the
English consul. Having accepted these comprehensive and ignominious
terms, not as regards the apology to the consul with a very good grace,
the Dey consoled himself by beheading his prime minister.

It has been given to another nation to break down for good and all the
Turkish tyranny, and to restore these fair lands to Europe and
civilization, but we may congratulate ourselves that the gallantry of
our own navy dealt the first serious blow, and exposed the hollowness of
the game of bluff which the corsairs of Algiers had played against
Christendom for centuries. Yet nothing can quench our wonder that the
hand was held up so long, even into the lifetime of men still living and


                     _III—NEW ROADS AND OLD CITIES_

Rome’s successors—The Road and its influence—Algerian highways—The
    motor-car and modern travel—An aqueduct—Cherchel—Cleopatra’s
    daughter—Tipasa—The French as Colonists—Viticulture.


        “Among the ruins of old Rome, the grandeur of the
        Commonwealth shews itself chiefly in temples, highways,
        aqueducts, walls and bridges.”—ADDISON.

From many points of view the modern French may be regarded as
representing most fully among the peoples of Europe the Romans of the
Empire. The sturdy physique and unrivalled endurance, the unsurpassed
gallantry and devotion to duty of their soldiers, recall the qualities
of the legions. Their absorbing pride in and love for their native land
is an echo of the tremendous sentiment of Roman citizenship. The logical
coherence of their legal system is frankly based on the jurisprudence of
Rome. Their faculty, for producing the most perfect work in the more
refined forms of engineering and the manufacture of delicate tools and
machines is a natural development of Roman thoroughness in constructive
matters. And like the Romans they are the slaves of convention.
Everything Roman was according to a settled plan. The empire was a vast
aggregation of cities which aspired to be little Romes. From the borders
of Scotland to the fringe of the Sahara, from Portugal to Asia Minor,
cities were raised more or less, as circumstances permitted, fulfilling
the conventional design; conventional not only in town-planning, and in
the scheme of public buildings, but in the architecture of private
houses and the most minute details of decoration. We grow weary in the
museums of to-day of the repetition of the same motives in sculpture, in
mosaic and in bronze-work. The only variety is in the quality of the
execution. So, too, must a French town, a French house, a Frenchman’s
manners and a Frenchwoman’s clothes be in accordance with a sealed
pattern deposited in the temple of the great goddess Comme-il-faut. The
French are the most law-abiding of nations, but their laws are _les
convenances_. The occasional licence exhibited in their art and
literature and morals is but the effort of a few eccentric individuals,
not always of unmixed French breeding, to break through the trammels in
which the mass of the race is bound.

In this country the French have set themselves from the first to carry
on the Roman tradition in the making of roads. In a land which for
twelve centuries has known little but destruction and decay they have
built, as the Romans built before them, solid, uncompromising,
inevitable highways, roads on which armies may march secure of ambush,
and almost regardless of the hostility of natural forces;—roads which
create not only peace, but prosperity in their course. The road is one
of the most effective as it is one of the most permanent works of man.
In England quite a large proportion of our main roads still follows the
lines laid down by the Romans. We are ourselves rather road-menders than
road-makers. Our genius finds its work in other directions. We have been
in South Africa far longer than the French in North Africa, and what
have we to show there at all comparable with the Algerian roads?

In one of the most notable books of our generation, Mr. Hilaire Belloc
has set before us the uses, the influence, the interest, and the
fascination of the road. In the course of an exploration of one of those
ancient highways which we English have permitted to fall into decay and
in part to disappear, he has taken occasion to impress on us the part
which the road has played in the spread of civilizing influences.
Algeria—roadless and anarchical for centuries, orderly and webbed with
roads to-day—may add point to his argument. “More than rivers and more
than mountain chains, roads have moulded the political groupings of men.
The Alps with a mule-track across them are less of a barrier than
fifteen miles of forest or rough land separating one from that track.
Religions, which are the principal formers of mankind, have followed the
roads only, leaping from city to city and leaving the ‘Pagani,’ in the
villages off the road, to a later influence. Consider the series,
Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, Athens and the Appian Way; Rome, all the
tradition of the Ligurian Coast, Marseilles and Lyons. I have read in
some man’s book that the last link of that chain was the river Rhone;
but this man can never have tried to pull a boat upon the Rhone
upstream. It was the Road that laid the train. The Mass reached Lyons
before, perhaps, the last disciple of the apostles was dead; in the
Forez, just above, four hundred years later, there were most probably
offerings at night to the pagan gods of those sombre and neglected
hills. And with religions all that is built on them: letters, customs,
community of language and idea, have followed the Road, because
humanity, which is the matter of religion, must also follow the road it
has made. Architecture follows it, commerce of course, all information;
it is even so with the poor thin philosophies, each in its little day
drifts, for choice, down a road.”[2]

Footnote 2:

  “The Old Road,” 1904, p. 5.

The making of the Algerian highways has been no light matter. They have
frequently demanded much engineering skill. Their repair is a difficult
and expensive business, the heavy winter rains and the fierce summer sun
have a rapidly disintegrating effect on the friable materials available.
Algeria is not only an exceedingly mountainous country, but its physical
conditions are very peculiar, and, except by those who have explored
them, not as a rule very fully understood. The common idea of a fertile
belt, more or less hilly and of varying width, between the sea on the
north and the Sahara on the south, is imperfect and incorrect. As a very
rough generalization, subject to innumerable variations of mountain and
valley and plain, Algeria may be said to consist of two parallel ranges
of mountains running north-east and south-west. The northern range
slopes very gradually to the sea, often in a series of plains, providing
with its copious rainfall that fertile tract known as the Tell, once the
granary of Rome, and now again developing a great export trade. The Tell
itself contains numerous ranges of lesser hills, called Sahels. The
southern range faces the desert, in the east, in the great rocky mass of
the Aures, with steep cliffs; in the west less abruptly. Between the two
ranges is contained a lofty plateau, of convex form, in the main barren
and sandy, but covered here and there with scrub. In many of its
features it imitates the true desert. It has its shallow depressions
filled with brackish water; and its inhabitants dwell in rare oases
where fresh water occurs. The mountains attain no great elevation, their
summits seldom exceeding 6000 feet. This is a pity. A lofty range
treasuring copious stores of eternal snow would perhaps have made of the
high plateau a veritable garden; and its influence would have been felt
far southwards into the Sahara. The direction of the mountain lines
causes the Tell, the land of tilth and colonization, to be wide at the
western end of the Colony, in the province of Oran, and narrow at the
eastern end, in the province of Constantine.

Where the desert breaks in waves of shifting sand against the southern
range, where the streams run southwards and lose themselves,—there and
not on the seaboard of France and Spain would seem to lie the destined
boundaries of Europe; this the proper limit of European enterprises. The
sea is to-day less than ever a barrier, _dissociabilis_; it is rather a
link. The Mediterranean may lash itself in rage, but its rage is
impotent to check the progress of the great steamers. The southern
frontier of the Roman Empire is once more the southern frontier of
Europe. The burning sands of the great Sahara are the true divide. Yet
French enterprise is loth to admit this. The indomitable spirit of
adventure, of adventure however profitless,—the spirit which led their
Crusaders to the Holy Land, the army of Napoleon to Moscow, and Marchand
on his interminable desert march to anticipate Kitchener at Fashoda,—
this spirit is still at work. Further into the Sahara the outposts are
continually being pushed; a railway is projected to Timbuctoo, now a
journey of three months for caravans; and the connection of the French
Colonies in North and West Africa has long been mooted. We may admire
this spirit and its manifestation, but in all deference may ask, Is it

At the time of the French invasion, eighty years ago, there was not a
single road in the interior of Algeria. The Roman roads had disappeared.
The Arab paths only permitted the passage of horsemen, and wheeled
vehicles were unknown. In the Tell transport was by mules, in the south
by caravans. The army no sooner landed than it began to lay out roads,
and for some time afterwards their construction was in the hands of the
military engineers. They are now in the care of a special department.
The system which has been evolved consists of a great artery running
east and west from the frontier of Tunis to the frontier of Morocco,
united by branch roads to the chief ports on the coast, and sending
forth great feelers southward to the Sahara. These are the great
national trunk roads constructed and maintained by the state for
strategic purposes, and they have a total length of about 2500 miles.
Besides these, the state has assisted in the making of a great number of
roads partly strategic, but for the most part designed to open up new
regions to colonization. These, with the ordinary country roads, make up
a total of nearly 10,000 miles.

It would almost seem that in the design of the great highways running
east and west, and north to sea, and south to the desert, the French had
some prescience of the invention of the motor-car. The roads are, in
fact, most admirably adapted to its use, often from their open character
and long straight stretches (a part, no doubt, of their military
intention), at almost any possible speed. And their surface is commonly
excellent. Remote places formerly only to be reached by painful journeys
in jolting diligences are now within easy reach. And although the
automobile is still the luxury of the few, it may not be long before
popular “omnibus” vehicles will extend its advantages to the many. The
railway train is becoming the inferior beast of burden,—crawling wearily
along at its African pace of fifteen or twenty miles an hour; while the
sprightly motor-car flies past, perhaps at a speed of fifty. It is true
that Article 14 of the _Règlements_ for Algeria provides that “en aucun
cas, la vitesse n’excédera celle de 30 kilomètres à l’heure en rase
campagne et celle de 20 kilomètres à l’heure dans les agglomérations,”
but there seems to be no disposition to enforce this; and there are no
police traps, and no A.A. scouts. The really important provision is, “le
conducteur de l’automobile devra rester constamment maître de sa

We may take it therefore that travel in Algeria is entering on a new
phase; that this most beautiful and interesting country has at a blow
become accessible to the traveller who has neither time nor inclination
for primitive methods of journeying; and that in the matter of country
hotels French enterprise will surely rise—it is already rising—to the
new opportunities. There are motorists and motorists; to one class the
car itself is all-important, the country traversed a minor matter, the
surface of the road on which “she” is to display her powers being the
first consideration. Such enthusiasts will bring their own cars, and
will perhaps not regret doing so. But there are also persons of
grovelling mind, who cannot rise to any enthusiasm over carburetters and
petrol consumption, who, in fact, regard the motor-car as merely a very
agreeable means to a very desirable end. Such lowly souls will perhaps
be satisfied with hiring a car in Algiers. They will find no difficulty
in selecting an adequate vehicle at a reasonable rate; no Black Care
will sit behind them,—if a breakdown occurs they have only to study the
scenery until it is repaired; and they will have the advantage of a
chauffeur who knows the country, and will not forget the rule of the
road at a critical moment. He may have other qualities;—ours was a
sportsman, and would produce a gun and shoot thrushes for our dinner
while we photographed Roman temples. Our murmured pity at their death
missed its mark; he regarded them simply as very good—to eat. And so
they are.

Before he sets forth on more ambitious journeys, the master, temporary
or permanent, of a motor-car may make several interesting expeditions in
the neighbourhood of Algiers. The guide-book will suggest his objective,
the excellent maps of the “Voies de Communication” will point out the
way. If his tastes run in the direction of visiting historic sites, he
may spend a very interesting day in motoring to Cherchel, the ancient
Julia Cæsarea, situate on the coast about seventy miles west of Algiers.
He has a choice of routes; he may proceed inland to Blidah, and thence
to Marengo, and so to Cherchel, and return by the coast road, or vice
versa. We chose a middle course. We followed the Blidah road as far as
Boufarik and then turned westwards by country roads to Marengo. With
occasional interludes of roughness, especially where the marshy nature
of the country renders their maintenance difficult, these roads are very
good. They traverse a well-cultivated district of the great plain
between the coast-hills and the Lesser Atlas, of which the snowy summits
are brilliant in the morning sun. On a hill to our right we catch a
glimpse of the curious Tombeau de la Chrétienne, so called;—in all
probability the mausoleum of Juba II and Selene his wife, the founders
of Cæsarea. It is placed on the summit of a hill 756 feet above the sea,
and is a circular building of about 130 feet in height. Like most Roman
buildings it has been used as a quarry by subsequent peoples; perhaps
the solitary capital of a column which I noticed on a farm gateway came
from this source.


Between Boufarik and Marengo the country is fairly well cultivated;
substantial farmhouses, surmounted by groves of eucalyptus trees, stand
amid great fields of vine and corn. It is difficult to realize that, in
spite of its long history, this is essentially a new country, far newer
than the Colonies of South Africa, newer than a good deal of Australia.
At Marengo we join the main road from Blidah to Cherchel and descend
rapidly by the side of the newly-constructed railway. From a
contemplation of the enterprise of modern France, we are taken back at a
bound to the works of ancient Rome by the appearance on a hill to the
left of a portion of the aqueduct of Cæsarea. At this point it spans a
lateral valley in a triple series of arches, rendered perhaps more
impressive by a breakage in the middle. Leaving the car we scramble up
by the side of a stream and reach the great watercourse itself. Passing
beneath its arches we ascend the valley a little, and turn to look down
on its immense proportions. Amid the rough mountain scrub we have passed
from all evidence of modern cultivation, and are alone with this mighty
fragment of the past. It is difficult to find a reason for the feeling,
but few of Rome’s monuments impart a fuller sense of her magnificence
than the aqueducts which survive at so many different points of her
Empire. They are a symbol perhaps of her relentless power over nature
and man, of her determination to have what she wanted at all cost.
Sometimes, as in the Campagna, it is the long lines of interminable
arches which impress us; here it is rather their soaring height. Many
modern peoples would have carried the open watercourse by a circuitous
cutting on the hill-side round the head of the little valley; such a
proceeding was alien to the directness of Rome.

            “See distant mountains leave their valleys dry,
             And o’er the proud arcade their tribute pour,
             To lave imperial Rome.”

The city to whose fountains and baths the aqueduct brought copious
streams of fresh water from the hills has disappeared. A squalid little
port fills some of its site, and entombs its marbles, but the aqueduct,
situate too far from the habitations of subsequent man to serve his
purpose as a quarry, and too threatening with its mass to encourage any
hasty attempt at demolition, has survived.

A mile or two lower down are a few arches of a branch of the same
aqueduct; perhaps more picturesque in their greater ruin, but less
impressive in their situation and height. All around as we enter
Cherchel are evidences of its ancient glory. The fashioning of the
ground, the great squared stones which are built into the walls, the
marble columns lying about in the town square, and the huge masses of
shapeless brickwork on the shore prepare us for the collection of
statues and other objects gathered together in a well-arranged museum.

The city of Cæsarea, renowned for its magnificence in the splendid Roman
world of the first century, rose under the hand of a woman, as Carthage
under Dido’s. To the loves of Antony and Cleopatra was born the Princess
Selene. In her veins flowed the blood of the Ptolemies,—perhaps of the
Pharaohs,—and of the paramount family of Rome. Truly, to adapt the
language of the turf, was she bred for building. Possibly with the idea
of providing for this inconvenient young lady at a safe distance from
Rome, Augustus mated her to Juba, a descendant of that Masinissa, King
of Numidia, who had been the staunch ally of the Romans in their long
struggle with Hannibal. Juba, educated at Rome, had developed literary
tastes. He is lauded by Pliny for his erudition, and we learn from
Plutarch that he merited a place among “Royal and Noble Authors.” Save
perhaps for the dark blood of his ancestry, he was a fitting match for
Cleopatra’s daughter, especially as he was restored to the Numidian
throne of his family, with all the power of Rome behind him. Retiring to
the ancient Phœnician town of Iol, the Royal pair set to work to
raise a noble city, which perhaps with a punning reference to its former
name they called Julia Cæsarea; and to gather around them a circle
representing the best culture of the time. Marble colonnades and
porticoes, baths and theatres and temples sprang into being on the fair
curve of the bay beneath the wooded hills. Great libraries enshrined the
literary labours of the monarch and the learning of the age. The
scholars of Greece found a comfortable and inspiring home at the court
of the pedantic king, and the existence of a hundred thousand citizens
attested the material wealth of the new city. Juba and Selene lived here
in peace to old age. The king died in A.D. 19, and was succeeded by his
son Ptolemy, who inherited none of his father’s good qualities. A
debauched tyrant, he plunged his kingdom into anarchy and was summoned
to Rome. He was received with every mark of honour, but was put to death
by Caligula, because, as it was said, the splendour of his attire unduly
excited the attention of the populace.

Ptolemy’s sister Drusilla was the wife of that Felix, Governor of Judæa,
before whom Paul reasoned of righteousness, temperance and judgment to
come, so that Felix trembled, and answered, “Go thy way for this time;
when I have a convenient season I will call for thee.” Drusilla is
described in the Acts of the Apostles as a Jewess, which she was not, by
birth at any rate.

It is sad to learn that as late as 1840 much of the Roman city was still
to be seen. The theatre, now marked by a mere depression in the ground,
was almost perfect. Here we have a genuine grievance against the French
conquest; but 1840 was in the dark ages. So Cæsarea has passed; the
Vandals, the Arabs, the earthquakes, and the French have all done their
worst: and between them they have made an end of it. Perhaps even a
systematic excavation would not yield us much of value. The statues to
be seen in the museum are for the most part copies of statues already
found at Rome, and suggest that there was little originality in the
artists employed by Juba and Selene. But nothing can impair the beauty
of the site, and not even the presence of a banal Franco-Arab town can
forbid us to dream of a white marble city beneath a deep blue sty and
facing a purple sea.

So we turn homewards. For a while we follow the Marengo road by which we
came; pass the great aqueduct again; but shortly turn to the left to
reach Tipasa and the seaside road to Algiers. As we approach the coast
traces of the Roman past are everywhere;—on every mound great shaped
stones, “the splendid wrecks of former pride,” lie in confusion, and
here and there a portico suggests the existence of a suburban villa,

            “While oft some temple’s mouldering tops between
            With memorable grandeur mark the scene.”

When we reach Tipasa itself the great stones lie in heaps, in most
admired disorder. The ruins in their extent seem to indicate the
existence of a greater town than the historians admit Tipasa to have
been. It is said to have been founded by Claudius as a colony of
veterans, and to have contained 20,000 inhabitants. It is rich in
memories of the great Arian controversy which played so important a part
in the history of North Africa after the triumph of Christianity. In
A.D. 484 the Vandal king, Huneric, imposed an Arian bishop on the
Catholic inhabitants. A great part fled to Spain; those who remained and
refused to accept the heresy had their right arms lopped off and their
tongues cut out. It would seem that different branches of Christendom
have often been inclined to treat their erring brethren with more
severity than they meted out to the unregenerate heathen. Perhaps the
heathen has ever been a more likely convert.

The situation of Tipasa belies the opinion that the ancients had no eye
for natural scenery. It stood on a fair promontory sheltering from the
east a little cove which is protected from the west by the great
mountain mass of Djebel-Chénoua, which lies between Tipasa and Cherchel.
The country around is singularly picturesque, and the _tout ensemble_
very beautiful, even for this beautiful coast.

Thence we start for a run of fifty or sixty miles by the seaside road to
Algiers, a road which has been splendidly engineered, and is kept for
the most part in a condition beyond praise. In front of us stretches the
coast-line past the Bay of Algiers to Cap Matifou; on our right are the
wooded hills of the Sahel. Here and there the land between the road and
the sea is laid out in gardens formed in small rectangular plots divided
by hedges of a tall reed to break the force of the wind. Even so the
Dutch nurserymen erect screens to protect their tulips on the wind-swept
lowlands of Holland. In these enclosures we particularly note frequent
plantations of the tall “silver” banana. And so in due time we reach
Algiers, conscious of a well-spent day.

Travel gives the death-blow to many illusions. If there is one tenet to
which British self-complacency has clung with more desperate energy than
another, it is that our people are the only successful colonists. We are
ready to admit that the German has hardly had a fair chance. He is
relegated for the present to desert tropical lands which failed in the
past to tempt even Portugal. That France owns colonies of a different
class we have been dimly aware, but the oracles of the club and of the
Press have consistently pictured to us the French colonist as a
miserable being who passes his time sipping absinthe in a café, and
longing for his return to _la belle France_. Possibly in the purlieus of
Algiers such a being might be discovered; at any rate, he is certainly
not more in evidence than the “remittance men” and bar-loafers are in
our own colonies. And a motor drive for twenty or thirty miles through
the rich plain which encircles Algiers will send our long-cherished
belief a-packing to the limbo of dead British prejudices. We have
recently discovered that the home-staying French, at any rate, know
something about practical gardening, and the raising of vegetable crops
for market; that their scientific methods and untiring energy combine to
get more out of the ground than we do; and we have even been led to
pocket our pride and to import certain practical French gardeners, at a
fancy wage, to show us how the thing is done. In this we are only
following the example of our ancestors, who acquired most of their arts
and crafts from French and Flemish refugees. Yet it was quite a shock
when one of these new-comers, looking round him at the fair fields of
the home farm on a great estate in a southern county, ingenuously
remarked, “But why is not this country cultivated?”

Of this great plain between the sea and the mountains no such question
could be asked. Some corn is raised, and some vegetables, such as
artichokes, but most of it is devoted to the culture of the vine. It is
all in the highest state of cultivation, and not an inch is wasted. The
vines are planted in open fields, with the precision of the hops of
Kent. Now is the time of pruning, and they are all being cut back to
within a foot or so of the ground. To an eye accustomed to the hill-side
and rocky vineyards of the Rhine, of Italy, or of Madeira, to the vines
which in Southern Europe throw themselves in reckless abandon over
trellises and wayside trees, these flat fields, which suggest turnips or
beet, have a very unromantic appearance. But it is easy to see that the
cultivation is conducted on the most scientific and business-like lines.

It was our privilege to be invited to visit a French gentleman and his
family at their residence about twenty miles from Algiers. Our host has
purchased a large tract of land, the whole of which he has turned into a
great vineyard. He has built a pleasant country house, and filled it
with treasures of Arab art, and the trophies of travel in other lands.
He has planted a garden of palms and sub-tropical shrubs—a garden not
kept up to the standard of English trimness, but rich in shade, and
pleasantly suggestive of a jungle. Not only are his vines planted and
pruned with mathematical precision, but all his machinery for the
extraction and treatment of the grape juice is of the latest and most
practical character. A long building lined with huge vats gives an idea
of the greatness of his undertaking, and is designed to enable him to
hold the produce of two vintages in the event of a bad market:—a very
important advantage to a producer. There is nothing of the model, or
pleasure, farm about the place; it is all intensely practical. “It is an
industry,” said our host; and indeed it is; a fine example of industrial
intelligence applied to agriculture. The presence on the farm of two
motor-cars and an aeroplane is evidence that he is otherwise abreast of
the movement.

It may be that our host is exceptionally gifted, both in enterprise and
resources, but at any rate his example must be of great value. And the
vistas all around of similar properties with pleasant houses bowered in
trees and gardens suggest that it is followed. It is agreeable to learn
that this industry meets its due reward. In 1910 it has been
exceptionally profitable. The chief buyers of Algerian wines are the
wine-shippers of Bordeaux and Macon, from whose cellars they emerge as
claret and Burgundy. The complete failure of the vintage in Europe has
caused a rise of fully fifty per cent in the price of the produce of
Algeria. In this happy climate, sure of its winter rain and its summer
sun, a failure of the vintage is unknown and almost inconceivable.
Viticulture has become the most important of the industries in which
Europeans in Algeria are engaged, and its prosperity is of great
importance to the Colony. Before the French conquest, the use of wine
being forbidden by the Koran, the vine was only grown to a small extent
for its fruit; the _raisin sucré_ of Khabylia was especially esteemed as
a sweetmeat for dessert. The first colonists made experiments in the
production of wine, but with insufficient knowledge and inadequate
equipment. Wine-makers are an aristocracy among agriculturists; a high
intelligence and inherited traditions count for much. The ravages of the
phylloxera in France created the opportunity of Algeria. The
wine-growers of the South thrown out of work were ready to emigrate, and
the deficit in the mother country’s production offered a great market
for the Colony. Since that time the industry has made steady
progression. In 1850 2000 acres were under cultivation as vineyards; in
1905 about 450,000 acres. The production of wine, which amounted to
370,000 gallons in 1878, is now over 150,000,000 gallons. The price
obtained for wine exported is subject to very wide fluctuations. In 1903
the 100,000,000 gallons exported realized £4,000,000. In 1906
110,000,000 gallons realized only £1,600,000.

Algeria has managed to keep comparatively free from the phylloxera; the
provinces of Oran and Constantine, west and east, have suffered
somewhat, but the central province, Algiers, has so far escaped.
Energetic measures are taken to guard against the extension of the
plague, and owners of vines which it is found necessary to destroy are
compensated by the State. The policy of the Government is now not to
encourage the extension of the vineyards, but to improve the quality of
their produce. An effort should be made to find other outlets than the
French market, and thus counteract the wide fluctuations in value which
arise from its varying demands. Some attempt has already been made to
produce rich dessert wines similar to those of Portugal and Madeira, of
which there is a considerable consumption in France, and it would appear
that there is no obstacle to its success. A delicious Muscat is already
made, which might conceivably obtain a great vogue.


                    _IV—A GARDEN AND SOME BUILDINGS_

Jardin d’Essai—A lost opportunity—Some suggestions—The villas of
    Mustapha—A model museum—Arab art—Its origins—Its limitations—Its


               “There is an art to which I hold no key,
               A tangled maze of curve and line I see;
                 Do you, my brother, keener-eyed, discern
               A silent symbol of infinity?”

The amateur gardener, especially if he has any knowledge of tropical or
sub-tropical horticulture, will probably not be long in Algiers without
visiting the Jardin d’Essai. This modest title is given to an extremely
successful attempt at acclimatization, chiefly of tropical trees, on a
large scale. It was established by the Government eighty years ago, and
is now the property of the Compagnie Générale Algérienne, which grows
vast quantities of young palms and other trees for export to Paris and


The garden in itself will be a disappointment to the garden-lover. It is
a rectangular piece of ground, intersected by straight alleys, and with
the exception of a pool of water at the southern corner, containing a
small island, there is little attempt at what is called landscape
gardening. And the possibilities of a water-garden are neglected. One
wonders what an Algerian Wisley would be like. The whole aspect of the
place suggests a not very well kept nursery garden, which in effect it
is. But the wealth of its contents completely atones for its poverty in

Perhaps the most striking feature is an avenue of india-rubber trees,
which have attained a gigantic size,—a height in some cases of sixty
feet and a girth of twenty feet. It is a wonder that this garden was not
“floated” on the London market during the recent “boom.” At any rate, it
does contain rubber trees, which it is understood some of the areas
offered to the public did not. Another species of _ficus_ covers a large
space of ground, throwing down fresh roots from its lateral branches,
and apparently prepared to travel in this way in every direction. It is
unfortunate that the trees and shrubs are very insufficiently labelled;
occasional fragments of labels more or less indecipherable, and in some
cases, I think, incorrect, may be discovered; but there is no systematic
attempt to afford information. This ought not to be so in a garden for
which the State is partially responsible.

The palms are very fine, and of many different species, including some
great rarities which I am unable to name. All the commoner bamboos are
in profusion, but being for the most part planted as hedges rather than
as clumps they lose their natural effect. Various Yuccas vie with the
india-rubber trees in their splendid growth. At the southern end of the
garden, where the formality of the avenues gives place to a little
wilderness, are some magnificent clumps of _Strelitzia augusta_,—finer
in size and growth than I have seen elsewhere,—and towering above them
are some lofty specimens of _Chorisia speciosa_ from Brazil. In the
drier spots are various species of aloe; and in the wetter papyrus
flourishes exceedingly. The fantastic _Monstrera deliciosa_ is quite at
home, and imbeds its constricting coils in the palm-trunks, in a way
which must be very painful to them.

Not much colour is to be expected in the early months of the year, but
two or three Bougainvilleas make a moderate show, and both _Bignonia
venusta_ and _B. Smithii_ are in flower. The exquisite _Plumbago
Capensis_ is coming into bloom; also the single red _Hibiscus_ and its
less attractive double variety. A little trouble spent on this garden
would soon make it one of the finest in the world, without in any way
impairing its commercial uses. The material is there, and a little skill
in rearrangement of walks and in grouping of specimens is all that is

Perhaps a friendly critic may venture to be also an adviser. It is to be
presumed that Algiers welcomes the advent of strangers. And I find that
the local press records with satisfaction that hotels are full, and also
that great steamers with hundreds of tourists constantly arrive. These
strangers do good to trade, and it may therefore be worth while to pay a
little attention to their tastes, and to increase rather than diminish
the attractions which draw them hither. Even if the inhabitants of
Algiers care little about the beauty of the surroundings of their city,
they are part of its essential charm, and should be preserved from the
destruction which is everywhere threatening them. The ruthless felling
of ancient trees, the obstruction of points of view, the vulgarization
of pleasant places,—these may seem little things individually, but in
the mass they tell. There are, I believe, full powers to deal with such
matters, and the Minister of the Interior has recently addressed to the
_préfets_ of France a circular calling attention to the necessity of
safeguarding sites of artistic and natural beauty. Let Algiers lead the
way, and she will not repent it. But she may some day bitterly repent
inaction now.


Another suggestion. It would not be a great matter for the town to
purchase a block of buildings in the old streets below the Kasbeh, to
clean them out and to preserve them without undue restoration. Strangers
wish to see what the old town was like, and are not all able to battle
with the squalor and turmoil of the old streets as they are. Such a
little natural museum would more than pay for its cost. And—this is a
smaller matter still—it would be for the convenience of foreigners if
notices were affixed to public buildings, stating at what times they are
opened to inspection. It is annoying, for instance, to arrive at the
Bibliothèque in the morning and to find it closed, with nothing to
indicate when it will be open.

I could extend these suggestions. But perhaps it would be too much to
expect in a town largely peopled by Mohammedans that strangers visiting
the mosques, or even passing in their neighbourhood, should be relieved
from the importunities of irresponsible and worrying touts. The town is
generally so well policed; the importunity of beggars is so trifling
with what one suffers in Egypt, for example; that, like Oliver Twist,
one asks for more.

The suburb of Mustapha takes its name from the last Dey but three who
erected the palace now used as the official summer residence of the
Governor. The vast sums he expended on it excited the anger of the
janissaries, and led to his disgrace and death. There are many other
Arab villas now modernized; they are well described by the artist
Fromentin, a painter in words as on canvas: “To-day without exception
they belong to Europeans. So the deep mystery which veiled them has
vanished, and much of their charm has disappeared. The architecture of
these houses has no great meaning when applied to European uses. We must
therefore accept them for the pleasure of their exterior aspect, and
study them as the graceful monuments of an exiled civilization.
Inhabited by the people who built—I might say, dreamed—them, these
dwellings were a creation both of poetry and genius. This people knew
how to make prisons which were places of delight, and to cloister its
women in convents where they were unseen yet seeing. For the day, a
multitude of little apertures through stretching gardens of jasmine and
vines; for the night, the terraces;—what more malicious, and at the same
time more full of care for the distraction of the prisoners? The gardens
resemble those playthings which are designed for the amusement of the
Arab woman, that singular being whose life, long or short, is never
anything but childhood. You see there only little gravelled walks,
little rivulets in marble channels, where the water meanders in moving
arabesque designs. The baths, too, suggest the invention of a husband at
once a poet and a jealous lover. Imagine vast cisterns where the water
is not more than three feet in depth, flagged with the finest white
marble, and open through vaulted arches to a wide horizon. Not a tree
reaches this height; when you are seated in these aerial bathing-places
you see only sky and sea, and are seen only by the passing birds. We
have no understanding of the mysteries of such an existence. We walk
through the country to enjoy it; when we return it is to be indoors.
This secluded life near to an open window, this motionless existence
before so vast a space, this household luxury, this enervating climate
and radiant country, the infinite perspective of the sea—all this must
give birth to strange dreams, must throw the vital forces into disorder,
and mingle a sentiment beyond the power of words to describe with the
sorrows of captivity. But,” concludes our author, “ne me trompe-je pas
en prêtant des sensations très littéraires à des êtres qui assurément ne
les ont jamais eues?”

Those who are fortunate enough to have access to some of these villas
will find their original features of house and garden carefully
preserved; the gardens improved and extended in accordance with more
intelligent views of horticulture. Others may see in the spacious and
well-ordered gardens of the Hôtel St. George, the largest of the hotels
frequented by English visitors, what in the way of vernal loveliness the
soil and climate of Algiers are capable of producing. In the grounds of
the Hôtel Continental, another large house with a sunny situation and a
magnificent view, are some curious and interesting trees, a dragon tree
which is considered to be six hundred years old.


There is an excellent Algerian museum at Mustapha Supérieur in a
pleasant garden, close to the Governor’s Summer Palace, built with a
court-yard, in the Moorish manner, an admirable form for a museum. It is
laudably confined to Algerian antiquities and Arab art; there are no
irrelevant South Sea Island curios; it has not been used as a receptacle
for the rubbish of the local collector, a dumping-ground of the
perplexed widow and the embarrassed executor. Algerian history is
thoroughly represented; there are the flint implements of primitive man,
a collection of Punic pottery from Gouraya, Roman antiquities of every
kind, and numerous examples of Arab and Berber handicrafts. These
treasures are exhibited with the taste which distinguishes the French in
such matters, as is evidenced in their dressing of shop-windows. Of the
Roman antiquities perhaps the gem is a bronze figure of a boy with an
eagle, two feet high, and of fine style. It was found at Lambessa. From
Lambessa come numerous other exhibits, including some gold coins of the
period of Septimius Severus, an emperor of African origin, of Julia his
wife (with filigree mounting), and Caracalla and his son, of Macrinus
and Severus Alexander. These are in mint condition. And there is a very
fine gold medallion of Postumus. There are numerous mosaics,—in Roman
Africa mosaic pavements were very popular and well executed,—marbles of
all kinds from Cherchel, and a very interesting stone tablet recording
the rules for the distribution of water from an aqueduct to Roman
colonists. The Arab portion includes arms, jewellery, the elaborately
embroidered saddlery of Arab cavaliers, pottery, carpets, woven stuffs,—
a fine assortment of Arab and Berber handiwork. Altogether a most
creditable museum,—a very model of what a local museum should be. In a
neighbouring building is a “Forestry” collection;—stuffed examples of
Algerian wild animals, and fine specimens of Algerian woods, and so on.
Some magnificent examples of slabs of the native _Thuja_ are worth

As with other public buildings in Algeria, the usefulness of this museum
is somewhat curtailed by the short time it is open,—only in the
afternoon and not every day,—and, what is worse, by the absence of any
notice of the hours during which it may be visited. In my ignorance I
tried to enter on two or three occasions. Goaded to desperation one
morning I rang the bell, and found the amiable custodian at leisure to
admit me, but only by favour. Such a collection is worthy of a
notice-board in French, Arabic, English, German, Spanish, and Italian,
setting forth the hours it is open, and to a foreigner (I make the
suggestion with diffidence) it appears that the morning hours should not
be forgotten. This is too good a museum to be circumscribed by such
antiquated and provincial arrangements as prevail at present. The object
of a museum should be to get people to come in, not to keep them out. I
was informed that it was closed on Monday afternoon because there were
too many people about! The British workman’s Monday is evidently not the
insular institution I had supposed. But a museum is not a fortress.

We are wont to speak of “Arab Art,” but the term, if consecrated by
usage, is incorrect and misleading. There is, in fact, no such thing.
The Arab has never been an artist. The nomad had of necessity no
architecture, and architecture is the mother of the arts. Artistic
incapacity and an effort to break away from anthropomorphism in religion
went hand in hand among the Semitic races;—“Thou shalt not make to
thyself any graven image, nor likeness of any thing that is in heaven
above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth.” And
when Solomon builded his temple he turned for assistance to the King of
Tyre; and one Hiram, a brassworker of Tyre, “wrought all his work.” To
this day the Jews, who have excelled in finance and statecraft, in
literature and in music, have made little mark in art.

The rise of Islam is an extraordinary phenomenon. In one generation the
Arab is a wanderer, half patriarch, half brigand, pasturing his flocks
on the verge of the cultivated lands of more civilized peoples, and
snatching such prey as hazard brought within his grasp; in the next he
is a conqueror ruling from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic, and
threatening to extinguish Christendom. On the vanquished he imposed his
religion and his social code; he had no art to impose. Having become by
force of conquest and the exigencies of government a dweller in cities,
he showed his incapacity to understand the work of his predecessors in
such eccentricities as re-erecting their fallen buildings with the
columns inverted, using the capital as base, and the base in the
capital’s place. As architects he employed the natives of the countries
he had overrun, in Egypt Copts and Greeks, who reproduced Byzantine
forms and fixed the typical lines on which the development of “Arab art”
was to take place. In this deference to local tendencies is to be found
the origin of the wide divergencies of art in the Mohammedan world,—of
Persian art in the east, and Moorish art in the west. The conquered and
converted peoples continued to build, as far as the main plan was
concerned, in the same way as they had built before their conversion,
adapting their previous methods to present needs, and to the
requirements of their conquerors.

In Barbary the development of art followed closely that of Spain. The
Moorish art of Spain was chiefly Roman or Byzantine in origin; the first
mosque built, that of Cordoba, is said to have been designed by
architects from Byzantium. Columns used in its construction were brought
from the ruins of Merida and other Roman towns, and even from distant
parts of the Mediterranean. From this commencement sprang the later
glories of Moorish art, exhibited in their most splendid developments at
Granada in Spain, and Tlemçen in Algeria.

If in the scheme of its buildings Moorish architecture followed earlier
examples, the Byzantine basilica and the Roman house, in its decorative
features it was more distinctively Mohammedan. Yet if the Semite
nourished his traditional aversion from the graven image, if the Prophet
forbade idolatry and his disciples extended the prohibition to the
portrayal of the human body, and enjoined that only trees, flowers and
inanimate objects should be depicted; it is nevertheless necessary to
seek some deeper cause for the objection of the western Mohammedans to
any artistic representation of animal forms. This objection was by no
means universal in the Mohammedan world. The Persian rejoiced in his
pictures and statues. The explanation may be found perhaps in the zeal
of the iconoclasts which had rent North Africa before the Arab invasion.
Fathers of the Church had thundered against images; humbler Christians,
such as the Copts in Egypt, had striven to dissociate their art from
materialistic suggestions, and to find in geometric designs some
expression of their aspirations for the infinite. But Hellenism, with
its delight in nature, and especially the human form, was still dominant
in Christian art. It disappeared before the onslaught from Arabia. The
Coptic builder saw his opportunity. His abstract ideas fitted exactly
with those of his new master. In his rhythmical representations of
foliage, his polygonal figures and intersecting angles, may perhaps be
found the germ of the characteristic motives of Mohammedan decoration.


Its elements may be divided into three groups;—inscriptions in writing,
and interlacements, rectilinear and curvilinear. It will be found that
almost all Moorish decoration falls under one of these three heads. The
inscriptions as a rule are not historic, but ornamental, verses of the
Koran, pious sentences and so forth. The style is at first sober and
monumental, more stately than the cursive hand in ordinary use. As we
should expect, it became in time more elaborate and fantastic,
harmonizing well with the decorative interlacements which commonly
surround the lettering. The inscriptions themselves are often in
geometrical form, so as to give at first sight the impression of a
pattern; for instance, a sentence may be repeated four times around a
central letter.

To the variety of geometrical and curvilinear interlacements there is
obviously no limit. Angles, straight lines and curves are frequently
combined in the style we denominate arabesque, a style which has
prevailed far beyond the limits of Arab conquest, and is particularly a
feature of Venetian art. Late examples show great development,
especially on floral lines. Leaves of particular trees, notably the
palm, are represented. But a mathematical suggestion does not cease to
prevail. The passion for interlacement and for excessive decoration of
surface gives rise to curious vagaries,—such are the intricate
intersection of arches, the breaking up of the arch itself into
subsidiary arches, and the “stalactites” which commonly adorn the roof
of the _mihrab_, the Holy of Holies. It is not without interest when
visiting a mosque to note these developments and to strive to trace them
to their original elements.

Our insight into the Arab mind is so limited, we have ourselves so
slight an inclination to the symbolic and the mystic, so strong a
preference for directness in art and speech, for “straight-flung words
and few,” that we may well hesitate to dogmatize in such a matter as
Moorish decoration. In the light of our own tame submission to a
superabundance of ecclesiastical and domestic ornament which is without
significance we should regard it as merely a habit of clothing blank
spaces with conventional markings. Yet it may be that the spiritual
dreamer, ever intent on the conception of an abstract deity, rejecting
with scorn the idea of a God made flesh and dwelling among men, finds in
the geometrical expressions of unending line and angle, in the
interminable intricacies of the interlacing curve, some harmony with his
own longings, and some suggestion of the Infinite.


                          _V—SWORD AND PLOUGH_

Great events and trivial causes—The Dey’s fan—France roused—England as
    dog-in-the-manger—The French expedition and conquest—Clauzel—


           “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares.”

It is naturally impossible for a traveller to traverse Algeria without
being constantly conscious of the effects of the French conquest. His
own presence there otherwise than as a Christian slave is one of them,
and not the least important one for him. But in the course of his
journeyings he will be so frequently informed of important incidents in
the series of campaigns, of the connection of localities he is visiting
with some phase of victory or defeat, that a short résumé of the lengthy
transactions may not be out of place. With many side-issues the story
resolves itself in the end, as such war-histories often do, into a
struggle for the mastery between two great men. The Frenchman won the

Stern as was the lesson which Lord Exmouth inflicted, it was soon
forgotten, and the ingrained habit of centuries reasserted itself. A
subsequent Dey set himself to re-create a fleet, and in 1820 he had
forty-four vessels with 1560 sailors. Fresh trouble arose with the
British consul, and the weakness of the admiral who was sent to support
him only made matters worse. The Dey refused to see Mr. McDonell, who
had been forced to leave, and treated Mr. St. John, who replaced him,
with ignominy. “All the disgraceful ceremonies in the intercourse
between the representative of Great Britain and the Turkish authorities
were continued. The consul was obliged, the moment he came in sight of
the Dey’s palace, to walk bareheaded in the hottest sun; in waiting for
an audience he had to sit on a stone bench in the public passage; he
could not wear a sword in the Dey’s presence, nor ride to the palace,
though his own servants, if Mohammedans, might do so.” And the corsair
fleet began once more to harry the coasts of France and Spain.

In the early days of the Turkish domination the corsairs had been
influenced by political preferences. They had especially waged war
against the Spaniards, who had expelled the Moors, and whose sovereign,
Charles V, was the enemy of the Sultan. They respected the vessels of
Francis I, the Sultan’s ally. So may even pirates follow the dictates of
conscience. But as time went on the high character of the Algerian
corsairs suffered some abasement through association with the renegades
of Christendom, and French and Spanish vessels met a like fate,—all was
fish that came to their net. The French, who had formerly felt that the
Spaniards were getting no more than their deserts, and had even afforded
Kheir-ed-Din a temporary refuge in the port of Marseilles during a
storm, were naturally hurt at the ingratitude of these proceedings. They
went so far, in the reign of the Grand Monarque, as to bombard Algiers
on two occasions,—with the customary result. Their fleets sailed away;
Algiers rebuilt itself, and proceeded upon its piratical way. No one has
ever rivalled the Deys in the art of taking a beating, and coming up
again with a smile,—unless it be their ultimate conquerors.

Great changes in the history of the world have often been, or have
seemed to be, the result of accident. Wars have been waged, conquests
effected, empires created, not of settled intention and design, but as
the outcome of the personal quarrels, and the personal ambitions of
individuals, less, in modern times at any rate, of sovereigns than of
subjects. The British Empire has been created rather in spite of than by
the aid of the governing powers of Great Britain. Cecil Rhodes is but
the latest of the long line of Englishmen who imposed imperial
responsibilities on a half-hearted England. Governments seldom dream
imperial dreams; they are more concerned to keep their seats. Sovereigns
like George III may lose an empire. Mere accidental citizens, as Clive
or Rhodes, may create one.

So this fertile North Africa, through history the shuttle-cock of Asia
and Europe, with an illimitable hinterland of “rather light soil,” to
quote the words of a statesman who had little sympathy with African
conquest, became French because an Algerian Dey struck a consul with his
fan. This incident arose—as modern international incidents frequently
arise—out of a financial dispute. Certain Jews of Algiers had a claim
against France for corn supplied during the Napoleonic wars. The Dey
pressed this claim as his own; and being dissatisfied with the delay in
settlement he made a violent scene with the consul, “et s’oublia jusqu’à
le toucher de son chasse-mouches.” Apologies were demanded and refused,
and for three years, from 1827 to 1830, France endeavoured to blockade
the port of Algiers. The Dey Hussein continued obdurate. So little
repentant was he that when the _Provence_ entered the port in 1829,
having on board a French admiral, charged to make a last effort at
negotiation (for the blockade was costing seven millions of francs a
year and effecting nothing), all the batteries opened fire on her. Even
now the French ministry was reluctant to make war, and proposed to the
Sultan of Turkey that Mehemet Ali, Pasha of Egypt, should bring the
Barbary states under his rule. The Sultan refused his authorization, and
an expedition was decided on. France was destined to become an African
power, “un peu malgré elle.”

The naval authorities were strongly opposed to a military expedition; it
would, they declared, be absolutely impracticable to land an army with
its indispensable materiel; and former experience, especially the
failure of Charles V, appeared to support their view. But the French
Cabinet decided to make the attempt. With the exception of England, the
European powers were complaisant. England demanded explanations as to
the object of the preparations. M. de Polignac in a circular note
explained that his master desired only to suppress piracy, slavery and
the tribute paid by Christian nations to the Dey. England was not
satisfied and asked for a formal renunciation of a policy of annexation.
The President of the Council replied to the British ambassador that the
King was not led by any sentiment of ambition, that he was not aware
that he had need to ask the permission of anyone to avenge an insult to
his flag; that he had already made known his intentions, and that his
word ought to be sufficient guarantee. England returned to the charge.
M. de Polignac then produced a second circular note in which he declared
that “if Algiers fell into the power of the French army the King would
examine in conjunction with his allies what new order of things it would
be fitting to establish for the benefit of Christianity.” England
complained that this note contained no formal engagement not to keep
Algiers; the French minister put an end to the discussion by declaring
that the King’s communications required no further development.

It is interesting to recall these diplomatic amenities; _mutatis
mutandis_ they bear strong resemblance to certain international passages
at the time of the English occupation of Egypt. But France does not seem
to have given any undertaking that her operations should be only

If his memoirs are to be trusted, Admiral d’Haussez, the French Minister
of Marine, lacked the diplomatic suavity of his colleague. Even a
sailor’s bluffness hardly covers the tone of a declaration he made to
the British ambassador. “The King wishes the expedition to be made, and
it will be made. France laughs at England. She will do in this instance
what she likes, and will put up with neither control nor opposition. We
are no longer in the days when you dictated laws to Europe. Your
influence rested on your wealth, your ships and your habit of
domination. All that is past. I suppose you are not willing to
compromise what remains of your influence by going beyond threats. But
if you wish to do so, I will give you the means. Our fleet is already
assembled at Toulon, and will be ready to sail in the last days of May.
It will call at the Balearic Isles, and it will land the troops to the
west of Algiers. If the fancy takes you, you may meet it.”

France had her way without interference; the admiral’s prophecy
(recorded after the event) was fulfilled to the letter. An army of
35,000 men under General Bourmont was transported in 300 vessels, and
disembarked with no great difficulty at Sidi Ferruch, about fifteen
miles to the west of Algiers, on June 14th, 1830. The landing was
unopposed, Hussein having expected it to take place to the east of the
town and collected his army there. A few days later the Dey’s son-in-law
and general, Ibrahim, came into conflict with the French troops and was
defeated. A second attack had the same result. The French army marched
on Algiers, laid siege to Fort l’Empereur, so called because it stood on
the heights above the town where Charles V had pitched his tent. The
French soldiers knew only one Emperor, and promptly called it Fort
Napoleon. The Turkish garrison blew up the fort and fled, and Algiers
lay at the mercy of the invaders.

It appears that Hussein was ready to resist to the death, and sooner
than submit to blow up the city. But disaffection appeared among his
troops, who sent an emissary to Bourmont, offering the Dey’s head as a
token of conciliation. The Dey then decided to treat; he was willing to
make every reparation for the insult offered to the consul, to abandon
his pecuniary claims and to pay the cost of the war. But Bourmont would
have nothing but the surrender of the city and its forts. The Dey was to
be at liberty to retire to some place to be fixed on, with his family
and his riches. As regards the inhabitants,—“l’exercice de la religion
mussulmane restera libre. La liberté des habitants de toutes les
classes, leur religion, leurs propriétés, leur commerce, leur industrie
ne recevront aucune atteinte, leurs femmes seront respectées: le général
en chef en prend l’engagement sur l’honneur.” These terms were accepted;
the French army entered Algiers on July 5th; and it appears that the
conditions were fairly well observed.

An eye-witness has described the attitude of the population. “Algiers,”
he says, “on the entry of the French, did not present the sad and
desolate aspect of a conquered town. The shops were closed, but the
traders, seated quietly before their doors, seemed to await the moment
for opening them. You met here and there groups of Turks and Moors who
appeared more indifferent than alarmed. A few veiled Mohammedan women
could be seen peering through the narrow windows of their dwellings;
Jewish women with greater boldness filled the terraces of their houses
without exhibiting any surprise at the novel spectacle. Our soldiers
threw everywhere eager and curious glances, and all they saw filled them
with astonishment at a city where no one seemed astonished at their
presence. The resignation to the will of God which is so profoundly
graven on the spirit of the Mussulman, the sentiment of France’s power,
and her well-known generosity, all made for confidence; and it was soon
established.”[3] With such ease and light-heartedness did France enter,
on her career of African conquest. Her troubles were to come.

Footnote 3:

  Pelissier de Reynaud, “Annales Algériennes.”

The policy to be pursued was the first of them. The expedition had
achieved its punitive object, Algeria appeared to be poor and sterile,
and there was much to be said for abandoning it altogether. At the other
extreme was the proposal to attempt a complete and definite conquest. A
middle course was adopted,—to occupy only certain important points on
the coast and in the interior. It is easy to be wise after the event;
our own colonial experience is full of evidence of the futility of
half-measures; and we need not claim much perspicacity for observing
that France missed the golden opportunity for occupying the country when
the central Government, such as it was, had been destroyed. But, for all
the brave words of the truculent admiral, she doubtless felt some
diffidence in view of her declaration to Europe, and the continued
hostility of Great Britain was not without its effect. France’s own
political position, too, was in a very disordered condition. On the 18th
of August a revolution took place, Louis Philippe was proclaimed King
and Bourmont was recalled.

For the next ten years, from 1830 to 1840, what was known as the policy
of Restricted Occupation was pursued. Certain ports on the coast were
occupied—Oran, Bougie, Bône, etc.—and attempts were made to bring the
plain of the Metidja under French control by placing garrisons in such
towns as Medea and Blidah. The army of occupation was much reduced, and
Clauzel, the general in command, endeavoured to raise native auxiliary
troops, with small success. He was, at any rate, a master of bombast.
Having occupied Blidah and ascended one of the passes of the Atlas, he
addressed his troops: “Soldats! les feux de nos bivouacs qui, des cimes
de l’Atlas, semblent dans ce moment se confondre avec la lumière des
étoiles, annoncent à l’Afrique la victoire que vous venez de remporter,”
etc. This pronouncement was followed by the withdrawal of the garrison
and a hasty retreat to Algiers. Early in 1831 Clauzel was recalled. His
successors, Berthezène, the duc de Rovigo and Voirol, essaying a great
undertaking with inadequate means, had no better fortune.

Under Voirol General Desmichels was sent to Oran with the object of
establishing order in the west. The tribes were in arms, and at their
head-quarters at Mascara had chosen as their general a celebrated
marabout, or holy man, named Mahi-ed-Dine, who, having attacked Oran
several times without success, resigned the command to his son,
Abd-el-Kader, then only twenty-four years of age, but destined to become
one of the greatest leaders of modern times. He was, says Camille
Rousset, “of middle height, but well made, vigorous and untiring. He was
the best among the best horsemen in the world. Physical qualities are
highly valued by the Arabs; Abd-el-Kader had more—the qualities which
make men conquerors: intelligence, sagacity, strength of will, genius to
command. In eloquence he was the equal of the greatest orators, and
could bend crowds to his will. He spoke in serious and measured tones,
and was sparing of gesture, but his pale face was full of animation, and
under their long dark lashes his blue eyes darted fire.” It may be
remarked that the blue eyes point to a Berber, rather than an Arab
origin. Such was the man who for years to come was to bid defiance to
the French.

Their first dealings with him were unfortunate. Desmichels arrived at
Oran in the spring of 1833. Finding that he could make no headway
against Abd-el-Kader, who from his capital of Mascara was preaching a
holy war for the extermination of the infidels, he concluded with him a
treaty which enormously increased the Arab’s authority. Abd-el-Kader was
described in it as Emir; all practical power was placed in his hands;
and he was permitted to purchase arms and ammunition in French towns. No
mention was made of French sovereignty. The treaty, though contrary to
the instructions of the French Government, was accepted by it in the
belief that it assured peace. Difficulties soon arose. Desmichels was
recalled; his successor, Trezel, at the head of a column of 1700 men,
was attacked by Abd-el-Kader in the marshes of La Macta, and defeated
with the loss of a third of his force.

The prestige of this victory brought many waverers to the Arab leader’s
flag. But France’s disaster brought home to her the seriousness of the
position, and in the end the defeat did more towards the ultimate
conquest than a victory would have done.

Clauzel, who had left Africa almost in disgrace in 1831, was sent back
in full command in 1835. He alone of the French generals had exhibited
any military qualities. His grandiose projects have been justified by
events. His main plan consisted in occupying Mascara and Tlemçen in the
west, Medea and Miliana in the centre, and Constantine in the east. Of
Tlemçen and Constantine he said, “Si vous n’occupez pas ces deux
Gibraltar de la Régence d’Alger, vous n’en serez jamais les maîtres.”
His failure was due to his attempt to effect these objects with the
inadequate means with which he was supplied. He commenced by advancing
against Abd-el-Kader, who retired before him. Having occupied Mascara
and Tlemçen, he returned to Algiers, whereupon Tlemçen was promptly
besieged by the Arabs. At this point the great Frenchman, destined to
overthrow the Arab power and to conquer Algeria, appeared on the scene.
General Bugeaud was sent to command in the west. He was personally
opposed to conquest, and regarded French intervention in Algeria not
only as having been badly conducted, but as initially a mistake. These
views did not prevent him from putting his hand to the plough. He began
by revolutionizing the methods of warfare; in spite of the opposition of
his officers, he dispensed with heavy trains of baggage and artillery,
lightened the loads of the soldiers, and carried their provisions on
mules. Attacking Abd-el-Kader at La Sikkah he inflicted on him a signal
defeat, his native auxiliaries pursuing the flying enemy with fury and
slaughtering them in great numbers. Bugeaud then returned to France.

Meantime Clauzel, having had some success in the neighbourhood of
Algiers, attacked Constantine, but was ignominiously repulsed, and was
recalled. The city fell the following year to General Valée. In 1837
Bugeaud was sent back to Oran, with instructions to make terms with
Abd-el-Kader on the basis of surrendering to him the province of Oran in
consideration of his recognizing the sovereignty of France and paying
tribute. The two leaders met and negotiated the treaty of the Tafna. It
was all in the Arab’s favour; the tribute fixed was nominal, the
sovereignty question ignored. In native eyes Abd-el-Kader became a
veritable monarch, his territory was assured to him and he had leisure
to gather his forces for a further struggle. We must suppose either that
Bugeaud’s private preferences carried him away, or that the situation in
the west was too desperate to warrant his insisting on better terms. For
two years peace reigned, but in 1839 Abd-el-Kader proclaimed a holy war.
Arabs and Khabyles invaded the Metidja and burnt the farms of the French
colonists. Hostilities lasted for two years with no decisive result. In
October, 1840, the Governor-General, Valée, was recalled, and Bugeaud
was sent out in supreme command to inaugurate a new policy.

[Illustration: EVENING PRAYER]

The half-hearted efforts of ten years were at an end, _l’occupation
restreinte_ was to give way to _l’occupation totale_. France set herself
at all cost to occupy effectively the whole territory of Algeria up to
the desert. She had missed her chance at first. “Occasion,” says Bacon,
“(as it is in the common verse), turneth a bald Noddle, after she hath
presented her locks in Front and no hold taken.” The unwise temporizing
with Abd-el-Kader had enormously increased the difficulties of the
position. But there was to be no more dalliance.

Bugeaud was one of those born leaders to whom the exigencies of the
occasion are more important than military tradition. To seek the enemy’s
force and to destroy it was for him a leading principle, as it has been
for our great naval commanders. He abolished the garrisons of his
predecessors, and substituted for them mobile columns. He believed, and
proved, that the manœuvres of such columns were far more effective,
even for the protection of colonized districts, than the occupation of
definite points. In the main he relied on infantry, supported by a light
and very mobile artillery. The _a priori_ view that cavalry is necessary
to meet a mounted enemy found in his operations no support, however
useful it may be for surprises and pursuit. Can it be that the famous
telegram to our Colonies at the beginning of the last South African
War,—“infantry preferred,”—was due to a statesman’s study of the memoirs
and correspondence of Marshal Bugeaud?

He even conceived the idea of mounted infantry, mounting his men on
mules or camels as occasion served. He prohibited the use of waggons for
baggage and provisions, and dared, in spite of the indignant protests of
his cavalry officers, to use the troop horses to carry rice and corn.
Sprung himself from the ranks,—he had fought as a corporal of the guard
at Austerlitz,—he understood the soldier’s needs, powers and
limitations; and was in turn trusted and beloved,—_le père Bugeaud_ he
was affectionately called. Such was the man who was to win for France
her African empire.

[Illustration: CARAVAN OF A CAÏD]

It is unnecessary to recount the details of the long duel between
Bugeaud and Abd-el-Kader. Step by step the Arab leader was driven from
the fertile regions to the high plateaux, and with every reverse his
authority over the tribesmen waned, even if his own resource and
resolution never failed. A severe blow was dealt in the spring of 1843.
Abd-el-Kader had established a vast caravan, known as the _smalah_,
comprising the families of his forces, their flocks and herds, and a
crowd of non-combatants who abandoned their homes and followed his
fortunes rather than submit to the foreigner. It was, as Bugeaud said,
“la capitale ambulante de l’empire arabe.” It was reputed to contain
40,000 persons, defended by 5000 combatants. The young Duc d’Aumale, son
of Louis Philippe, was charged with its capture. Having located its
position at Taguine, he attacked it with a force of 600 horse, without
waiting for his infantry, consisting of 1300 men. The suddenness of his
onslaught broke down all resistance; the defenders fled, leaving much
booty and many thousand prisoners in the hands of the French. For some
months more Abd-el-Kader continued to make a futile resistance, but
finally fled to Morocco. In July Bugeaud received the fitting
acknowledgment of his success, and was named Marshal of France.

France now came into conflict with the Empire of Morocco,—the
commencement of a page of history still unfinished. The Sultan, perhaps
against his own inclinations, was compelled by the sympathies of his
people to espouse the cause of the Arab leader. His son led an army of
40,000 men to the frontier. Bugeaud, with a force of 8000, met him on
the banks of the Isly. The night before the battle Bugeaud addressed his
officers, who were assembled at “un punch” to welcome some comrades
arrived from France: “With our little army of 6500 bayonets and 1500
horses I am going to attack the army of the Prince of Morocco, which
amounts, according to my information, to 60,000 horsemen. I would the
number were double, or thrice as great, for the greater would be its
disorder and disaster. I have an army; he has only a mob. And I will
explain to you my order of attack. I give my little force the form of a
wild boar’s head. The right tusk is Lamoricière; the left tusk, Bedeau;
the snout is Pelissier; and I am between the ears. Who can stop our
penetrating power? Ah! my friends, we will cut our way into the Moorish
army as a knife cuts butter.”

This new eve of Austerlitz was followed on the morrow by an overwhelming
victory. By midday the Moors were in flight and their camp of a thousand
tents, with all their artillery, was captured. The bombardment of
Tangier and Mogador by the Prince de Joinville assisted to bring the
Sultan to his senses, and peace was concluded by the Treaty of Tangier.

But the troubles of the French were not over. In 1845 the indomitable
Abd-el-Kader, having recruited 2000 men in the Sahara, appeared in the
west and raised the whole province of Oran; farms were burnt, crops
destroyed and bridges thrown down. Bugeaud, recalled from France, set
himself to make an end. He collected a force of 100,000 men, divided
into eighteen columns. A mighty hunt began. Abd-el-Kader was everywhere
in turn. As ubiquitous as De Wet, he was now in the Tell, now in the
high plateaux, now endeavouring to raise the mountaineers of Khabylia.
But the end was inevitable. The tribesmen whom, having raised, he left
to their chastisement, grew weary of the process. “You are like the
gad-fly,” they said to him, “which arouses the bull. When you have done
your work of irritation you disappear, and it is we who bear the brunt
of the blows.” After a fruitless effort to obtain fresh aid from
Morocco, he was captured on the frontier by Lamoricière and sent to
France. He was subsequently allowed to retire to Syria, where he lived
on a pension paid by the French Government till his death in 1883. He
left a name venerated by his countrymen and respected by his conquerors.
The French have had to face serious insurrections since, but no native
leader has arisen to repeat the exploits or rival the fame of

Bugeaud was more than a great soldier; he was a statesman and a
colonizer. He chose as his motto, “Ense et aratro.” He held that, except
as a forerunner to the plough, it was useless to draw the sword. The
military and civil control of a subject population, such as the English
rule in India, and in recent days the _pax Gallica_ of the Sahara, may
be an excellent undertaking for a people of super-abundant energies; for
Bugeaud the conquest of Algeria was only a necessary preliminary to its
organization as a French colony. “La conquête,” he said in his first
proclamation, “serait stérile sans la colonisation. Je serai donc
colonisateur ardent, car j’attache moins de gloire à vaincre dans les
combats qu’à fonder quelque chose d’utile et de durable.”

The French invasion brought in its train a number of civilians. They
were perhaps rather adventurers than of the stuff from which successful
colonists are made. And the task before them was a stern one. The
breaking of the soil was the first difficulty. It was covered with
brushwood and dwarf palms, and its clearance involved much painful toil.
There were no roads; even in the Metidja, close to Algiers, no means of
communication but the mule paths; and no bridges. It is said that the
journey to Blidah, which you may now cover in an hour or two, took four
days. The country was most insecure; troops of bandits continually
descended on the cultivated plains and robbed and murdered the
colonists. Perhaps the greatest trouble of all was the prevalence of
fever, especially in the Metidja. “The cemeteries,” said a general, “are
populated faster than the villages.” Later the spread of cultivation
diminished its virulence, and the use of quinine provided a remedy. It
is said that absinthe was used by French soldiers as a febrifuge,[4] and
that they took back to their homes a habit which has become so
widespread. A treatise might be written on the influence of war on
fashions in drink. The introduction of champagne into England is said to
be due to the English officers who had discovered its virtues in Paris
at the time of Bonaparte’s downfall.

Footnote 4:

  See “Notes and Queries,” February 25th and March 4th, 1911.

The Holy War of 1839 had extinguished the feeble flicker of French
colonization. The colonists were removed to Algiers for safety; and the
Arabs pillaged and burnt their farms. The land reverted to barbarism.
Bugeaud set himself to repair this damage, and to place colonization on
a firmer basis. His idea was that the state should prepare the way by
granting land under certain conditions of military service, that it
should make careful selection among applicants for grants, and should
provide funds for preliminary works,—roads, wells and farm-buildings.
This system was partially carried out, and has been justified by
success. In spite of many troubles and setbacks, a constantly increasing
area has been brought under cultivation. In 1854 the cultivation of
cereals occupied about two million acres; in 1861 it had risen to five
millions; in 1885 to seven millions. Since that date the total has not
sensibly increased, but methods have improved and the yield is greater.
It is said that on the whole agriculture in Algeria is more progressive
than in France. And as he traverses Algeria’s interminable cornfields,
the traveller may be disposed to render homage to the great soldier who,
personally averse from conquest, drew the sword to establish peace, and
strove to bring plenty in her train.


                         _VI—TLEMÇEN THE HOLY_

Western Algeria—Sidi Bel Abbès—The Foreign Legion—A city of learning—Its
    inhabitants—The Mosque of Aboul Hassan—Mansoura—Its story—Sidi Bou
    Medine—Oran—Spanish immigrants.


          “A city dreaming of her ancient pride
          Amid the orchards on her mountain-side;
            Do you sleep sound, O saint that shares her fame,
          While stranger horsemen through her portals ride?”

Far to the west, beyond Oran, and close to the frontiers of Morocco,
lies a hill city, once the seat of empire and of learning, but now sunk
to the condition of a provincial town. Yet Tlemçen has occupied so high
a position in the Mohammedan world, and the reputation of its existing
monuments is so widespread, that the enterprising traveller will desire
to visit it. The distance from Algiers is great, some 800 miles there
and back, and as there is little of interest on the road, a journey by
motor-car is not inviting. It is perhaps better to make use of the
excellent train service between Algiers and Oran. If you leave Algiers
at nine p.m., you may change about six a.m. at a junction a little short
of Oran and reach Tlemçen about eleven. Or you may go on to Oran and
hire a motor-car for the remaining 110 miles, which it will cover faster
than the train does. In any case it is a tiresome journey. The road and
the rail alike rise through a series of great plains divided by rocky
steps, and chiefly devoted to corn-growing. The country is very bare and
very uninteresting. There are few trees. It is said to have been once
well wooded, but, although the Arab will take care of a tree near his
house or his mosque, he has no regard for trees in general. So countless
generations of browsing goats have made an end of the woods. One cannot
but think that more attention to re-afforesting would meet with its

Here, as elsewhere in Algeria, both in the plain and on the mountain
side, the traveller will notice a number of square whitewashed
buildings, surmounted by a cupola. They are known by the name of
_koubba_, and are generally the tomb of a marabout or saint, and serve
as objects of pilgrimage and much local veneration.

At Sidi Bel Abbès, a town of 25,000 inhabitants, about half of whom are
Spaniards, are the head-quarters of the famous Foreign Legion. The very
name of this corps stirs memories of forlorn hopes and dare-devil
enterprises. The inimitable Ouida, whose disregard of the grammatical
niceties of her own and other tongues was a generation ago the delight
of undergraduates; who could say of her high-born hero that he ignored
the proud motto of his haughty race, _Pro patria et rege_, and acted on
the principle, _Pro ego_; Ouida has pictured for us after her own
fashion, in “Under Two Flags,” the life of a foreign adventurer in the
French service during the earlier days of the occupation. The picture,
if imaginative in details, is full of life, and it is no doubt true that
many broken men of gentle birth and upbringing found in the campaigns on
the verge of the Sahara an outlet for energies for which civilization
had no use. To-day the Legion is composed largely of Alsatians, Germans
and Poles, and is celebrated for its band. But it is still to the fore
when stern work is on foot. The situation of Sidi Bel Abbès renders it
very convenient in the event of trouble with Morocco, which is
constantly recurring. The town and its environs are an agreeable
exception to the surrounding country in being pleasantly wooded. The
olive trees are most carefully pruned, all the centre branches being cut
out, and the outer ones trained to form a cup. This system admits light
and air to the fruit, and facilitates the gathering of the crop.

Within a few miles of Tlemçen the scenery becomes more bold. The train
climbs on to and encircles a rugged mountain range, traverses a great
ravine, down which roars a graceful cascade, and emerges from a short
tunnel into the noise and hubbub of Tlemçen station. The high road takes
another course. It skirts the base of the rocky hills, and boldly
ascends direct to the town, offering pleasant views of its walls and
minarets. This is the habit of roads and railroads in many lands; the
road approaches boldly to a frontal attack; the railroad creeps in
stealthily or remains diffidently outside. So does the traveller by rail
too often miss the beauty of the incoming.

The Arab horsemen who in the seventh century of our era rode through
North Africa and carried the crescent into Europe were the élite of the
race. Not only did they and their sons and those to whom they taught
their faith and language and made like unto themselves conquer kingdoms
and found great cities, promote commerce and achieve enormous material
prosperity, but under their rule were produced works of art worthy to be
ranked with the best. It is perhaps lucky that progress in these
respects was accompanied, as it is generally accompanied, by a decline
in martial prowess, or Western Europe might to-day be tied fast in the
chains of Koran, and the women of London and Paris be veiled as was
Mahomet’s wife. Among the greatest of Mohammedan cities from the
eleventh century to the fifteenth Tlemçen stood high. It was peopled
rather by Berbers than by Arabs of pure blood; but, at any rate, they
spoke the Arab tongue, held the Arab faith and represented Arab culture
at its highest excellence. In spite of the continual stress of war, it
was enriched with noble buildings; it became a kind of university of
Arab learning for North Africa; and it acquired the reputation and
sanctity of a holy city from the selection of a neighbouring village as
his last resting-place by a great Mohammedan saint.


At the period of its greatness Tlemçen was a large and populous city,
containing 100,000 to 150,000 inhabitants. The enceinte constructed by
the French encloses a much smaller area than the old walls, of which at
least two series can be traced. The present town has about 30,000
inhabitants, for the most part Arab or Jew. It does a considerable
trade, especially in olive oil; but it has lost its position as the
terminus of the caravan routes from the south, since the construction of
the Saharan railways; it is cheaper to unload the caravans at the
southern stations, and forward the goods to Oran by rail. Apart from the
mosques the streets present little of interest. It is said that the
French found the town almost in ruins; to-day it is a shabby fifth-rate
French town. The inevitable boulevard has been constructed, and even
where the old houses remain they are hidden behind a hideous modern
front. The old palace of the bey has unhappily been turned into a
barrack. The commercial value of antiquities as an attraction to
tourists was not realized in time; it is hardly understood now. Tlemçen
occupies an important strategic position, close to the Moroccan
frontier, and is garrisoned by French troops. At the Hôtel de France, a
somewhat ramshackle but not uncomfortable hostelry, with very obliging
hosts, breakfast many officers of the garrison. The variety of uniform
is great; not less great the variety of human types:—from the fair, and
apparently frail, young exquisite, whose physique suggests rather the
counting-house than the Sahara, to the grizzled veteran of many

Yet the native inhabitants lend colour and interest to the mean streets.
The Arabs of the better class wear a dark blue overcoat and hood, which
shows off their proportions to great advantage. The women are very
closely veiled, only exhibiting one eye. The children, especially the
little girls not yet come to the age of veiling, are cheerful and
pretty, their rosy cheeks bearing witness to the cold and bracing
qualities of winter at this elevation. The Jewesses affect bright
colours; and red is the colour of their mourning. An occasional stranger
of fierce aspect and unusual dress attracts your attention, and your
guide murmurs “Marocain.”

Some handicrafts survive in Tlemçen. The rubbishy trinkets dear to the
Arab woman and the Christian tourist are laboriously turned out by Jews
in the street of the goldsmiths. It is something to know that they are
not made in Austria. Here and there you will catch a glimpse of an old
Moor bending over a carpet loom. A good deal of leatherwork is done, and
there is a brisk business in harness and saddlery. Tlemçen is no longer
the terminus of the railway which runs to the frontier, but many
frontiersmen come here to trade.

It is in vain to look in Tlemçen, as in other towns of Algeria, for the
pure-bred Arab. Those who pass by the name are the result of a continual
mixture with the indigenous races; they are Berberized Arabs or Arabized
Berbers. But in many ways they compare favourably with their compatriots
elsewhere. Tlemçen has preserved some of its traditions as a city of
learning. Even to-day it contains a large number of educated Mussulmans
and a few savants. You may see here, as often you may see in Cairo and
the cities of the East, a tradesman seated in his little shop poring
over an Arab text. In Algeria generally the standard of education among
the natives is very low; only a small fraction of one per cent can read
and write. The religion of the Tlemçen Arabs is naturally of a somewhat
higher type than that of those who, knowing nothing of the law and the
prophets, are content with the observance of fast days and a cult of
saints mixed with all sorts of survivals of fetishism. The Arabs of
Tlemçen are said to eschew fanaticism, as becomes men of learning, to
regard those who are not of their faith less with hate than with pity,
as having missed the true way of salvation; an attitude not uncommon in
other lands. But their religion is incrusted with intense superstition.
They live in constant terror of the influence of evil spirits, the
Djinns, to which are attributed almost all human ills. A madman
especially is said to be possessed of evil spirits, and he cannot be
cured till they are cast out of him. This fear of evil spirits
influences every action of their daily lives; it is the chief stimulus
to devotion, for the Djinns are kept not away save by prayer and

To-day the French are masters, but the Arab in his centuries of
decadence has grown used to masters. They come, and pass, and he
remains. It is the will of God. The French are lenient and just masters;
they provide many material advantages,—security of property, means of
communication, avenues of trade. God is good. But the Arab is always
waiting for something to turn up; he will be sustained in almost
fruitless labour on his barren plot in the hope of finding a treasure;
he will waste his scant earnings in buying favourable horoscopes from
his sorcerer; and if no treasure is unearthed, and no fortune arrives,
he will put it all down to some flaw in the incantations. If all fails
he has at any rate said his prayers five times a day and is sure of

Yet in his heart he is ever looking for the advent of a Messiah, of a
_deus ex machinâ_ who shall overthrow the infidel, and restore the Arab
to his own again. Let France be involved in difficulties elsewhere and
the events of 1870 may repeat themselves. The preaching of a holy war,
the announcement that God’s good time has come—such are the conditions
to raise a wave of religious fanaticism strong enough to sweep away all
considerations of prudence and self-interest. As long as his religion
remains a compelling force, this is his danger and Europe’s. In its
present state Arab civilization, greatly fallen from its high condition
of culture and learning in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, may be
compared with that of Europe in the centuries following the destruction
of the Roman Empire. The Arab is now in the Dark Ages. The forms of his
faith remain all-powerful, but the spirit is dead. A thousand years
separate him from the Europe of to-day. Perhaps the best hope lies for
him in a revival of his religion on the spiritual side; from which may
spring in turn a germ of those ideals of citizenship, toleration and
benevolence which are the basis of our civilization; ideals flowing from
the teachings of Christianity, but not confined in their influence to
the orthodox of any section of Christendom.

A very cursory view of Tlemçen suggests that those enthusiastic writers
who have described it as the equal, or almost the equal, of Granada are
somewhat extravagant in their praise. It occupies indeed a fine
situation, and it looks down from its height of 2500 feet over a rolling
country of hill and vale to the sea thirty miles away. But it has none
of Granada’s grandeur and it lacks the noble background of the Sierra
Nevada. It has no great building like the Alhambra, although its mosques
contain magnificent work, which is unsurpassed and perhaps unequalled
elsewhere. Excessive praise which raises expectations destined to be
disappointed is to be deplored. Tlemçen has enough of beauty and
interest to stand on its own merits. In one respect it has an advantage
over the Moorish cities of Spain. It is indeed held by an alien race,
but its mosques are still for the most part put to the purpose for which
they were built, and the worshippers are the present representatives of
those who built them.

The Great Mosque, the most notable building within the walls, was not
built all at one time, but grew, like a Gothic cathedral, under the
hands of different monarchs and dynasties. These dynasties of Tlemçen
were continually changing; their outlandish names cumber the
guide-books, but they have less interest for us than the vicissitudes of
the Guelphs and Ghibellines. The first stone of the mosque was laid in
the year 530 (you must add 605 to bring it to the Christian era), as a
contemporary inscription obligingly records. The minaret was built by
Yar’morasen, the great Berber monarch who raised Tlemçen to its pitch of
power in the thirteenth century; and in the fourteenth various auxiliary
buildings, including a hospital for the aged and incurable, were added.
The interior of the mosque is impressive, with its forest of pillars—
there are seventy-two in all—and its dim religious light. The mihrab,
the holy of holies, the shrine which looks towards Mecca, is finely
decorated with leaves of acanthus and Arabic inscriptions. The large
court is charming; it is surrounded by arcades, and two basins of
running water provide for the ablutions of the faithful. The material of
the whole was originally onyx, and much remains. It is truly a noble
building, and it has escaped any serious restoration.

Unhappily the same cannot be said of the neighbouring mosque, known as
the Mosque of Aboul Hassan, an eminent lawyer and saint; a combination
which seems unusual. On this delightful little building the hand of the
restorer has lain heavy. He has seen fit to plaster it with modern
tiles, suggestive of the bath-room; and in order to throw more light
into the building, which is now used as a museum, has made several
openings in the walls. It is poor comfort to find in a distant land that
we English have no monopoly of ecclesiastical vulgarity; even our church
restorers could hardly have done worse than this. It is not easy to
formulate the ethics of restoration; the right course can only result
from intelligent and instructed effort,—but this may be said of almost
everything. The ignorance and indiscretion of those who add poor modern
ornament to a grand old building passes understanding. It happens that
this little mosque, charming otherwise within and without, enshrines a
masterpiece, its mihrab. The mosque was erected in A.D. 1298, according
to an inscription on one of its arches, and presumably the interior
decoration is of the same date. The dates of the world’s few
masterpieces are important. The decoration of the mihrab is executed in
plaster. I am not competent to describe its details; they follow the
conventional scheme of leaves and scrolls, but with quite unusual
refinement. This mihrab has been highly praised; but no praise can be
too high for it. It has been described as the finest example of
Mohammedan art in existence; it is very likely that it is. An eye that
has enjoyed any training will see at a glance that it is on a par with
the greatest decorative works of man; it exhibits all the
characteristics of the finest periods, especially the combination of
exuberant fancy with dominating restraint. Its exquisite delicacy and
its small size give emphasis to its unique distinction. I cannot refrain
from quoting a French writer who fitly appreciates its qualities: “Cette
décoration est le comble de la richesse et du goût ornamental. Elle
réunit en effet les qualités les plus diverses; homogénéité de
l’ensemble, variété infinie du détail, netteté et fantaisie, largeur et
minutie dans l’exécution. Elle est empreinte d’une sorte d’_atticisme_
oriental, d’une beauté atteinte sans efforts et naturellement. Capter la
lumière sans grands reliefs, l’emprisonner dans les réticules d’une
ténuité extrême, la forcer de se jouer dans ses méandres idéalement
fins, donner à des murailles toutes unies un vêtement de dentelles; un
encadrement de rubans historiés qui les aggrandit et les rend pour ainsi
dire immatérielles; entraîner le regard et l’éblouir par la
complication, le rassurer par l’ordre et la paix, voilà le problème que
d’obscurs ouvriers out résolu à la fin du treizième siècle de notre

Footnote 5:

  Ary Renan, “Paysages historiques.”

Another pleasant little mosque, that of Sidi-el-Haloui, lies outside the
walls in a squalid native suburb, which is nevertheless a better frame
for it than the banal French houses of the town itself. It has a very
fine portal and a pleasant court. It commemorates a very extraordinary
character, who from being Cadi of Seville became in disguise a
confectioner at Tlemçen. He was put to death apparently for spreading
seditious doctrines, but his ghost having given some trouble he was

It is said that Tlemçen was built on the site of a Roman camp called
Pomaria. The name happily expresses the abundance of orchards by which
it is surrounded. In February only a few almond trees are in blossom,
but the ground is beginning to put forth its wild flowers. A diminutive
iris is everywhere, and gives a blue tinge to the wayside, as the
bluebells to an English copse. In April, when the trees are bursting
into leaf and the whole country-side is full of flowers, Tlemçen must be
set in a very bower of delight. And it is in the environs that the most
interesting, picturesque and romantic of its antiquities are to be


Just outside the Fez gate of the city lies a great artificial basin or
reservoir, now dry, which is said to have been constructed by a king of
the fourteenth century to give his wife the pleasure of witnessing
miniature sea-fights. It is related that Barbarossa drowned in it the
descendants of the ancient kings whom he found at Tlemçen, and watched
their struggles with glee. A short distance further on is an arch,
ruthlessly restored, which was part of the wall of circumvallation built
around Tlemçen by Abou Yakoub, Sultan of Fez, who besieged it from 1299
to 1307 A.D. A little further on are the extremely picturesque walls of
Mansoura, the city which during the siege he built for himself. The
story of this siege and of the building of Mansoura is very curious. It
is told at length by the Arab chroniclers. Perhaps the following
abbreviation of their account will suffice.

And it came to pass in the reign of Othman, King of Tlemçen, that Abou
Yakoub, King of Fez, gathered all his host together and went up and
besieged Tlemçen seven years. And he built towers against it round
about, and a wall so strong that the people said one to another that not
even a spirit might pass through from within to without the city. And
forasmuch as the city was not yielded unto him, but held out against him
for seven years, did Yakoub the King of Fez set up for himself in the
camping-place of his host a great palace wherein to dwell; and all about
the camp he built a great wall with towers so that he made of it a
fenced city, and within he built palaces for his wise men and his mighty
men of war, and great houses, and fair gardens wherein were streams of
water running continually. And he caused to be set apart also a
dwelling-place wherein might be tended they that were sick, for that he
was moved to compassion of their sickness; and to the strangers he gave
inns to lodge therein. Moreover he built a mighty temple with a tower of
exceeding height so that it might be seen in all the land; and he bowed
himself therein before his God upon the seventh day. And many merchants
of that country did gather themselves together in the town which Yakoub
the King had builded, and the kings of far countries sent unto him
ambassadors with gifts. And Yakoub called the town which he had builded
Mansoura, which being interpreted signifieth “The Victorious.”

And in the fifth year of the siege Othman, King of Tlemçen, was gathered
to his fathers, and his son Abou-Zeiyan reigned in his stead. And the
people of Tlemçen were in sore distress for that no food could be
brought into the city by reason of the wall which Yakoub the King had
builded round about it. So when the siege had continued for the space of
three years more, the King Abou-Zeiyan and Abou-Hammon, the King’s
brother, called unto them the captain to whom was given charge over the
stores of food in the city and said unto him, “How long may we feed the
people with the food which is left?” And he answered, “For the space of
three days.” And there came in unto the King Dâd, the servant of the
Queen-Mother. And Dâd said unto the King, “Let not, I pray you, the
princesses and the women of your house fall into the hands of our
enemies, but rather let them be put to death.” And Abou-Hammon, the
King’s brother, answered, “What Dâd hath spoken is good counsel.” But
the King said, “Nay, we have yet three days, perchance God will come to
our aid. And if it be so that we must deliver up the city, then we will
cause the Jews and the Christians to kill the princesses and the women
of our house, and we ourselves will sally forth and fall upon the host
of our enemies.” And the King wept. But lo, while they yet spake, a man
of the host of Yakoub the King lifted his hand against him and smote him
so that he died. And Yakoub the King’s brethren and his sons, and his
son’s sons strove among themselves who should be king in his stead. And
the son of one of his sons, who was called Abou-Thabet, obtained the
mastery over them. And Abou-Thabet made peace with Abou-Zeiyan, King of
Tlemçen, and led back his host to the country of Fez, whence it came.
And Tlemçen had peace thirty-three years.

So runs the tale of the Arab chroniclers, and the walls and towers of
Mansoura stand to-day in witness that they lied not. Their entrancing
story is full of the elements of Oriental romance:—the fairy city
springing into being almost in a night; the fearful proposal of the aged
servant that the women should be killed; the long years of the siege
reaching their tremendous climax in the assassination of the aggressor
at the very moment when the besieged were preparing to sell their lives
dearly; the struggle of the dead Sultan’s brothers and sons and
grandsons for the succession. Such a struggle is a commonplace of
Mohammedan politics; we have seen it in our own day in Afghanistan and
Morocco; we may see it in Turkey to-morrow. It may plunge the country
where it occurs in civil war, but in a South American republic even a
change of party groupings will do that. As a system it can claim some
merit in that it tends to place on the throne the strongest or the most
astute member of the royal house.


Of the dream city of Mansoura nothing remains but the square of the
ramparts enclosing a space of 250 acres, and the great minaret of the
mosque. The city itself was destroyed by the Tlemçenites after the
departure of the Moroccan army. The walls are about 40 feet high, and
the towers 120 feet apart. They are all built of concrete, and though
broken in places, are marvellously preserved. Weathered to a delightful
tint of rich brown, they contrast admirably with the sombre monotony of
the olive trees; and they lend to the pleasant mountain landscape a
unique spice of romance.

The minaret, of which the inner portion has fallen while the outer
remains standing, is a very noble tower, and the finest architectural
work of Moorish times in Algeria; it would be difficult to match it
anywhere. It stands about 130 feet high, and is built of hewn stone. Its
front was decorated with coloured tiles, of which many are left. Legends
have gathered round it. It is said that in his haste Abou Yakoub
employed not only Mohammedan but Jewish and Christian masons, and that
it is the work of the infidels which has fallen, while that of the
faithful survives. It seems to have been also a starting-place for an
early experiment in flying. A certain Jew imprisoned therein made
himself wings, and setting forth on the occasion of a great service,
fell lamentably at a spot called to this day “Le Col du Juif.” Such is
the fate of pioneers.

The status of Tlemçen as a holy city, which draws to itself pilgrims not
only from the countries of North Africa, but from the very confines of
the world of Islam, rests on its connection with the saint Sidi Bou
Medine. It has long ceased to be the capital of an African empire; it is
no more a university of Mohammedan learning; its very name is almost
unknown to the present generation of European men; but in the eyes of
the faithful it is ever honoured. It is a little difficult for an
unbeliever to comprehend what constitutes peculiar eminence in a
Mohammedan saint, and there is nothing in the recorded life of Bou
Medine to throw light on the question. It is related that he was born at
Seville in A.D. 1126, that he was an ascetic and a mystic, that he
travelled through various Mediterranean countries performing miracles,
preaching the vanity of earthly things, and emphasizing the beneficence
of God and the authority of his prophet. Accused of heresy by the
doctors of Tlemçen, he was summoned thither by the reigning monarch from
Bougie, then within the boundaries of the Tlemçenian Empire. His failing
strength sustained him almost to the city’s gates, when, looking up at
the little village of El-Eubbad, with its hanging woods beneath the
rugged cliff, and owning at last the charm of the world he had so
fiercely disdained, he breathed a wish to be buried in that lovely spot,
and expired. And there for seven centuries he has lain, and you may
stand beside his tomb, which is decked in the tinsel pomp of Mohammedan
finery and surrounded by the offerings of the faithful. It is approached
from a little court-yard, in which is an ancient alabaster well-head
curiously worn by the chain which draws the bucket.

The mosque which adjoins the tomb was raised shortly after the saint’s
death. It is of no great size, but both structurally and decoratively it
possesses a charm which is unique. The high portal is a blaze of tiles
in the finest style; tiles said to be partly of Moroccan, partly of
Spanish, origin; and the doors of cedar wood, covered with bronze,
ornamented with a design of arabesque interlacement, are incomparably
beautiful. It has been said that they are to Moorish art what the doors
of Ghiberti are to Italian; but in their decorative flatness—a quality
which becomes doors—they have a distinction which is their own. In the
whole realm of Moorish decoration I have seen nothing more charming. The
mosque itself does not belie the promise of its entrance. It follows the
usual plan, but on a very high level. Its plaster decorations, if
somewhat less fine than those of the mihrab of Bel Hassan, are in the
best style. The whole building is instinct with the charm of
unassailable fitness, and fills the mind with an ineffaceable impress of


From these heights—mountainous and æsthetic—it will probably be the lot
of the traveller to descend by easy stages to the town of Oran, which,
as a commercial port, is the rival of Algiers. Unless he desires to do
deal in olive oil or esparto grass, or intends to become a shipper of
fine clarets and burgundies, it will not detain him long. Yet it is
pleasant for an hour or two to sit before one of its brilliant cafés and
survey the palpitating life of the streets. Oran is more than half
Spanish; it is historically almost wholly Spanish. To-day, if you
inquire of a stranger your way in French he will very likely reply by
asking if you have the Spanish, and if you have it not you must try
again. But the Spaniards, great builders in Europe and beyond the seas,
built little but fortifications on the African shore. Oran is frankly
modern and European in aspect; the most Oriental-looking building is the
railway-station. The French have built fortifications too; a picturesque
fort crowns a hill to the west, a thousand feet above the town; and
there is much show of strength below. And there is an important
garrison. Brilliant groups of officers frequent a café at the corner of
the Place d’Armes, and get through a most unconscionable amount of
hand-shaking. I notice that one of them, apparently a Siamese, who yet
sips his _sirop_ as to the manner born, is the object of much attention.
With the mass of the café’s frequenters the soldiers appear to have no
acquaintance. These men of business are Frenchmen in manner and speech,
but there is a prevalence of that Levantine air which pervades the
Mediterranean ports;—not quite Greek, not quite Jew, and yet not wholly

If there is one institution more characteristically French than another,
it is the Café. And, further, it is an institution which no other
people, unless it speaks French, as do the Belgians, can reproduce.
France has set the mode to Europe for centuries, but it has reserved the
café. The other Latin nations are content with bastard imitations; the
northern peoples frankly own their failure. Who can conceive a café in
Hull or Aberdeen? Not more incongruous was the attempted battle of
flowers in a Lancashire town,—the mayor had visited Monte Carlo,—which
ended in the choockin’ o’ loomps o’ coal and the military being called
out. It is not a matter of climate; Brighton and Worthing have climatic
advantages over Boulogne and Dieppe. It is rather a matter of character.
The café depends for its existence on French moderation and French
civility, in the widest sense. The German in his beer-garden piles empty
glass on empty glass; the Englishman lolls at his reeking bar; only the
Frenchman can be trusted to sit at his will at his little marble table,
and contemplate his little drinks, and play his little games. He does
not exceed, he does not quarrel; if he did either, the café were
impossible. So is he a free man, while we for our sins must submit to
stringent regulations of police.

Oran’s fine old Spanish fort and the ancient walls still speak of the
Spanish dominion. It was a penal station to which convicts were sent,
and the governors were in the habit of putting their labour to some
useful purpose. An inscription records that the citadel was built at no
cost to his Catholic Majesty but for the timber and scaffolding. After
repeated struggles the town was surrendered to the Turks in 1791, a very
convenient arrangement, as things turned out, for the French, who
occupied it forty years later. And they have made it what it is. Yet
among the lower orders the Spanish element is perhaps still
preponderant. To paraphrase the words of a French writer[6]—"the
peasants of Valencia and Murcia have only a few hours of sea to cross,
and a bad season at home brings them in hundreds. If they find no work
in and around Oran as gardeners they betake themselves to the country,
and become field-labourers, or harvesters of esparto grass. Sober and
industrious, they are especially fitted to the conditions of cultivation
in Algeria, which without irrigation is unproductive. They have in their
veins the blood of those Moors who taught Spain to husband her waters.
Oran is for them almost their own country, the two sides of the
Mediterranean have identical characteristics; and in the smallest
villages of the province they find themselves at home among their own

Footnote 6:

  P. Bourde.

It is interesting to recall in this connection that the increase of
emigration from Spain generally is becoming a very serious matter. It
reaches the annual average of 200,000 persons, or considerably more than
one per cent of the total population. The late Government in 1907 dealt
with the matter, and appointed a Conseil Supérieur de l’Emigration,
which took the exceedingly futile course of endeavouring to check it by
police interference with persons arriving at a port to emigrate, the
arrest of emigration agents, and complicated regulations affecting
steamship companies, which it has been found impossible to carry out.
The chief effect has been to conceal a certain amount of emigration,
which doubtless exceeds the official figures. The present radical
Government, pledged to reform in every department of the national life,
is attempting to check unemployment and emigration by a scheme of
extensive public works. Meantime under French institutions, Spaniards
are living contentedly and prosperously in a country marked out by
nature for their occupation, which they were never able to secure for


                      _VII—THE CITY OF PRECIPICES_

Road and rail to the eastward—Constantine—Its remarkable site—Its
    chequered history—French Conquest—Roman remains—Fronto—The Mairie—
    The road northward—The Aurès.


                “A towered citadel a pendant rock.”
                                 _Antony and Cleopatra._

If the traveller intends to journey from Algeria into Tunisia, he will
do well to visit Khabylia before he starts further east; if not he may
proceed first to Constantine, and motor through the mountain districts
from Sétif on his return. For the greater part of the way the great
trunk road and the railway from Algiers to Constantine take a similar
course; but towards the end they diverge, Constantine being situate
north of the main line from Algiers to Tunis, at a distance of twenty
miles from the junction of El-Guerrah, while the road passes through the
city. Hence it comes that the distance by road is 434 kilometres, by
rail 464. There are not many convenient stopping-places, perhaps Sétif
is the best.

By train you may make the journey either by night or by day; the latter
is preferable, as much of the scenery is beautiful and interesting.
Leaving Algiers the line crosses the Metidja, the great plain which
encircles the _Sahel_, the rocky promontory on which Algiers stands,
stretching on either side of it from sea to sea. At Ménerville it begins
to ascend, and shortly enters the Gorge of the Isser. The country here
is very picturesque; the river roars through a narrow cleft in the
rocks, Khabyle villages are perched on isolated points, and ruddy
mountains stand bare against the deep blue sky. Palestro, a little
further on, was the scene of a terrible and treacherous massacre in the
Khabyle insurrection of 1871. The European residents, numbering over a
hundred, were attacked in their residences. After a desperate resistance
about half surrendered on terms, but were immediately killed. The
remainder held out longer but about forty survivors, including
thirty-two women and children, were ultimately captured and kept
prisoners till the revolt was crushed.

Further on the line runs under the southern slope of the snowy Djurjura
range, which is such a prominent object from Algiers. The view of the
mountains is very fine. All the time the line is ascending, as it
continues to do as far as Sétif, 200 miles from Algiers, and 3573 feet
above the sea. Here we are in the centre of a vast corn-growing
district, once the granary of Rome. The country-side is full of Roman
remains, of towns and country-houses and farms. At this altitude the
climate, if hotter in summer, resembles that of Central France. The
landscape is very bare,—a vast sea of corn, without a tree to break its
monotony. To the east of Sétif the plain begins to slope downwards; the
railway diverges to the south, but the road enters the valley of the
Roumel, the river which forms the moat of the rock-girt city of

[Illustration: CONSTANTINE]

Constantine occupies one of those positions of natural strength which
from the earliest times man has seized upon as a habitation secure from
the attack of his fellow-man. It is too much to suppose that its beauty
had any force in such a selection. Yet it combines picturesqueness and
grandeur with strength to a remarkable degree. A circular chasm or
ravine, nearly 1000 feet deep, and sometimes not more than 200 feet
wide, creates a plateau which is in fact a peninsula of rock, only
united to the mainland by an isthmus on the west side. Through the abyss
roars the river Roumel. The plateau is not circular, but in the form of
an irregular square, with sharp angles,—a formation which greatly
increases the majesty of its effect. The length of the sides averages
about 1000 yards. In this confined space are crowded together the
habitations of men,—the European quarter, the Arab quarter, and the
Jewish quarter,—the public buildings incident to an important town, and
considerable barracks and fortifications.

“Le fantastique Roumel, fleuve d’une poème qu’on croirait rêvé par
Dante, fleuve d’enfer coulant au fond d’un abîme rouge comme si les
flammes éternelles l’avaient brûlé. Il fait un île de sa ville, ce
fleuve jaloux et surprenant; il l’entoure d’un gouffre terrible et
tortueux, aux rocs éclatants et bizarres, aux murailles droites et

Footnote 7:

  Guy de Maupassant, “Au Soleil,” 1904.

A great part of the attraction of a city occupying such a site lies in
its suggestion of romance. It calls up visions of furious siege and
desperate defence, of attempts to scale impossible cliffs, of
hand-to-hand encounter at the only gate. And the actual records of
Constantine almost surpass the possibilities of romantic imagination. It
can lay no claim to that happiness which comes from having no history.
Alike from its commanding situation and the richness of its surrounding
lands it has been marked out by nature to be an incentive to ambition.
It has known many masters. It is said to have stood eighty sieges. Its
apparent impregnability has but invited attack. It has been a necessary
mainstay to the support of every power which has aspired to the lordship
of Barbary. It has seldom been a fitting residence for those who desired
a quiet life.

Under its early name of Cirta it was the capital of that dynasty of
Numidian kings who fought first for Rome against Carthage, and then for
themselves against Rome. It became in due course a Roman colony. In the
fourth century it was ruined in the wars which rent the empire, and
re-arose as Constantine. Re-naming, with a spice of subservience, was a
passion of the time; even so to-day do the Piazza Umberto and Boulevard
Carnot obliterate ancient landmarks. The frenzied quarrels of Christians
and Christian heretics, which tore Africa to shreds, raged within its
walls, but spared its buildings. Genseric the Vandal, and the Byzantine
Belisarius were its lords in turn. Then came the Arab. Darkness broods
over its history for centuries, broken only by lightning flashes of
capture and recapture. The Barbarossa brothers recognized the truth that
he who would rule in Algeria must hold Constantine. They and their
successors conquered it, and lost it, and conquered it again. Its Beys
were nominally subservient to the Deys of Algiers, but Constantine
breeds insurrection, and maintained its traditions during the Turkish
domination. Even at the beginning of the nineteenth century, during a
period of thirty years, twenty Beys succumbed to poison, the bow-string,
or the sword.

                “Here Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp
                Abode his Hour or two and went his way.”

At the time of the French invasion its Bey, Hadj-Ahmed, was in
insurrection against the Dey, but made common cause against the
unbeliever. After the capitulation of Algiers he retired to Constantine
and declared himself independent, and took the title of Pasha, with the
countenance of the Porte. His minister, Ben-Aissa, a humble Khabyle in
origin, and a blacksmith by trade, was a man of marked ability. The two
created an army of Khabyles, and breathed defiance to the French. In
1836 Marshal Clauzel advanced against Constantine with 8000 men. Among
them was a young captain of the staff, afterwards Marshal Macmahon.
Clauzel attempted an assault by the bridge of El Kantara, but was
repulsed with great loss, and hardly retreated with his broken army to
Bône. France could not brook such a defeat. Another army of 10,000 men
was despatched under General Damrémont and arrived before the city on
October 6th, 1837. To his summons to surrender came the response, “He
who will be master of Constantine must cut the throat of the last of its
defenders.” A few days later the General in command and General
Perrégaux were killed side by side in the course of siege operations,
and General Valée assumed the leadership. On the 13th he took the city
by assault. Numbers of the besieged endeavoured to escape by ropes into
the ravine, but the ropes breaking they perished. Hadj-Ahmed evaded
capture, and for eleven years maintained himself in the Aurès mountains.
In 1848 he surrendered, and died two years later. For seventy years an
unwonted peace has brooded over the heights of Constantine; but who
shall say that the end is yet?

As usual, the French have destroyed most of the remains of the Roman
city; the exigencies of space are here a better excuse than exists
elsewhere. But the antiquary may still ferret out endless evidences of
the ancient town. The ordinary traveller may amuse himself by strolling
through the Arab quarter; he may perambulate the gorge by the _Chemin
des Touristes_; he may cross the bridge and ascend the opposing height
to view in its majesty this unique city of precipices. With a map and
moderate intelligence he will need no guide; but he will be pestered by
the attentions of guides, responsible and irresponsible. They throng the
door of his hotel, they mark his goings-out and his comings-in, and
unless he succumbs to paying blackmail to one of the fraternity, they
will strive to make his life a burden to him. Yet is there a certain
fierce pleasure in denying them. The guide who haunts the hotel door is
generally one of the least estimable of men, especially in Oriental
countries. If you are weak, he will prey on your weakness; if you are
vicious, he will reap his reward in ministering to your vices. He does
not shrink from suggestion, and he seems to know no shame. He sometimes,
when not guiding, fills a menial office in the hotel; one can hardly
suppress a smile at the idea of the epicurean having his pleasures
chosen for him by the Boots. To the credit of Algiers it may be said
that one is there little troubled by these vermin; but Constantine has
something to learn.

The Roman city of Cirta must have presented a marvellously beautiful
spectacle. Classical architecture perhaps looks its noblest in buildings
which crown a height. The temples of Cirta were of course not
individually comparable with those which adorned the Acropolis of
Athens, or the line of cliffs at Girgenti; but from a general scenic
point of view the effect would be similar and on a greater scale. If the
present city, which (like the belfry of Christchurch) has no
architectural merits, looks so impressive at a little distance, the
ancient city with its marble columns and triumphal arches must have been
grand beyond our powers of realization. We know from the ruins at Timgad
what a Roman city in Africa was like, and Thamagudi was a provincial
town of no great mark, while Cirta was the capital. Its remains are to
be seen everywhere, especially by the iron bridge of El Kantara, which
replaces the ancient Roman bridge, a very remarkable structure which
stood until 1857, when two of its arches fell. It was designed to carry
an aqueduct, and a roadway, which was supported on a double series of
arches, stood 400 feet above the level of the river. It excited the
wonder and admiration of all travellers. Shaw saw it in 1740. He says it
was “ indeed a masterpiece of its kind, the gallery and the columns of
the arches being adorned with cornices and festoons, ox-heads and
garlands. The keystones also of the arches are charged with Caducei and
other figures.”

The gorge contains many other Roman remains. Numerous inscriptions,
statues and ornaments have been removed, and are collected in a garden
near the Place de la Brèche. In this neighbourhood was found a
delightful epitaph of one Praecilius, a silversmith, written in very
inaccurate and unclassical Latin, which may be thus translated:—

“Here I, silent myself, in verse describe my life. I have filled an
honourable career in prosperous times; Praecilius my name, a householder
of Cirta and a silversmith by trade; a man of acknowledged probity and
unvarying truthfulness. I have been friendly to all men, and whom has my
charity failed? Laughter and good cheer I ever enjoyed with my chosen
friends. Life was not the same to me after the death of my virtuous wife
Valeria; I found my happiness in holy wedlock. I have celebrated in
honourable fashion a hundred happy birthdays. But there has come at last
the day when I must shuffle off this mortal coil. The inscription you
read while yet living I have prepared against my death. Let it be as
Fortune wills; never has she deserted me. Follow my example. Here I
await you. Come!”

To one illustrious citizen Cirta gave birth, Fronto the orator, friend
of the Emperor Antoninus Pius, and tutor of his heir, Marcus Aurelius.
Some of the correspondence of the master and his pupil has been
preserved. It abounds in intimate and homely touches. The prince went
out hunting one morning, and on his return wrote: “I betook myself to my
books. I took off my boots and my clothes, and went to bed for two
hours. I read two orations of Cato. I think I have caught cold, perhaps
because I walked in sandals this morning. So I will pour oil on my head
and go to sleep. Farewell, my dearest and sweetest master, whom I love
better than Rome itself.” When Marcus Aurelius succeeded to his imperial
throne he offered his old tutor the proconsulship of Asia, one of the
greatest positions in the Empire, but Fronto, who perhaps preferred to
remain in his native Africa, refused the office on the ground of
ill-health. Nothing has been discovered at Cirta bearing on Fronto’s
connection with the city, but an inscription built into a house at
Guelma, the ancient Kalama, records his official appointment as patron
of that town.

The Arab quarter, which is gradually being squeezed out of existence, is
quite different in character from that of Algiers. Its lanes are equally
tortuous and narrow, and even more dirty, but it is more full of life
and more actual. In Algiers most of the native shops are in modern,
Frenchified streets; here they line the ancient alleys. Merchants sit in
the serene Eastern fashion beside their stores of merchandise; artisans
ply their little trades in a very confined space. More than half the
population appears to be occupied in making shoes. The general confusion
is increased by the constant passage of animals, horses, mules, donkeys
and camels. It is a little bit of an old world, and being in close
contact, yet hopelessly out of touch, with the dominant world of the
day, its hours are numbered. The march of improvement, especially when
cribbed and confined as by the cliffs of Constantine, brooks no denial.
And if we are compelled to hold our noses, we may nevertheless be
disposed to shed a tear.

[Illustration: ZOUAVES]

As becomes a city set on a hill, Constantine is more retentive of its
ancient customs than a port like Algiers, which is subject to the
levelling influences of the sea and its traffic. Here, for example, the
Jewesses retain their distinctive dress. They delight in bright colours,
and in heavy barbaric jewellery, such as broad bracelets and large
circular earrings. They wear a peculiar head-dress, a sort of lace veil
with gold or gilt ornaments, surmounted by a pointed cap. The girls
affect a very diminutive form of this cap, generally of brilliant red or
blue, stuck jauntily on one side of the head. They are very lovely,
these Jewish girls, the finest type of their race, with noble features
and clear olive complexions. In point of refinement and the carriage
which marks good breeding perhaps no race touches such wide extremes as
the Jewish; for some reason or other the Constantine Jews are at the top
of the tree.

You may sit in a café of the Place de la Brèche and watch the endless
pageant of commingled East and West. The military note is predominant;
Zouaves and Spahis are everywhere. Behind a series of transport waggons
of the Chasseurs d’Afrique a motor-car hoots impatiently. Next a group
of little donkeys bearing loads, heads low, and ears wearily flopping.
Then carts heavily laden with stone, drawn by five horses,—sometimes a
grey team, sometimes a brown,—harnessed in single file, the driver
walking by the penultimate horse; a group of neat French children on
their way to school; an Arab lady of high degree veiled in the daintiest
grey chiffon, riding on a caparisoned mule and holding a lovely child
before her; an old Arab seated on a mass of saddle-bags which almost
hide his donkey, waggling his feet up and down after the Arab manner,
even as civilized man works a salmon-rod; and as you turn to go there
comes a troop of men chanting a dull Gregorian measure, and bearing
something on a stretcher covered with a green and gold flowered cloth;—
an Arab on his way to his last resting-place.

Such is a fraction of the cosmopolitan and parti-coloured crowd. And as
you watch you will reflect how much it owes to the fact that the
natives, high and low,—you do not see much of the former,—wear a
distinctive dress. The Arab’s robe is often shabby and often unclean;
but it avoids the meanness and vulgarity of European clothes. The
working classes of Northern Europe have discarded their suitable dress
of the past;—even the lingering smock-frock, most appropriate and
dignified of coverings, has gone,—they habit themselves in the cast-off
clothings of the well-to-do, or in badly-made imitations of them. The
women suffer in appearance more than the men, but both combine in their
personal aspect to contribute to the grim squalor and hideousness of our
meaner streets.

It is said that the plateau on which Constantine stands is honeycombed
with caves and subterranean passages, and that formerly it was possible
to walk round the city underground. Probably these caves were excavated
by the river before it had carved out its present bed at a lower level.
These great natural storehouses were used in troublous times for the
keeping of provisions and munitions of war; and during the French attack
of 1837 many of the inhabitants took refuge in them. They are now for
the most part bricked up, but a very remarkable grotto lies beneath the
Hôtel de Paris, and may be visited from the hotel.

There is a museum at the Mairie. It is, as Mr. Lucas found the Soane
Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, very difficult to get into; and it is
still more difficult to get out of, especially if you are a sympathetic
listener. The good lady whose place is in the porter’s lodge, and who
has the key, will, when at leisure, conduct you to a long room
containing the usual assortment of battered coins and broken pottery,
and one gem, a bronze statuette of Victory, found beneath the Kasbeh.
When you are sufficiently depressed by the antiquities, your guide has
something in store for you. She will show you—you only, you are given to
understand; it is an exception;—the marble staircase and the saloon in
which the Mayor receives. And very fine the marble columns and marble
panels are, and you will notice how here a butterfly with long tails is
faithfully depicted in their rich grain, and there the head of an old
Arab to the very life. And if you will have the goodness to look out of
window, you will see a house on the hill opposite, and just beyond it on
the other side is the quarry from which all these marbles come. And in
all Algeria there is no such a Mairie as this. And you may be led to
discuss systems of local government, and to mention that you yourself,
who speak, take some small share in such matters, if only as a member of
an Education Committee, or a County Council, or what-not. And you will
perhaps be pained to discover that the very name of your important
county town is unknown to your entertainer; a pain to be mitigated later
by the reflection that the caretaker of its Town Hall is perhaps not
fully informed as to Constantine. And the _pièce de résistance_ comes
last. You shall see the _salon_ in which the Mayor conducts the
marriages. And very suitable and dignified it is. Has your Mayor so fine
a marrying-place? You are constrained to confess that as far as you are
aware your Mayor has nothing to do with any marriages but his own. A
quick look as at an impostor detected, a shrug of the shoulders, and a
sigh for the barbarous condition of foreign countries, and it is over.

Constantine is a busy place. It is naturally a great corn-market. It has
long been celebrated for its leather goods. In their manufacture a large
number of tanners, saddlers and shoemakers are employed. Here are
produced all the elaborate articles of harness affected by Arab
cavaliers, often curiously wrought and of high price. And there is a
considerable woollen industry. Here are woven the _haïks_ and _burnous_
which form part of Arab dress; and certain finer articles, called
_gandouras_, made partly of wool and partly of silk. And the development
of the minerals of the province, especially zinc, iron-ore and
phosphates, is bringing activity and prosperity to Constantine.

The last conquerors have indeed set their seal upon the ancient city.
They have wrought more damage to its beauty in less than a century than
the Arabs in a thousand years. They have done their utmost to reduce it
to the level of a common French provincial town, and they may boast such
partial success as its conditions permitted. We are inured to regarding
such proceedings as inevitable. We have let our own towns grow as the
speculative builder willed; we have spared nothing except by accident;
we should have dealt with Constantine very much as the French have,
perhaps more outrageously. The folly and iniquity of it all is dawning
on us too late, we are beginning to see that the nineteenth century
betrayed its trust; it destroyed wantonly in time of peace what even the
stress and exigencies of centuries of war had spared.

The cliffs of Constantine’s great gorge still hold aloft its plateau; if
they enclose a city unworthy of their protection, such a condition is
perhaps, relatively to their own permanence, merely transitory. They
will doubtless see the passing of all that our banal age has set up; it
is fortunately not built for lasting. And a more enlightened race of men
may yet arise to crown with the towers of a noble city the finest site
in the world.

From Constantine the traveller will doubtless turn his face southwards.
He will have in front of him the ruins of Roman cities on the northern
slope of the Aurès mountains, for which Batna, 122 kilometres from
Constantine by road, is a convenient head-quarters; and further on,
after passing through a gorge which severs the range, he will enter the
true Sahara and, at 116 kilometres from Batna, reach the oasis of
Biskra, the much honoured and much sung. The railway takes during part
of the journey a somewhat different course from the road, but the
distance is about the same, the journey occupying seven or eight hours.

There is nothing very remarkable about the first part of the route. The
country is bare and somewhat marshy. Half way to Batna both rail and
road pass close to two salt lakes, which are the haunt in winter of
flamingoes and wild duck. A little further on a glimpse is caught of the
Medrassen, a remarkable monument recalling the “Tombeau de la
Chrétienne,” near Algiers. It is interesting to the archæologist, but
perhaps hardly repays an ordinary traveller for the trouble of visiting
it. Different opinions are held as to its purpose; it was probably the
burial-place of the Numidian kings, perhaps of Massinissa, in which case
its date would be about 150 B.C.

At Batna the road to Timgad and other ancient cities of the Roman
frontier diverges to the eastward. Proceeding northwards we continue to
ascend for a few miles, until the watershed is reached, where we enter
the valley of the Oued Fedhala, the river which runs southward to Biskra
and the desert. East of the road lies the great mass of the Aurès
mountains. On their northern side they slope gradually, forming, in the
manner of Algerian mountains, great plains, which again, after the lapse
of many centuries, have been brought into cultivation. Their southern
face rises more or less precipitously from the Sahara, and defines, as
has been suggested, the limits of European colonization.

The mountain fastnesses of the Aurès, seldom penetrated by the stranger,
are the home of a race, the Chawia, which possesses remarkable
characteristics. In the main a branch of the aboriginal Berbers, they
have been preserved by the seclusion of their mountains, like their
cousins the Khabyles, from any Arab admixture. But there is little doubt
that they represent also the débris of the Roman, Vandal, and Byzantine
colonies driven to the hills by the Arab invasion. Even so were the last
remnants of Romano-British civilization driven to the highlands of Wales
and Cumberland before the Anglo-Saxon hosts. In their features, their
speech and their customs, the Chawia betray their classic origin. Many
travellers have dilated on the beauty of their women:—"their
well-featured countenances, fair-curling locks, and wholesome ruddy
looks." Their language is full of Latin words. “They observe the 25th of
December as a feast, under the name of Moolid (the birth), and keep
three days’ festival both at springtime and harvest. They use the solar
instead of the Mohammedan lunar month, and the names of the months are
the same as our own.” In the peculiarities of this isolated people, for
which I cannot personally vouch, we seem to see the germ of some of Mr.
Rider Haggard’s romances.

[Illustration: EL KANTARA]


                       _VIII—THE ALLURING OASIS_

El-Kantara—The Gateway of the Desert—Biskra—Its attractions—The
    dancing-girls-"Hichenstown"—A garden and a vision—Railway extension—
    Conquering Mohammedans—Sidi Okba—The Arab’s point of view.


 “Ship me somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,
 Where there aren’t no Ten Commandments, an’ a man can raise a thirst.”
                                              _Barrack-room Ballads._

From the watershed to the north of Batna the descent by road or rail is
rapid to El-Kantara, where the mountain chain is riven by a deep and
narrow gorge. It is called by the Arabs _Foum-es-Sahara_, the Mouth of
the Sahara. The scenery is very striking; Nature is here in a theatrical
mood; the mountains are bare and rugged and of a rich yellow hue, and as
one emerges from the gorge the _coup d’œil_ is magnificent.
Immediately in front is a lovely oasis, rich in palms and fruit trees,
offering a delicious contrast of greenery to the rough weather-scarred
rocks above. Around and below, to the southward, are the rugged
foot-hills of the Aurès, and beyond all the great illimitable sea of
sand. This is one of those rare places of the earth where nature seems
to set herself of deliberate intention to produce an effect. And nothing
is wanting to its success; nothing is superfluous. No one could have
planned a more fitting, a more impressive, a more romantic, gateway to
the desert.

We continue to descend by the river, which is soon to meet its doom in
the sand, through a strange country which suggests in its apparent
absence of design the effect of some vast catastrophe,—"the quarries of
an enormous desolation." From the seamed and wrinkled and time-worn
cliffs, with their endless repetition of narrow buttresses, stand out
weird pinnacles as might the ruins of a fantastic castle, or the fangs
of some huge primeval monster, “the dead bones of the eldest born of
time”; while the floor of the valley is covered with curiously regular
pyramidal heaps, which bear the semblance of man’s fashioning. Such a
landscape might serve for a poet’s or painter’s Inferno; such may be the
scenery of the moon. Little by little we leave this nightmare of the
foot-hills and emerge into the plain. We pass several little oases, and
traverse sandy areas with scanty scrub. The river, or its bed, is ever
with us, with here and there an oleander growing on its banks. Where
water can be led away from it, a little ground is irrigated, and corn is
sown. But ever we are tending to the open desert. And at last, when we
have passed completely from all contact with the hills, and know that we
have attained the great Sahara, at last we come to Biskra.

It is a little difficult to analyse the charm of Biskra. The charm is
great and the attraction strong. They do not lie altogether in the
brilliance of its sunshine, in the shade of its palms, in the richness
of its colouring, in the exuberance of its life. These things we may
meet elsewhere. Biskra has other qualities; it is barbaric, African to
the core, tropical in its intensity.

Biskra is barbaric. To one entering by rail or road its trim streets and
squares, and housing himself in a hostelry which might be anywhere
within the bounds of the civilized world, this is a hard saying. Yet he
may soon perceive that its veneer is very thin and understand that it is
very transitory. A hot wind from the desert in April, and it is gone,
and the real Biskra will reassert itself. But even during the months of
the incursion of the _hiverneurs_, the barbaric note is never absent; to
the ear that listens it is predominant; it rings more shrill by force of
contrast. The troops of snarling camels, with their loads from the Great
Beyond, the clash of African musicless music, the thronging crowds of
jostling races in its markets, the hooded figures crouched motionless
round its cafés, the bedizened native harlotry which stalks unashamed,—
nay, proudly as mistress of the town,—in its streets; all are there to
mark its essential savagery. A few hours ago in the upper lands behind
the desert gateway we breathed the chill atmosphere of Europe; at Biskra
we have passed the bounds; sun and sky and earth and man and outrageous
woman combine to tell us that at last we have entered Africa.

It may be that therein lies Biskra’s attraction to the jaded European.
It is all a little unnatural from the European point of view. There is a
sense of walking on the slopes of a volcano, or of playing with fire;
and if we may believe our novelists, European nature under its influence
tends to eccentric and eruptive manifestations. Yet its frequenters
exhibit little outward sign of disturbance. German tourists, arrayed
indeed as if about to combat a Touareg onslaught, yet read novels
peacefully in the pleasant seclusion of the hotel garden; the Kodak
fiend stalks his prey; the traffic in post cards goes merrily along; but
we cannot escape an uneasy feeling that this nonchalance is a cloak.
Perhaps the novelists have got on our nerves.

Biskra consists of a modern French town and garrison, and several more
or less distinct native villages grouped together on a large oasis, a
strip of cultivated ground between three or four miles in length, with
an average width of half a mile. It contains an immense number of palm
trees, the chief source of wealth in the great Sahara. There is abundant
water from springs, and during winter from the river, which conveys the
snows of Aurès to the desert, and is finally lost some miles further to
the south. It has a swarming native population, of every North African
race, and every hue. There is obviously a very great infusion of negro
blood; no doubt because Biskra is situate on a highway of the nations,
at a point where the caravan routes from the extreme south reach the
mountain lands of Barbary. These natives of various races are collected
in great numbers in the morning market, and throng the neighbouring
cafés throughout the day, where squatting figures play interminable
games of dominoes and backgammon. Conspicuous in the crowd are the
dancing girls of the Ouled Naïl tribe dressed in tawdry finery, hung
with barbaric jewellery and masses of gold and silver coins, their hair
mixed with wool and plastered with grease, their faces tattooed and
darkened with _khol_ and _henna_. These women delight their patrons with
their _danses à ventre_ in the Cafés Maures at night, and later sit—
waiting and watching—on little balconies in the street which is assigned
to them. Many attempts have been made by French and English writers to
shed a halo of romance over these unfortunate beings. The whitewashing
of the harlot is a common literary pose. The story that they come to the
desert towns to earn their dower and subsequently return to their own
tribe and marry may have some foundation; such a procedure is not
unknown in other parts of the world; but to judge from the appearance of
some of them they are a long time thinking about settling down.

It may, at any rate, be said of these girls that they are not a mere
“exploitation of local colour,” got up for the benefit of the tourist.
They are a genuine native product, flourishing no less in the oases of
the Sahara seldom visited by Europeans than under the shadow of the
hotels of Biskra. Their _danses_ excite their native admirers to great
enthusiasm, they often provoke furious jealousies, and are sometimes the
object of extraordinary prodigality. Some of them appear to affect an
air _très grande dame_. “Celles des Ouled-Naïl qui sont de grande tente
apportent dans leurs relations avec leurs visiteurs toute la générosité
et la délicatesse que comporte leur origine. Il suffit d’admirer une
seconde l’épais tapis qui sert de lit pour que le serviteur de la noble
prostituée apporte à son amant d’une minute, dès qu’il a regagné sa
demeure, l’objet qui l’avait frappé.”[8]

Footnote 8:

  Guy de Maupassant, “Au Soleil.”

Biskra may be compared with a Nile town such as Luxor, if one can
imagine Luxor without the river, without the temples, and, it must be
added, without the flies. But it is a desert town, the town of an oasis,
born of springs of water rising in a dry place, and it revels in the
desert sun and sky. It is most pleasant when the sky is cloudless and
the air still. But its beauty is greater when a moderate wind is blowing
and light clouds are passing. Then are glorious deep blue shadows thrown
on scarred cliffs of the tawny Aurès range. The tower of the Royal Hotel
is a vantage point from which to view Biskra and its landscape. Thence
you may note the extent of the oasis, the belts of palm trees in the
distance which mark the existence of other oases, and miles to the south
the dunes of shifting sand which to the imagination of most of us
represent the real Sahara. Especially beautiful is the scene at sunset.
The changing lights on the mountains, the ruddy glow all around, the
peculiar quality of transparency in the sky when the sun has set, and
perhaps Venus appears and hangs like a lamp between earth and heaven,—
only in the desert may we behold these last glories of departing day.
The shady, bird-haunted garden of this hotel is a very haven of shelter
when the desert wind blows strong and raises the light dust of Biskra in
the street without. It is surrounded on all sides by the hotel buildings
built in the spacious Oriental manner with corridors opening to the
garden and pleasant balconies above.

Biskra of the tourists, _urbs circumcurrentium_, is in a fair way to
rechristen itself Hichenstown. The novelist and his not very edifying
story pervade the place; they are thrust at you everywhere with damnable
iteration. And the worst of it is that however mawkish the book it has
undeniable power, and if you are unfortunate enough to have read it you
will be unable to avoid recognizing at every turn the scenes in which
the much-longing-to-be-loved heroine and her uncouth lover played their
parts. You will probably not have been in the town many hours, perhaps
not many minutes, before a guide will accost you and produce with much
dignity a visiting-card of Mr. Hichens, on which something is written.
If you express neither interest nor emotion he will regard you with a
mixture of incredulity and pity. What are you here for but to worship at
the shrine of the marabout Hichens? Hichens has made—or marred—Biskra,
and Biskra is not unmindful. There is little or nothing to guide you to
in Biskra, wherefore is it full of guides. They are an ever-present
nuisance. The easier course is to engage one, he will at least keep off
the others; if you have more grit you may set out to prove yourself
unguidable; every guide’s hand will be against you at first, but you
will reap your reward. You will have no difficulty in hiring a guide
when you really want one, and he will respect you the more. The Arab is
no mean judge in such matters. The authorities have endeavoured to
mitigate the nuisance by licensing certain men to act as guides; but
they have not altogether suppressed the unauthorized, and the licensed
merely give themselves additional airs. Silly sentimental visitors have
aggravated matters, and have, moreover, turned many of the boys and
girls into impudent beggars. Books have actually been written embodying
the views on life and religion of these petted striplings; their
remarkable inaccuracies in serious matters suggest that the youth of
Biskra is not averse from “pulling the legs” of its amiable patrons. It
is all rather sad. But the debasing effect of the inconsiderate tourist
is not peculiar to Biskra.

The garden of Count Landon is botanically interesting, and a delightful
refuge from glare and dust and importunity. It is not in the ordinary
sense a garden; it is rather a great plantation or shrubbery divided by
winding paths. The excessive neatness of these paths, built of hard mud
and carefully sanded, rather spoils the effect of the wilderness to an
English eye. There is abundance of running water, and the palm, which
likes to have “its toes in the water and its head in the sun,”
flourishes exceedingly. With it are many bamboos, peppers, oranges, and
various species of _ficus_,—the usual subtropical assemblage. I observe
no tree-ferns; yet the conditions appear very suitable. It is one
continuous jumble; there is no attempt at grouping, which would perhaps
have produced a more noble and more natural effect. But as you come
suddenly here or there to the verge of this thicket, you are startled
and delighted by the contrast of mellow shade within, and the shimmering
glare without;—a contrast quite after the manner of Biskra, which revels
in the juxtaposition of the incongruous. Those who come to the desert in
search of peace and quiet may find themselves in the plight of the
guests of a Swiss innkeeper who advertised: “My hotel is recommended to
those in search of solitude; thousands come here in search of solitude
every summer.” But in the garden of M. Landon you may be at rest, and
dream dreams and see visions, as I did. I had been reading certain
modern French writers who are concerned to prove that the inhabitants of
this country, the _indigènes_, are not Arab at all. They don’t deny the
Arab conquest, but hold that the claim to have “come in with Okba” is as
empty a boast as among us is the assertion, “We came over with the
Conqueror.” They are arguing to a case. If the native is not of Semitic
origin there is hope for him. He has been more or less Christian before,
so he may be Christianized again, or anti-clerical radical socialized,
or whatever is necessary to make him an up-to-date Frenchman. But with
all their theorizing nothing is effected. The Arab,—or Berber,—goes on
in his Arabian,—or Berberic,—way, unmoved by any attraction of French
politics and irreligion. How is he to be broken in? A chance remark of
an American fellow-traveller opened to me the great discovery. History
supplies other instances of idle words changing its course. There is
to-day a great civilizing influence at work on cosmopolitan lines such
as the world has never seen before. It has already profoundly affected
some of the greatest of human interests,—religion, commerce, and
clothes. It will ultimately bring about the abolition of war, because no
one will have time to fight. It is permeating the most unlikely
quarters; if I mistake not my German neighbours this evening at dinner
were continually alluding to it; and what Germany thinks to-day, Europe
will think to-morrow. The Arab, or Berber, must be brought into the
movement. He must play golf. My American friend informed me that golf
has changed the habits of the American business man. It appears that
since Columbus arrived this individual has never taken any exercise; he
has sat in his office glued to his desk from dewy morn till long after
sunset. All that is over, and in a moment. At 3 p.m. he now furtively
affixes to his office door a notice, “Back in ten minutes,” and is off
to the American Sandwich. Saturday is a whole, not a half, holiday; and
Sunday has become a day of especial unrest. If in the twinkling of an
eye such a slave of ingrained habits may find salvation, need we despair
of the poor Arab, or worry ourselves about his pedigree? To all
appearance he is usually short of a job; his posture of seemingly
permanent repose is explained to me as one of waiting till his dates are
ripe. Golf will alter his whole attitude of mind as of body. Local
conditions are most favourable. The Sahara contains the finest
sand-bunkers in the world. The creation of greens is merely a matter of
sinking Artesian wells, a laudable process on which the French
Government is already embarked, but with no full appreciation of its
real significance. Temporary club-houses of galvanized iron would meet
all requirements for the present. At once the Arab’s (I must continue to
call him the Arab, in spite of my French authors) distinctive dress
would go. No one who has not put it on can realize in what a cuirass, in
what folds, he is involved. As he is he could never hope to drive a
decent ball. Array him in a Norfolk jacket and knickerbockers and
putties (I observe that his French conquerors are greatly affecting
putties) and his aloofness disappears. At a stroke he enters the
world-movement; Colonel Bogey will oust the Lord Okba; and when Hadji
ben Mohammed ben Yakoub comes over to represent the Biskra and North
Sahara Golf Club at St. Andrews may I be there to see him win.

[Illustration: OLD BISKRA]

A little way further south than the garden of Count Landon, on the
Touggourt road lie the scattered native hamlets known to the French as
_La Vieille Biskra_, the crumbling houses of a ragged population. Here
is the very _ne plus ultra_ of Arab untidiness. But the play of sunbeams
through the palm trees’ grateful shade turns squalor into beauty. Arab
villages are often half in ruins. Their irregular construction of blocks
of dried mud gives them the aspect of the homes of animals rather than
of men,—the creation perhaps of some gigantic ant. When it rains they
not infrequently fall down. And the labour of rebuilding is not lightly

Biskra is soon to lose its present distinction as the end of the railway
line. The rails are being rapidly laid towards Touggourt, 212 kilometres
to the south, a desert town where splendid gardens flourish beneath the
shade of 200,000 palm trees. The irrepressible motor-car has already
stirred its dust. The prudent Michelin guide describes the road thither
as _piste carrossable mais imprudente à suivre par mauvais temps_. You
are advised to take mats to lay down in the softer places for the car to
run over. But what happens in the event of a serious breakdown is not
explained. When the rail is finished the enterprising tourist may pass
by Biskra as a mere wayside station and continue to the end. But he may
be only going farther to fare worse. It does not appear that the distant
towns of the Sahara present any special points of interest beyond their
existence. Yet perhaps there are some to whom the desert calls as to
others the veldt. But they will stick to their camels and their mules,
and merely use the railway extension as a jumping-board for further


To him who strives to peer beneath the obvious surface nothing in Biskra
is more significant than the statue of Cardinal Lavigerie. It stands in
the main street close to the luxurious Royal Hotel, hard by the quarter
of the Arab cafés and the street of the Ouled-Naïl dancing-girls, a
symbol of the eternal amidst the evanescent, a protest for God against
the Devil and the world. And it looks south. Thousands of miles away,
across the vast expanse of the continent, another statue looks north.
Rhodes and Lavigerie, two types of our civilization, further apart in
intention and in ideals of human conduct than are their statues, look
forth over Africa from their separate standpoints, the Africa for which
each spent his strength. Both worked to bring to the Dark Continent the
accumulated wealth of light to which Europe is heir; they drew perhaps
on different departments in the great storehouse; they directed the
illumination to different points; but to evolve order from chaos, to
substitute freedom for tyranny, to impose peace even, if need were, by
the sword,—these were the objects which both pursued.

The neighbourhood of Biskra is rich in memories of Sidi Okba, the barber
of the Prophet, and the first of the Arab conquerors. It was he who
pushed westward from Kairouan through Barbary to the Atlantic, having
defeated the Berbers under Koceïla and other chieftains. Arrived at the
shore of the ocean he raised the standard of the Prophet crowned with
the crescent, and indicating with it the course of the sun from its
rising to its setting, dashed forward and breasted the waves with his
horse, crying, “God of Mahomet, were I not stopped by the waves of this
sea, I would go to the ends of the earth to carry the glory of thy name,
to fight for thy religion and to destroy those who will not believe on
thee!” On his return journey he was attacked by a force of Berbers under
Koceïla near Biskra and killed with three hundred of his followers. He
was buried in the oasis which bears his name, and his tomb is an object
of pilgrimage and veneration.

But the Berbers, if they had killed one leader, did not succeed in
maintaining their independence. That they adopted the invaders’ religion
is not very surprising. Their previous religions seem to have sat
lightly on them: idolaters, pagans, converted in numbers to Judaism,
orthodox Christians, Donatists,—they had been all in turn. The dogmatic
simplicity of Islam is summed up in the words, “There is no God but God,
and Mohammed is the Prophet of God.” It only demands a belief in this
one God and the veneration of Mahomet, last of the prophets, invested by
God with the mission to bring back men to the religion of the ancient
patriarchs and to the acknowledgment of the Unity of the Godhead. It is
completed by belief in three revealed books, the Bible, the Gospel, and
the Koran. It denies the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ, who
is regarded only as a prophet, but allowed to have possessed a special

The simple formula of Mohammedanism was not very difficult for a man
with no prejudices to accept. It meant, of course, more than appeared
from its positive assertion; it was directed alike against the
Trinitarianism of the Christians and the idolatry or image-worship of
pre-Mohammedan Arabians. In its rejection of anthropomorphism it stands
on a high intellectual plane; and it is one of the marvels of history
that such an abstraction as the God of Mahomet should have been
sufficient to rouse the Prophet’s followers to their pitch of conquering
enthusiasm. Races beaten in battle no doubt easily accepted its primary
proposition. “People follow the religion of their kings,” says an Arab
proverb. But there was more behind. The Prophet attached to his
religious doctrine a very precise ethical code, a moral system admirable
on the whole in its exposition of the duties of man to man; yet in its
permission of polygamy regarding women as inferior to men. And on the
political side he united the functions of the priest, the judge and the
king. It follows that however enlightened the main basis of
Mohammedanism it is fundamentally opposed alike to Christianity and to
modern theories of democratic government and the equality of the sexes.
“Men are superior to women on account of the qualities with which God
has gifted the one above the other,” says the Koran.

After the manner of organized religions all sorts of complicated
additions have been made to the originally simple rule of the Prophet,
which enjoined prayer, ablutions, fasting, abstinence from wine and the
flesh of the pig. These accretions are largely concerned with the
veneration of saints and the exorcising of spirits. Among the former not
the least is Sidi Okba, canonized rather, we may suppose, for his
prowess as a conqueror and his zeal as a propagandist than for any
peculiar sanctity of life.

The oasis of Sidi Okba lies about twenty-one kilometres south-east of
Biskra. The road crosses a level plain, and is at present in a rather
rough condition, but is being re-metalled. The drive is a pleasant one,
with the long line of mountains on the left fading away into a blue
distance; on the right the desert with an occasional oasis marked by its
group of palms. As we approach Sidi Okba the dark belt visible from
Biskra takes shape. The little town lies in the midst of an immense
group of date-palms, of all sizes, some of great age; one has the honour
of being described as the oldest palm in Africa. Sidi Okba has not been
in any way Europeanized, it is still the unadulterated East; its houses
built of mud, of one story; its streets narrow, winding and very
unclean. It appears to be greatly over-populated, and the mass of its
inhabitants to be very poor. The streets are thronged with men, but
scarcely a woman is to be seen. The stranger, who will do well on this
occasion to bring a guide, will be quite unmolested, and to all
appearance totally disregarded. A main street full of little shops,
curious and interesting, leads to the market-place, which is the very
climax of Arab untidiness. Sidi Okba is not a place for the squeamish.

The chief object of interest is the mosque, which is considered to be
the oldest Mohammedan building in Africa. It is a square building
surrounded by a portico, with a flat roof supported on twenty-six rudely
carved columns. The saint’s tomb is contained in a little chapel which
it is unlawful for the unbeliever to enter. The mosque and its porticoes
are greatly resorted to by students and pilgrims; it contains little
cells in which they are lodged, and endowments have been created by
pious benefactors for their support. There are many present to-day: here
a single student reading laboriously a passage of the Koran written on a
wooden slab; there a little group of doctors squatting in a circle
apparently discussing a knotty point, but in reality only capping each
other’s quotations from the sacred book. In an adjoining room is the
usual Arab school—a number of boys surrounding a seated master who is
armed with a long cane, and yelling their lesson (the Koran again) with
all their might. It is all very far apart from the workaday western
world. Yet even into this very shrine of esoteric Islam has the West
edged its way. On the walls of the mosque hang highly-coloured prints of
the holy cities of Arabia, Mecca and Medina. My guide pointed them out
to me as objects of interest. In the corner of the view of Medina I
noticed the words, “All rights reserved. The Cairo Punch.”

[Illustration: SIDI OKBA: A STREET]

On one of the pillars is engraved in early Cufic characters the grandly
simple inscription, “This is the tomb of Okba, son of Nafè. May God have
mercy on him.” The wooden door of the mosque is very finely carved in a
curious design. It is said to have been brought from Tobna, in the high
plateau of the Hodna, and to have been formerly covered with precious
metals and jewels, which were sold for the benefit of the mosque; but
this may be doubted.

To obtain a view of the township and the oasis you may ascend the
minaret. Here your guide will not accompany you. Arabs object to any
prying eye surveying their roofs, which are the resort of their women.
They have perhaps grown accustomed to the irrepressible European, who
will always go to the highest point at all hazards; he is also beneath
their contempt, and in any case will depart and be no more seen. With
one of their own countrymen it is different; he may be the European’s
servant, but he is a fellow-religionist and not a mere animal like his
employer. So the European is tolerated with a shrug. For the office of
_muezzin_, the custodian of the mosque, whose business it is to ascend
the minaret and call the faithful to prayer, a blind man with a brazen
voice is in much request. If not actually, the _muezzin_ is
conventionally blind. So he will light a candle to guide you up the dark
staircase, and accompany you to the top. The town lies below you and all
around,—a curious collection of square mud boxes. On many of the roofs
are basket-work erections, which are explained to you as the framework
of tents, in which the inhabitants sleep during the great summer heats.
Over the heads of countless palm trees your eye ranges to the desert,
bounded on the north by the cliffs of Barbary, limitless to the south.
And southwards you will gaze till you grow weary of immensity.

Perhaps nowhere more than at Sidi Okba, under the shadow of the great
conqueror’s tomb, may you feel the haughty disdain of the Arab. He
stalks past you apparently in utter unconsciousness of your presence.
You belong to a civilization which for the moment has conquered his in
war. Allah has willed it. But you represent with your anthropomorphic
religion, your abominable demeanour and social arrangements, especially
your own lack of dignity and the licence you allow to your women, all
that he holds most accursed. You attach undue importance to human life
in this world; and this leads you into a ridiculous state of worry about
trumpery matters of sanitation and so forth, which are quite beneath the
notice of a man concerned with the higher mysteries of the universe and
considerations of eternity. Your grovelling disregard of the really
great things gives you leisure to devote yourself to such trifles as
trade and transport, and so you grow rich, which is rather to your
discredit than the reverse. Wherefore the Arab expresses his contempt
for you by the supremest indifference, striving only to preserve the hem
of his robe from contact with the unclean.

The ordinary traveller will perhaps leave Biskra with no great regret,
however much he may have found of interest in his visit. But to those
rare spirits among us who endeavour to repair the mischief caused by our
first parents, Biskra presents very special opportunities. There is very
little to see, and nothing whatever to do; it is a capital place for
sitting in the shade with a brilliant sky above. The Garden of Eden is
an Oriental ideal; these Arabs who exist in contemplation of their palm
trees are striving to live up to it. It is not at all an English ideal.
The primeval curse lies heavy on the Englishman; he has made the best of
it and has come to regard work as a virtue. Not only by the sweat of his
brow must he earn his living; by the sweat of his brow must he achieve
his pleasure. A paradise in which he could not knock a ball about or
kill the other animals were no paradise to him. Yet even among our
strenuous people there are emancipated individuals, to whose simple
needs a sunny climate and regular meals at a comfortable hotel suffice:—

             “Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
              A flask of Wine, a Book of Verse,”

such will find a congenial resting-place.


                            _IX—THE SAHARA_

    The desert in imagination and reality—Underground water—Artesian
    wells—Mozabites—Touaregs—The camel—Recent developments—Railway
    projects—The Army of Africa.


            “I’ve in the desert with these eyes beheld
            The hurrying pilgrim to the slow-stepped yield;
            The rapid courser in the rear remains,
            While the slow camel still its step maintains.”
                                              THE GULISTĀN.

Everyone, it has been said, has his own Sahara. For many of us perhaps
the geography lessons of childhood left an impression of an ocean of
shifting sand, sometimes separated from the sea by a narrow strip of
cultivated land, sometimes extending to the very shore, from which
majestic lions, appropriate lords of the inhospitable desert, gaze
pensively at the setting sun. If we had the misfortune to be born half a
century or more ago, the maps of Africa of the period, with their vast
interior emptiness, suggested to our youthful imagination that this
unpleasant region extended over the greater part of the continent, the
elephant taking the place of the lion in the more southern portions.


                 “So geographers, in Afric maps,
                 With savage pictures fill their gaps,
                 And o’er unhabitable downs
                 Place elephants for want of towns.”

The last generation has seen these mediæval ideas considerably modified.
Travel and war have been the means of filling much of the blank space;
the arts of peace have followed in their wake; African railways would
occupy quite a respectable page in a world-wide Bradshaw; and the Stock
Exchange in a searching for economy of syllables has irreverently
shortened the poetical Tanganyika to the practical Tank. The great flat
plain is last to go;—the millions of acres of rather light soil which
the French have been so unaccountably anxious to daub with their colour
on the map. We have given up the lions; we know that such carnivorous
beasts can only live in a fairly fertile country which supplies
sufficient food to their prey. But we have clung to the plain and the
sand. Nevertheless it seems that they must go too. We read that you may
travel for days in the Sahara on rocky hills and not find enough sand to
dry your signature. So perish the beliefs of youth.

Yet to any picture of Algeria the Sahara supplies a romantic background.
The sight of a caravan arriving from some distant oasis still has power
to stir the imagination. Even in face of our information as to the
Sahara’s only partial sterility, we cherish some shreds of wonder at the
men who can wring a livelihood and find the means of travel under such
inhospitable conditions.

The Sahara has been defined as the region which receives only as an
exception any rainfall, whether of Mediterranean origin, or from the
tropical regions of West Africa. It is only relatively a desert in the
strict sense of the word; no part of it is absolutely without rain, and
even in the districts which are reputed the most dry the traveller may
meet with violent storms. The generally arid nature of the soil is due
to the fact that water circulates not on the surface, but underground.
Where it comes to light either by natural or artificial means, a focus
of intense cultivation, an oasis, is produced.

The Algerian Sahara is only a portion of the great desert of Northern
Africa. Yet it is ten times the size of Algeria itself. It consists
roughly of two great depressions separated by an isthmus of calcareous
hills. Each of these basins contains a great expanse of dunes, and the
two chief groups of oases occur in their lower levels. A generation ago
it was commonly believed that the Sahara was the bed of a sea which had
disappeared at no very distant date; and projects were formed of
admitting the Mediterranean by means of a canal. But more precise
knowledge has shown that its sterility is due to other causes; that like
the rest of the continent it has its ancient conformation of mountain
and plain; that it has distinctive flora and fauna long established; and
that the portion which lies below the level of the Mediterranean is of
very small extent.

Between eighty and ninety per cent of the surface is of rock, slightly
undulating and broken occasionally by perpendicular ravines and large
crevasses. Here, as a rule, no water can be found, and the only
vegetation is an occasional thorny shrub. With the regions of the sand
dunes it is different. Their sterility is by no means absolute. They
have a vigorous vegetation of their own, which will support camels, and
even sheep at a favourable season. They absorb eagerly the rainfall
which runs off the rocky plateaux, and acting as a sponge retain it for
a long period. Their comparative barrenness is due only to the dryness
of the climate; wherever they can be irrigated they become fertile.

Of the underground rivers the best known is the Oued Rir, which is met
with about fifty miles to the south of Biskra, and extends as far as
Temacin, fourteen miles south-west of Touggourt. Its course is marked by
a number of oases, some of which have been created, and others much
improved by the Artesian wells of the French engineers. The first
experiment of this sort was tried as early as 1856 at the oasis of
Tamerna. After twenty-two days of work, in the presence of a crowd of
incredulous and scarcely friendly natives the bore produced a veritable
river of a thousand gallons a minute.

                “In the desert a fountain is springing.”

At this welcome spectacle, the ingrained distrust of and smothered
hostility towards the stranger and his methods vanished; all gave way to
a transport of joy and enthusiasm. The work thus begun has been
continued with great success, chiefly by French companies; new wells
have been sunk and old wells repaired; and it is estimated that the
value of the oases of the Rir has increased fivefold, and their
population more than doubled.

[Illustration: AN ARTESIAN WELL]

Similar results have been attained elsewhere. But while they increase
the productiveness of the oases, and at the same time improve the routes
and the condition of the nomads, they do not warrant any hopes of
extensive cultivation in the Sahara. The conditions of life continue
difficult. The oases are very unhealthy; their sedentary inhabitants are
the prey of malignant fevers and chronic diseases. The summer climate is
appalling; a variation between freezing-point and 120° Fahrenheit in the
twenty-four hours is not unknown. Those of the inhabitants, Arabs or
Berbers, who have an admixture of the blood of the Soudanese negroes,
are best fitted to support such trying conditions. As a place of
residence for Europeans the Sahara cannot be recommended with any

Of the sedentary peoples of the Sahara the most interesting are the
Mozabites; of the nomads the Touaregs, who range over the vast region to
the extreme south. Both are considered to be of Berber origin. The
Mozabites have already been mentioned as traders in Algiers. Their
country, the Mzab, is situate in one of the most sterile parts of the
Sahara, on the rocky promontory which separates the eastern and western
depressions. It lies about 400 miles due south of Algiers. Here with
amazing toil they have created a fertile region. They have dug wells and
found water, and have built dams to intercept and retain the occasional
rainfall. The contrast of their fertile gardens with the bare and
fantastic rocks which surround them, a land of exaggerated sterility
where Nature herself seems dead, is described by travellers as very
striking. The industry and commercial aptitude of the Mozabites is very
remarkable. They excel as money-lenders and in small banking business.
It is said that among them a Jew must work with his hands.

[Illustration: A NATIVE WELL]

During the last few years, without attracting much attention from the
outer world, France has quietly conquered the Sahara, or at all events
brought its nomad tribes under effective control. The Touaregs, neither
very numerous nor very well armed, have succumbed to persistent pressure
and a few trifling defeats. Some are settling on the fringe of the
oases; others drifting into the service of the State. The systematic
brigands of centuries will pass, it has been said, in a few years from
the Stone Age to the age of aviation. They recognize, not without
humour, that their rôle of levying contributions has fallen into other
hands. A captain of spahis in garrison at Timbuctoo, was ordered to
pursue a caravan which had made off in the night without paying the
market dues. “We also,” said the Touaregs, “when we stop a caravan, do
so to collect _le droit de passage_.”

The conquest of the desert, long delayed, has only been achieved by the
regular employment of the camel. For nearly a century, since Napoleon’s
expedition to Egypt, the French had made spasmodic efforts to utilize
this animal, but with little success. The camel corps were regarded with
ridicule and contempt, and the peculiarities of the beast were little
understood. A common belief in fabulous stories of its powers of speed
and endurance, its capacity for doing without food and water, occasioned
much suffering and immense loss. In fact it requires, year in year out,
as much sustenance as other herbivorous beasts of its bulk; where it
differs from others is in its power to support extreme irregularity in
its meals. This quality, and especially its ability to take in at one
drink enough water for several days, render it of unequalled value for
desert journeyings. The camel can work for six months in the year on the
meagre diet which the sparse vegetation of the Sahara affords; it is
necessary for his existence that he should spend the remaining six in
complete rest at pasture, where he feeds voraciously from morning to
night without losing a minute. “But it must not be believed,” says M.
Gautier, “that the camel on active service does not eat; he feeds when
he has the opportunity, and the opportunities must not be rare. For a
caravan of camels traversing the desert, the stomach of the beasts is
the sovereign lord of marches and halts, the director of the daily
programme; day and night, the fatigue and hunger and sleep of the men do
not enter into the account; everything is subordinated to the single
necessity of nourishment for the herd. Whenever a little edible
vegetation is met with, at whatever point of the itinerary, a halt is
made for several hours or several days; in the intervals, even as
happens sometimes, of two or three hundred kilometres or of five or six
days, progress, slow and regular, is made without truce, almost without
sleep, beneath sun and stars alike. One can only stop at a pasturage; a
voyage in the Sahara is a hunt for a blade of grass.”

God, says the proverb, having made the desert, repaired the mischief by
creating the camel. Considered absolutely it is an inferior beast of
burden to the horse and mule, considered relatively to the conditions of
the Sahara it is invaluable. But it must be treated according to its
necessities. In the mines of Algeria, for props in the galleries, pine
is preferred to oak; oak breaks suddenly when the limit of its strength
is reached, pine on the contrary cracks and creaks,—it gives warning.
The camel is as the oak, he gives no warning. Exhausted, he stops
abruptly like a motor-car which has run short of petrol; he crouches and
dies, with plenty of dignity and with an air of thinking of something
else. So have ended countless camels in the service of France. But since
1902 camel corps have been raised on a scientific basis; the animal used
being almost invariably the _méhari_, a species of dromedary. A body of
natives of the tribe of the Chaamba has been organized, each of whom in
return for a definite sum of money supplies two or three camels, which
are his own property, to exchange, to sell, to traffic with as he
pleases. He is, in fact, a contractor. For a further sum he provides his
own food, clothing and equipment. This system seems to be a reversion to
an ancient custom, which the very word “soldier” recalls.

The effect has been magical. Almost without a blow the Touareg has
recognized his master. The Chaamba patrol the desert and enforce French
conceptions of law and order. Communications have been opened in all
directions; the tremendous journey between Algeria and the West African
possessions of France is now frequently made without danger and without
exciting remark. The _méharistes_ have solved the problem so long

[Illustration: A CARAVAN]

But a greater project is agitating the minds of the forward Colonial
party, the linking of the French possessions by a Trans-Saharian
railway. The scheme is not a new one. It was much discussed thirty years
ago. The French Government appointed a scientific commission to study
the matter, and the French public, ever ready to support a vast
engineering scheme, was eager to subscribe the necessary capital. The
murder by Touaregs of the Flatters mission administered a cold douche,
and for the time being the subject dropped. It has been revived of late
by M. Leroy Beaulieu and other writers. Two lines are projected, one to
Lake Tchad, the other to Timbuctoo. The distance to be covered is
enormous, in each case about 2700 miles, of which 2000 is desert. The
engineering difficulties are not great, but the commercial prospects of
such a line seem very poor. A train or two a year would deal with all
the existing traffic, and there appears little scope for development. It
is suggested that the Upper Niger may become another Nile, but even then
its trade would seek an outlet rather to the Atlantic than to the
Mediterranean and across the Great Sahara. The post route to South
America might be shortened a little, but at what cost and inconvenience!
The best hope for the would-be railway builders lies in the discovery of
minerals. A mining industry would develop the Sahara as it has developed
the bare uplands of the Transvaal and the icy wastes of Klondyke. But of
this there is no present indication.

Meantime, in the extreme west, on the borders of Morocco, the railway
has been extended as far as Colomb-Béchar, a distance of 728 kilometres
to the south-west of Oran. This is a strategic line. It is in the
direction of Morocco that the eyes of the army of Africa are now turned.
French writers are never tired of repeating that Barbary is one, and
should be undivided, that the masters of Tunis and Algeria must be lords
of Morocco too. The safety of Algeria itself is said to depend on the
French control of Morocco. Such is ever the language of him who would go
forward. We have said it ourselves often enough, and to fix the limits
of empire is sometimes more difficult than to advance them.

It may be worth while to note what is the present military force of
France in North Africa. According to the project for the Budget of 1911,
the force in Algeria consists of 2134 officers and 52,927 men; in
Tunisia of 698 officers and 17,007 men. The cavalry numbers in all 440
officers and 9074 men. The number of native troops is singularly small,
about 15,000 infantry and 1800 spahis. Judging by our experience in
India it would be possible to make a far larger use of native military
talent, to the great advantage of the population, and to the
consolidation of the French hold on the country. The native troops
employed in the late Morocco campaign, especially the Tunisians, bore
themselves with the greatest credit.

In the Sahara special companies have been recently raised. They contain
a certain admixture of French troops:—24 officers and 123 men to 817
men. It would seem a special field for the raising of a force of natural
cavalry and camel-men.



The Roman frontier—Lambessa—The Empire ruined by bad finance—African
    Emperors—The plan of Timgad—Buildings, inscriptions, and mosaics—
    Prosperity of Roman Africa—Local patriotism—The Roman tradition.


            “As in those realms where Cæsars once bore sway,
            Defaced by time and tottering to decay,
            There in the ruin heedless of the dead,
            The shelter-seeking peasant builds his shed.”

East and west of Batna lay the Roman frontier line during the first two
centuries of the Empire. It was marked by a series of cities, partly
military, partly commercial; extensive ruins bespeak their ancient
importance. As elsewhere in Europe and North Africa the fall of the
Empire seldom meant the abandonment of the city sites; they continued to
be occupied by successive generations of men, even though, like Rome
herself, for a period they sank to insignificance. And their ruined
buildings, public and private, offered a convenient quarry to the
builders of subsequent ages. It results that we are scarcely able to
find an ancient city in which the original plan of house and street has
not been seriously interfered with. While, as in many English towns, the
main lines of the streets often follow the Roman thoroughfares, we have
seldom the opportunity of studying the scheme as a whole, although all
through Southern and Western Europe innumerable individual features
exist more or less well preserved.

We owe the existence of Pompeii and Herculaneum to the accident of their
overwhelming by ashes and lava from Vesuvius. The former has been laid
bare; the excavation of the latter, a much more serious matter, awaits
the day when the disposers of wealth, public or private, shall see fit
to undertake a work, which promises the greatest results. It happens by
a piece of exceptional good fortune that here, on the southern edge of
Barbary, Pompeii has a serious rival. The Roman city of Thamagudi, now
called Timgad, has since its destruction at the time of the Arab
invasion of A.D. 692 never been the habitation of man. To this cause
alone may its present condition be attributed. It has passed twelve
centuries in a great silence. Its ruined temples and baths have been the
haunt of the panther and the jackal. No neighbouring town despoiled its
stones, or ground its marbles to make mortar. Its columns lay prone, its
temples and houses were for the most part levelled with the ground; yet
a massive arch or two told through the centuries to the watcher from
afar that here once stood a Roman city.

[Illustration: A STREET AT TIMGAD]

The night of centuries is past; the long silence is broken; the jackals
have fled to their mountains; and a Latin race is tenderly safeguarding
its heritage. Once again a road leads to the portals of the ancient
city, and with infinite skill and care the debris has been cleared away.
Columns have been re-erected, masonry replaced in its original position
and fragments of inscriptions pieced together; a very triumph of that
vast capacity for taking pains which is such an important element of
French genius. One charm of the place to the visitor is that it is not
exploited as a tourist resort. A little museum has been set up to hold
the treasures found among the ruins, a modest hotel has been built, and
the neighbouring Arabs have been encouraged to hold a weekly market
outside the walls; but there is no turnstile to be passed, you are not
delivered over to a guide, no tout is permitted to worry you, and you
are free to pass to and fro, to go in and out as you list as long as you
don’t steal or deface anything. So for a contemplative mind every
possible attraction is conserved.

The Roman conquest and civilization—or rather assimilation—of North
Africa were slow, tentative and reluctant. Scipio Æmilianus burnt
Carthage in 146 B.C.; it was more than a hundred years later that Julius
Cæsar handed over Cirta to the soldiers of Sittius. Under Augustus a
camp was established at Theveste (Tebessa), and the Third Legion,
Augusta, was stationed there with the object of protecting the territory
of Cirta, and the proconsular province which is now Tunisia. Under the
shelter of this post, during the first century of our era, the great
corn lands enclosed by the Aurès mountains were gradually brought under
Roman control. The building of Thamagudi in the reign of Trajan, in the
year A.D. 100, is evidence of the importance to which this region had by
that time risen. This process continued during the next two centuries.
No doubt as the population of Italy declined, and her fertility
decreased, Rome came to rely more and more on the corn of Africa, and
more land was continually brought under cultivation. This is the
significance of such a city as Timgad, lying over 3000 feet above the
sea on a slope of the Aurès mountains.

Our ideas of the Roman Empire are perhaps coloured by the title of
Gibbon’s great work. We are disposed to think that its decline began
with its establishment. Gibbon had always at the back of his mind the
belief that Christianity was the cause of its ultimate ruin, and that
the Empire began to totter on the day when the first Roman citizen was
baptised a Christian. But for two or three hundred years, though the
Empire was frequently torn by political dissensions, its material
prosperity was very great. We know now that it was ruined in the end by
its financial errors, its unwise and unjust system of land taxation, the
grasping greed of Treasury officials and the anxiety of upstart Emperors
to gratify their supporters in the army and the Roman mob at anybody’s

It is a vice of civilizations to believe themselves invulnerable. As
late as the fifth century it was inconceivable to a Roman gentleman that
the mighty structure could be swept away; and it is perhaps true that
even then it might have been saved by a return to sounder systems of
finance. Even so to-day the European nations are arming to the teeth
against each other, instead of husbanding their resources and concerting
measures of defence against races more numerous and more prolific. The
uprising of the Asiatic peoples is a fact to which we cannot be other
than wilfully blind. A beginning of the trouble may be upon us at any

Timgad was built by the soldiers of the Third Legion, then stationed at
Tebessa. Its head-quarters were shortly afterwards moved to Lambessa,
and during the second and third centuries the frontier outposts were
gradually pushed forward. They occupied a line on the south side of the
Aurès range, extending to the south and south-east of Biskra and then
branching north-west to Bou-Saida. At least in some districts a ditch
and rampart marked the limits of the Empire.

Lambessa grew into a large city said to have contained 60,000
inhabitants. Its considerable ruins, of which the most important are the
Prætorium and certain arches, are visible to-day. The importance of the
position is realized by the French, who have large barracks and a force
of 4000 men at Batna, only a few miles off. Striking evidence of the
success of Rome’s treatment of subject races is to be found in the fact
that with all the wealth of numerous great cities to protect, her
military force in North Africa consisted only of one legion of 5500 men
and auxiliary forces of infantry and cavalry, making a total of 15,000
men. At first the legionaries were raised in Europe, chiefly in Gaul,
but in the second century they were recruited entirely among the
indigenous population. Retired soldiers were granted lands and
exemptions on the condition that their sons enlisted. In this way towns
like Lambessa, half military, half commercial, grew up. The actual
number of emigrants from Italy was small; with her declining population
she had no emigrants to send.

There is, therefore, reason to believe that the inhabitants of such
cities as Timgad were not to any appreciable extent colonists from
Europe; they were rather Romanized Berbers. The names as they appear in
inscriptions corroborate this. They are not Latin, if Latin in form.
This point is of great importance in considering not only the nature of
the Roman rule in North Africa, but also the history and possibilities
of the Berber population. They were Romanized once, they are Arabized
to-day; what may they be to-morrow?

As we stand in the Forum of Timgad to-day, we may reflect that this
noble city was built and inhabited by the ancestors of the gabbling
native crowd which is holding its market at the gate. Doubtless in their
simple minds these robed figures are wondering what in the world we come
for. They must be aware that it is not a religious exercise; we have our
holy places to which they observe that some of us betake ourselves on
Sunday mornings; no Christian marabout lies buried here, and we are
therefore not votaries making a pilgrimage. Yet is our conduct not mere
levity; we wander about with little books in our hands and are very
earnest and sometimes vociferous to our companions. Perhaps the most
enlightened native opinion inclines to the belief that we are working a
spell or enchantment, it may be for the benefit of our motor-cars, which
we bring with us to the gate.

Rome, the great mother, welcomed all to her bosom, and it seems that all
were glad to come. Little by little the African townships became Latin
or Roman municipalities. Roman citizenship became the ambition and the
pride of their inhabitants. No higher honour could be inscribed on a
tombstone than _Civitatem Romanam consecutus_. And the Roman religion
helped the process of consolidation. Olympus was no close borough. There
was always room for another deity. We know, in fact, that the Romans
were ever ready to welcome a fresh cult. It was the political, not the
religious attitude of the Christians which brought them within the reach
of the law and under the displeasure of the Emperors. So the Berbers’
gods were Romanized like themselves. Baal Ammon became Saturnus
Augustus. The open sanctuaries gave way to closed temples of classical
design. Human sacrifice was abandoned. And the Berbers learnt to raise
shrines to the Roman allegorical deities, Concord, Fortune, Peace, and
Victory; above all to worship the existing order in the divine person of
the Emperor. His personal character had nothing whatever to do with
this. The infamous Caracalla was the object of as much veneration as the
philosopher saint Marcus Aurelius. At the beginning of the third century
Africa gave many of its sons to the purple. Macrinus, who attained it by
the murder of Caracalla, was a native of the district of Cæsarea. His
successor, Elagabalus, of execrated memory, was the son of a former
commandant of the Third Legion. And the Gordians, representing as they
did the noblest blood in Rome, the blood of the Gracchi and of Trajan,
came to the throne from the proconsulate of Africa. Concerning the
younger Gordian Gibbon has left us a memorable sentence, which at once
exhibits the antithetical bias of his style, and a certain sly humour of
which he was master. “His manners were less pure, but his character was
equally amiable with that of his father. Twenty-two acknowledged
concubines, and a library of sixty-two thousand volumes attested the
variety of his inclinations; and from the productions which he left
behind him, it appears that the former as well as the latter were
intended for use rather than for ostentation.[9] The Roman people
acknowledged in the features of the younger Gordian the resemblance of
Scipio Africanus, recollected with pleasure that his mother was the
granddaughter of Antoninus Pius, and rested the public hope on those
latent virtues which had hitherto, as they fondly imagined, lain
concealed in the luxurious indolence of a private life.”

Footnote 9:

  “By each of his concubines the younger Gordian left three or four
  children. His literary productions, though less numerous, were by no
  means contemptible.”—Note to Gibbon.

Timgad is situate thirty-four miles to the east of Batna, on the fine
modern road which proceeds through the Aurès range to Khenchela and
Ain-Beida. You may cover the distance in a motor-car within the hour,
and you will pass on the way the ruins of Lambessa. These, however, are
scarcely worth the prolonged attention of anyone who is not an
archæologist, and such picturesque qualities as they may possess are
ruined by the proximity of a huge convict prison. The ordinary
sightseer, snatching a few hours between two trains, will hasten on to
Timgad. The drive itself is very interesting. The road is undulating and
at one point ascends to a considerable altitude, and in its way the
scenery is impressive. We traverse a great rolling plain which from end
to end is one vast cornfield. There is a bare range of hills to the
north, and to the south the Aurès mountains, guardians of the desert,
with the snow still, in March, lying among their topmost cedars. At the
highest point of the road we meet a driving storm of sleet. We are
inclined to resent the general treelessness of the landscape, but much
may be forgiven to a corn-growing country, and imagination revels in
what must be its glory when the crop is ripe for harvesting. But for its
fertility the general contour of the country has a very South African
appearance. The soil appears to be “rather light,” and, no doubt,
nothing but the copious rainfall which the Aurès mountains bring redeems
it from the miserable barrenness of the high plateaux to the south of

At last you come to Timgad, and you see at a glance that you are face to
face with what the Americans call “a big proposition.” A whole hill-side
is covered with the dry bones of a town—a town of which the top seems to
have been sliced off, with here and there groups of columns or an arch
or two rising from the dismantled mass.

It has been given to few great towns to spring into being at one leap.
The growth of towns is usually that of mundane things in general, a
gradual process liable to interference from many exterior influences.
But Timgad rose full armed from the fiat of the Emperor, as Athene from
the brain of Zeus. Trajan said, “Let there be a city,” and there was a
city. It was no mushroom growth to serve a temporary purpose. It lasted
more or less intact for six hundred years, and but for the hand of
destroying man it might have lasted six thousand. This is its dominating
note,—its huge, its almost unnecessary solidity. And from the
circumstances of its birth it presents a fine example of Roman
town-planning. British municipal corporations which are concerned in
putting into practice our newborn aspirations in such matters should not
omit to send a deputation to study Timgad on the spot.

[Illustration: TIMGAD: ARCH OF TRAJAN]

But perhaps even with the disquieting possibility of a foreign raid on
our shores, denied by our politicians with such emphasis that we are led
to believe in its existence, it is not necessary for us to base the plan
of our towns on the arrangements of a camp. Such was the underlying plan
of Timgad. It was divided, as was the conventional Roman camp, into four
parts by two main intersecting streets. That which led from east to west
was called _decumanus_, that which pointed north and south _cardo_. The
former was a portion of the main road from Lambessa to Tebessa, and was
doubtless the most used in the town. Its solid pavement shows the wear
of wheels, as do the streets of Pompeii. It was naturally at the
junction of these streets that the chief buildings were situate. Here is
the Forum, with the Theatre behind it and the Municipal Library in
front. Looking east from the Forum along the _decumanus_ we see the
magnificent Triumphal Arch, the most impressive monument in the town. It
is also the best preserved, and thanks to its existence the attention of
scholars was called to Timgad in the first instance. With the aid of the
excellent and well-illustrated handbook prepared by M. Albert Ballu,
Architecte en chef des Monuments historiques de l’Algerie, the visitor
will be able to identify and study the whole of the works excavated and
restored. Probably most visitors to Timgad will have previously seen
Pompeii, and will have some general acquaintance with the arrangements
of a Roman town and the nature of its public buildings. Timgad will
introduce them to some new features; of its Public Library and the
romance of its discovery I shall speak later; it has a remarkably
complete series of markets; and the public conveniences behind the Forum
will interest those who are concerned about sanitary matters.

However satiated with the wonders of the town itself the visitor should
not omit to visit the Museum. Here amid the usual assemblage of mediocre
Roman antiquities he will find some mosaic pavements of the highest

Perhaps we are most of us disposed to be more interested in
comparatively trivial matters of decoration and so forth than in the
structure and disposal of important edifices. We are not all architects
and town-planners. And here we may take especial delight in a little
piece of evidence that even in this frontier city life was not all
strenuous. On a stone of the Forum are graven the following words:—

                           VENARI     LAVARI
                           LUDERE     RIDERE
                           OCCEST     VIVERE

“Hunting, bathing, play and laughter,—such is life.” This symmetrical
arrangement of letters is divided by a device consisting of a vase of
flowers surmounted by a bird. It speaks to us across the ages a pleasant
message; in such happy human touches Timgad is less rich than Pompeii.
And perhaps neither town has anything so delightful as the mosaics found
in a bath and a stable at Oued Atmenia between Constantine and Sétif, on
the site of a considerable Roman country house. The mosaics in the baths
depict various incidents of rural life;—hunting scenes in which huntsmen
and hounds are named, a garden scene with a lady spinning under a palm
tree. One mosaic represents six favourite horses with inscriptions
recording their names and qualities;—with Pullentianus is stabled Altus,
“unus es ut mons exultas”—"you have no peer, you leap mountain-high";
Delicatus, “the gentle one,” stands alone; Titas, “the giant,” shares a
manger with Polydoxus, “the glorious”; “vincas non vincas te amamus
Polydoxe,”—"win or lose we love you, Polydoxus." In a corner by himself
stands Scholasticus, “the Scholar.” In the scene representing a
stag-hunt, the master himself appears with his hounds, Fidelis and
Castus. Other mosaics represent the farm, the fish-ponds with aquatic
plants, the quarters of the huntsmen and the mansion-house itself. This
is a large building with several storeys and numerous windows,
surmounted by a balcony or awning. The buildings are roofed with square
red tiles, and chimneys appear below the ridge. “This remarkable series
of mosaics gives some insight into Roman life and customs in North
Africa at the close of the fourth century, and bears striking testimony
to the peaceful condition of the country in the declining years of the
Empire. Sixteen centuries have passed since Pompeianus presided over
this lordly retreat, as a patron of the turf and a lover of sport in all
its aspects. A few years after his decease the disturbing influence of
the invading Vandals must have rendered the maintenance of such an
establishment an absolute impossibility, and one can picture the life
work of this distinguished Roman neglected, abandoned, and finally
becoming a mere hunting-ground for Vandal or Byzantine, Arab or

Footnote 10:

  Graham, “Roman Africa,” 1902, p. 294.

It has often been suggested that the great prosperity of this region
under the Empire was due to a climate superior to that of to-day; that
there was in fact a more abundant rainfall and a more equable
temperature. The Romans left us no weather statistics (an essentially
modern passion), and such evidence as we have appears to be against the
theory. The lakes in the province of Constantine were no greater than
they are to-day; Roman ruins on their banks attest this. Roman bridges
exist here and there throughout the country, and they were not designed
to span wider rivers or to resist heavier floods. But this does not
settle the matter. It is certain that there was far more timber; the
Arab has continually destroyed and he does not plant. The rainfall of
to-day is probably less continuous and more uncertain. Yet we cannot
believe that the climate is seriously changed. Sallust complains that in
Africa both sky and earth have too little water. But the Romans made the
best of what there was. The remains of their canals and cisterns are
everywhere. In the country to the south of Sétif they dug hundreds of
wells, many of which still exist. They barred the course of rivers and
created reservoirs. Their extensive works of irrigation are described by
Procopius, and appear to be exactly similar to those now in use.
Elaborate water-rights existed. A monument found at Lambasba sets forth
the number of olives and fruit trees which every farmer possessed and
the number of hours of running water to which he was entitled. This
system of reckoning a right to water-supply by hours is still in vogue
in the island of Madeira, and probably elsewhere. Every effort was made
to encourage planting. Exemptions from taxation for a certain number of
years were granted to cultivators who planted vines or olives, or
grafted the wild olive. Olive oil was exported to Rome in enormous
quantities; fragments of jars found in the Tiber bear the mark of
Tubusuctu, a town near Bougie. Such facts go to show that the great
prosperity of North Africa was rather due to intelligent use of its
resources than to any superiority of those resources. This prosperity
seems to have reached its culminating point under the dynasty of
Septimius Severus, himself a native of Africa. The fact that he died at
York illustrates the extent of his empire. He and his son Caracalla
showered favours on their compatriots, as numerous inscriptions attest.

Arab writers of the seventh century bear ample testimony to the
fertility of the territory which had fallen so easily into their hands.
From Carthage to Tangier, a thousand miles east and west, the whole
country was clothed with olive woods, and it was said that you could
walk from village to village beneath a roof of foliage. Therein they
have written the condemnation of their successors. A pleasant story is
told that the Arab chief who defeated Gregorius expressed his amazement
at the richness of the land. “Whence comes this wealth?” he said. A
peasant picked up an olive and laid it before the conqueror, saying,
“From this.” And he added that the Byzantines who had no olives in their
country were Africa’s best customers.

Timgad is interesting and impressive in itself; in general as a town
surviving through the ages almost untouched at least in its ground plan;
and in particular for its several very uncommon and very informing
details. But it is even more noteworthy in its suggestiveness. It
flashes to us across a yawning chasm a message from a distant past, a
message from a civilization not essentially different from our own; a
civilization based on ordered liberty and individual effort, on public
spirit and service, on private wealth amassed in agricultural and
commercial enterprise; anticipating in its municipal buildings and in
the dwellings of its citizens, rich and poor, with sufficient
resemblance the conditions of our own life, public and domestic; yet
reckoned in the lapse of centuries and the generations of men of an
almost incredible remoteness, a remoteness emphasized, as everything is
emphasized in this land of staring contrasts, by the hopeless barbarism
and neglect which have filled the intervening gulf. Yet there are
differences. The city stood on the very frontier of the Empire, but it
was not built as men build in such situations to-day. Its solidity and
magnificence suggest great local pride, the pride of wealthy citizens,
who preferred to adorn their own city to spending their money as
strangers in the “smart” world of Italy, who chose rather to rule in
Africa than to serve in Rome; and they are evidence of provincial
prosperity and contentment during that great second century which Gibbon
regarded as the happiest period mankind had known. And we cannot
suppress our surprise that the very existence of such a town is scarcely
known to us from historical sources. If it were not for its ruins very
few among scholars would have heard the mean of Thamagudi. In any
endeavour to picture to ourselves the Empire as a whole such a fact is
of great significance. And with such throbbing life at its extremities
it is difficult to regard the heart as unsound.

The contemplation of such a town as Timgad helps us to realize the
compelling force of Rome’s unequalled genius. On this remote frontier of
her Empire we may trace to-day the same motives in building—all that
meets the eye—which were dominant in the mother city. “In every branch
of art, whether in sculpture, painting as displayed in the decorative
forms of mosaic, or in architectural design, the same monumental remains
await our coming; the basilica, the amphitheatre, the triumphal arch;
the aqueduct and the fountain; the bridge, the temple and the tomb. They
stand before us as examples of dignity of conception, unerringness of
line, justness of proportion, fitness of purpose and soundness of
construction.”[11] We see nothing but the remains of these buildings,
but we may assume from them that in more vital matters,—in law, in
public life, in the family and in individual habits the pattern set by
the capital was equally predominant. And we may further reflect that
Rome’s influence was not merely geographical in extent; it did not
perish with her fall. Modern civilization is essentially Roman. The
Roman’s “laws, his language, his literature, his festivals, even his
calendar, keep their ground.” The Roman tradition is ingrained in our
minds and conduct, and in small things as in great we unconsciously and
as a matter of course pursue the Roman model. And it may be that the
desperate struggle for the hegemony of Europe—and Africa—now proceeding
is heralding the evolution of another Empire on Roman lines.

Footnote 11:

  Graham, “Roman Africa,” p. 304.


                         _XI—A PUBLIC LIBRARY_

A romantic find—A municipal library of the third century—A Roman
    Carnegie—Christian Africa—The Donatists—Genseric the Vandal—
    Justinian—Timgad and Pompeii.


          “They say that scholars thronged the column’d court;
          To drain reluctant learning’s cup they sought;
            Lo! all to utter nothingness have passed,
          Alike for book and scholar life is short.”

Among the buildings unearthed at Timgad there is one which, from its
nature and the fact that it is unique, or almost unique, is especially
interesting, and merits particular attention. The learned world has long
been aware that the Public Library, which is a comparatively recent
addition to most of our own towns, was a Roman institution. The
allusions of Latin authors tell us so much; there were twenty-eight
public libraries at Rome in the fourth century; and we gather from
inscriptions that there is nothing original about Mr. Carnegie, except
the extent of his munificence. The public libraries of provincial cities
were often due to the liberality of wealthy citizens, and once
established they were frequently enriched by the gifts and bequests of
others. By a succession of fortunate accidents, which happily illustrate
the romantic side of excavation, the Public Library of Timgad has been
found and identified beyond question. This fact in itself gives a very
special distinction to the ruins.

In 1901, in clearing a block of buildings in the Cardo, not far from the
principal gate of the Forum, the nature of which was unknown, the
excavators found a broken portion of an inscription. It seemed to refer
to the dedication of the building as a public institution, but threw no
light on its nature. It was vaguely considered to be a school or _salle
de réunion_. The mutilated inscription was as follows:—

                         VINTIANI FLAVI RO
                         MENTO SUO REIPUBLICAE
                         SIUM PATRIAE SUAE LE
                         EX IS CCCC MIL. NUM
                         CTUM EST

This merely indicated that the building had been erected at a cost of
400,000 sesterces, or about £4000, as a result of a legacy of one Q. F.

In 1904, in the course of some digging in a neighbouring house, a little
to the north, a second fragment of this inscription was found. It fitted
exactly to the left-hand side of the former fragment, and read as

                             TE M IVLI Q
                                AD TESTA
                                 A PERFE

This was very tantalizing; it did not explain the exact object of the
building, but it proved that it could only be something of which the
Latin name ended in the letters OTHECA. Now in the Latin language there
are five such words;—_pinacotheca_, a picture gallery; _apotheca_, a
wine-shop; _oporotheca_, a store-room for fruit; _zotheca_, an apartment
with niches for statuary; _bibliotheca_, a library. Of these the only
words at all applicable were the two last. Between them the usual
controversy of _savants_ arose; much could be said, and was said, on
either side. From the first the advocates of the library seemed to have
the best of it. They based their arguments on the nature of the
building. It occupies with its dependencies a rectangular space
measuring 77 by 80 feet. Its principal front, facing east, is composed
of a portico in the form of a letter U sustained by twelve columns of
white calcareous stone, framing a court which opens on to the street. On
each side of the portico was an entrance to two partially open chambers,
bounded by two side streets leading to the Cardo. Behind these was a
great central hall with a room on either side of it, each having a niche
at the further end. The termination of the hall was of semicircular
form; on each side of it were six detached columns of white marble,
corresponding to the same number of pilasters in the wall, between each
side pair of which was a square recess. In the middle of the semicircle
was a larger and deeper recess, which doubtless contained a statue. The
advocates of the _zotheca_ theory urged that the main purpose of the
building was to be the shrine of an important statue, bequeathed by
Quintianus Flavus Ro—— to his mother city. The case for a library seemed
stronger and more attractive. It was suggested that the rectangular
recesses were receptacles for volumes or rolls of papyrus, and that
benches or steps which led up to them from the centre of the building
were intended to serve as seats for readers. The detached columns were
considered to have supported two upper galleries containing a second set
of bookcases, while the great niche at the end was an architectural
feature, doubtless containing a statue of Minerva. The head of such a
statue was found in the neighbourhood. The two side rooms were held to
be further store-rooms for books; one of them, having a door into the
street, perhaps reserved for the use of the librarian. There are
indications of recesses in their walls also. The great hall, it was
observed, was exceptionally well lighted by a skylight in the vaulted
roof of its semicircular portion, and therefore very suitable for


The question was settled in 1906,—on the 17th of March, at five p.m.,—as
M. Ballu records with exulting precision. In making an experimental hole
beside the Cardo, a workman drove his pick against a fragment of
inscribed stone, which proved to be the missing piece containing the
first portion of the inscription. The supporters of the library theory
were right. The words on the stone were as follows:—

                           EX LIBERALITA
                           GATIANI. C.M.V. QV
                           COLONIAE THAM
                           GAVIT OPUS BIBLI
                           CVRANTE REPVBLIC

“There is no necessity,” says M. Ballu, “to tell with what joy we
received a telegram announcing this discovery. It was the consecration
of our suppositions, certitude succeeding to probabilities, which had
nevertheless not left much room for doubt. It was, above all, a
revelation of the arrangements of those ancient Roman libraries of which
so many Latin authors speak; but as to the construction of which we
possessed no evidence.”

The full inscription is to the following effect:—

“Out of the funds bequeathed by Marcus Julius Quintianus Flavus
Rogatianus, of senatorial memory, by his will to the colony of Thamagudi
his mother city, the erection of a library has been completed at a cost
of 400,000 sesterces, under the direction of the city authority.”

The name of this benefactor is otherwise unknown. The building which
bears it was well built of fine materials, with marble columns, and
marble veneerings to the walls, of which copious fragments have been
found. Among these fragments are some of particularly fine coloured
marbles which perhaps adorned the niche in which stood the statue of the
presiding goddess. The pavement, which remains, is of a very finished

It is not possible to assign a precise date to the building, but it is
considered to be of the third century. It doubtless took the place of an
_insula_, or large private house isolated by four streets, of which
other examples line the Cardo. It occupies a rather larger space than
these houses; the semicircular portion of the hall extends into the back
street, and on the south side the normal width of the street is reduced
by it.

A somewhat fanciful calculation has been made of the number of books
which the library might contain; and the figure of 6800 for the interior
hall, and 16,200 for the other chambers, has been arrived at. This seems
to be carrying reconstitution a little too far.

There are some to whom Timgad is the most interesting place in Algeria;
to many antiquaries, and perhaps to many of that large class which is
concerned one way or another about all that appertains to books, this
Public Library, identified beyond all cavil by such happy fortune, will
be Timgad’s most interesting building.

It may be noted that about the time of the discovery of this library,
the Austrian Archæological Institute, in the course of excavations on
the site of Ephesus, found a building in many respects similar to this
one. An inscription in Greek and Latin left no doubt that it was a
library. Its form is rectangular instead of semicircular, but it
possesses a niche at the end for the statue of Minerva, and the walls
contain similar recesses for the reception of books. It has a portico in
front, but lacks the side chambers which occur at Timgad.

The interest of Timgad, and its part in illustrating history, are not
exhausted by a view of those buildings of the second and third centuries
which mark the period of its greatness. If in the troublous times which
followed it suffered, yet it played a part in African affairs until the
Arab conquest. To the understanding of its monuments some slight
acquaintance with events is necessary.

During the latter part of the third century two processes were at work
in Africa, the formation of great estates out of the ruin of small
proprietors, and the spread of Christianity. The two were not
unconnected. The new religion attracted all who were dissatisfied with
the existing order. It ran like a flame through Barbary. It produced
three great men: Tertullian in the second century, Cyprian in the third,
and Augustine in the fourth. But the movement throughout was more
political and social than religious. It was based among the Berber
population rather on discontent than conviction. With the official
recognition of Christianity under Constantine its attraction as a symbol
of revolt disappeared. A substitute was found in schism. The curious
inter-workings of finance, politics and religion have never been more
fully illustrated. The misery of the cultivators under the wretched
financial system of Rome has not been accorded its due weight as a
factor in the most extraordinary event in history, the conversion of the
Empire to Christianity.

Even under Constantine, the first Christian Emperor, the schism of the
Donatists, destined to ruin Roman Africa, grew to a head. It arose from
a personal dispute as to the position of a bishop named Donatus; if
there were any differences on points of doctrine they were
insignificant. But it plunged Africa into anarchy for centuries; it laid
open the way to the invasion o£ the Vandals, and was extinguished only
with Christianity itself.

Timgad was the very focus of Donatist agitation. Its bishops took a
leading part; of one of them Augustine says that for ten years Africa
trembled beneath his yoke. To this century perhaps belong the ruins of
several Christian churches unearthed in the city. The schism was not
bounded by the arguments of doctors. It extended to the pillage of
estates and the sack of cities. The wild tribes of the Aurès and other
mountain districts which had never completely owned the sovereignty of
Rome made common cause with the schismatics. And Roman Africa was
ruined. Then came the Vandals.

The historian Gibbon, who rises to his highest flights in the
consideration of Christianity and its heresies, has sketched the
Donatist pretensions in immortal words: “Excluded from the civil and
religious communion of mankind, they boldly excommunicated the rest of
mankind. They asserted with confidence, and almost with exultation, that
the apostolical succession was interrupted; that _all_ the bishops of
Europe and Asia were infected by the contagion of guilt and schism; and
that the prerogatives of the catholic church were confined to the chosen
portion of the African believers, who alone had preserved inviolate the
integrity of their faith and discipline. This rigid theory was supported
by the most uncharitable conduct. Whenever they acquired a proselyte,
even from the distant provinces of the East, they carefully repeated the
sacred rites of baptism and ordination; as they rejected the validity of
those which he had already received from the hands of heretics and
schismatics. Bishops, virgins, and even spotless infants, were subjected
to the disgrace of a public penance before they could be admitted to the
communion of the Donatists. If they obtained possession of a church
which had been used by their catholic adversaries, they purified the
unhallowed building with the same jealous care which a temple of idols
might have required. They washed the pavement, scraped the walls, burnt
the altar, which was commonly of wood, melted the consecrated plate, and
cast the holy eucharist to the dogs, with every circumstance of ignominy
which could provoke and perpetuate the animosity of religious factions.”
Such an account would almost describe proceedings of religious fanatics
at a date much nearer our own age. But the fervour to which the Donatist
schism gave birth produced under the African sun remarkable
developments. “The rage of the Donatists was inflamed by a frenzy of a
very extraordinary kind; and which, if it really prevailed amongst them
in so extravagant a degree, cannot surely be paralleled in any country
or in any age. Many of these fanatics were possessed with the horror of
life and the desire of martyrdom; and they deemed it of little moment by
what means, or by what hands they perished, if their conduct was
sanctified by the intention of devoting themselves to the glory of the
true faith, and the hope of eternal happiness.” They would disturb
worshippers, waylay travellers, or insult courts of justice, in the hope
of achieving martyrdom. Failing other resources, they would cast
themselves headlong from some lofty rock. “In the actions of these
desperate enthusiasts, who were admired by one party as the martyrs of
God, and abhorred by the other as the victims of Satan, an impartial
philosopher may discover the influence, and the last abuse, of that
inflexible spirit which was originally derived from the character and
principles of the Jewish nation.”

Genseric, King of the Vandals, landed in Africa from Spain in A.D. 429.
Born a Catholic, he embraced the Arian heresy, and made common cause
with the African Donatists. He swept through Barbary, an easy conqueror.
His fleets ravaged the coasts of Italy and Sicily. In A.D. 455 he sacked
Rome. For a hundred years the rough Northmen held the fertile provinces.
They rased the fortifications, but did not overthrow the Roman cities;
they rather succumbed to their luxury. They did not destroy, but they
constructed nothing. They had no thought of substituting their own
institutions for those of the conquered races. They considered
themselves merely a garrison, for which the country must provide
subsistence. Their decadence commenced with the death of their leader.

In the early part of the sixth century Byzantium set himself to take up
the mantle which Rome had let fall. The great Justinian determined to
make good his claim to all the former possessions of the Empire. The
Vandals were in no condition to offer a vigorous resistance. The native
population was everywhere in revolt. The tribes of the Aurès descended
from their mountains and sacked the fair cities which had been raised
under the protection of the Third Legion—Tebessa, Bagai, Lambessa, and
Timgad. Belisarius, the Byzantine general, landed in Tripoli in A.D.
533, and, marching rapidly westward, met with little resistance. In a
few years a great part of the corn-growing districts was brought under
effective control. All the ports were held by Byzantine garrisons.
Barbary was to experience an Indian summer.

The first care of the Greeks was to build a series of fortresses to hold
in check the tribes of mountain and desert which for generations had
been acquiring greater boldness in war and pillage. Remains of such
forts are all over the country. There is one at Timgad, situate about
150 yards from the Southern Baths. It is a great quadrilateral flanked
with square towers, and covering more than 7000 square yards. It is
extraordinarily solid in construction, the walls being nine feet thick.
But it is at Tebessa that the most perfect example of Byzantine
fortification exists. The enceinte encloses the Arab town, and to put it
into a state of defence the French have only had to execute a few
repairs. For these hastily constructed fortresses any materials which
came to hand were used. Into the solid walls faced with square blocks
were thrown the debris of private houses, the friezes of temples, the
statues of the gods. What the Vandal had spared, the Berber and the
Byzantine between them made an end of.

Under the shelter of these fortified places a neo-Roman civilization
budded again. The great proprietors and the wealthy financiers of the
later Empire had disappeared. Their place was taken by the Church. The
bishops occupied themselves with business of every description,
political, financial, administrative, and even military. Vast sums were
spent in the construction of great basilicas and monasteries, the ruins
of which may be seen at Timgad and Tebessa to-day. To this period
doubtless belongs the huge building, basilica and monastery, to the west
of Timgad. It covers a space of not less than 20,000 square yards. The
basilica is 200 feet long and 70 feet wide, and is preceded by a
court-yard of the same size as itself. It is built chiefly of stones
taken from the neighbouring pagan temples, which must have been already
in ruin at the time of its erection. If, as some suppose, these great
churches were built originally during the fourth and fifth centuries,
before the Vandal invasion, there can be little doubt that they were
rebuilt with modifications and enlargements during the Byzantine period.

The domination of the Church did not make for the prosperity or security
of the people. The great dreams of Justinian were never realized; his
enterprise from the very beginning had in it the seeds of decay. The
rapacity of the ecclesiastics at least equalled that of the former
Treasury officials; the husbandmen were plunged in a condition of abject
poverty; the persecution of schismatics decimated the population. Native
insurrections, mutinies of troops, sullen detestation of the people
prepared the way for the easy fall of the Byzantine administration
before the invading Arabs of the next century.

It is natural to compare Timgad with Pompeii, and the comparison has
often been made. But beyond the fact that both were towns of the Roman
Empire, and that the ruins of both have been preserved to an extent
unparalleled elsewhere, they have no great resemblance. It happened to
me, as probably it has happened to few, two or three weeks after leaving
Timgad, while the memory of it was fresh, to stand once again in the
Forum of Pompeii. I recalled their different conditions. They were not
contemporary; Pompeii was destroyed before Timgad was built; Pompeii,
rather Greek than Roman in origin, was a pleasure town of the first
century, which, after damage by an earthquake at the zenith of its
prosperity, was overwhelmed by ashes from Vesuvius; Timgad was a
military and commercial town of the second and third centuries, ruined
first by religious faction and financial breakdown, and finally
overthrown of set purpose by a horde of mountaineers. To compare them is
like comparing the Tunbridge Wells of the eighteenth century with the
Pretoria of the twentieth. The contrasts their ruins present are those
we should expect. Timgad is more solid and more serious; its public
buildings are finer; its main streets are more important; and there is
nothing at Pompeii to compare with the magnificent arch of Trajan. But
Pompeii is richer in minor matters, in all the illuminating incidents of
private life; its chief interest lies in its wonderful houses, and in
the almost miraculous preservation of much of their interior decoration.
And their situations accord with their peculiarities. Timgad lies on a
bare hill-side, far from the habitations of man; Pompeii hard by the
lovely bay of Sorrento, in one of the fairest landscapes of Italy. The
cities are not rivals; they supplement each other; and those of us to
whom a study of what was before is one of the chief interests of life
may be grateful that we have so much of both.

                    _XII—THE ROAD THROUGH KHABYLIA_

Setif—The Chabet pass—A fishless river—A lovely coast—Bougie—Khabylia—
    Greek types—Fort National.


                  “A rough laborious people, there,
            Not only give the dreadful Alps to smile,
            And press their culture on retiring snows,
            But, to firm order trained and patient war,
            They likewise know, beyond the nerve remiss
            Of mercenary force, how to defend
            The tasteful little their hard toil has earned.”

He who returns by motor-car from Biskra to Algiers may avoid the detour
via Constantine by taking the new direct road from Batna to Sétif, a
distance of 132 kilometres. It ascends to an altitude of over 5000 feet,
and in winter is sometimes blocked by snow. But this is not likely to be
a frequent trouble. Whichever way he comes, direct or roundabout, by
road or rail, the traveller must make Sétif his point. If he omits to
take the road from Sétif to Bougie, through the Chabet pass, a distance
of 113 kilometres, he will have no idea of what Algeria is capable of in
the way of mountain scenery.

There is a distinct tendency among Englishmen to-day to revolt against
the domination of the guide-book. With our ancient constitution in the
melting-pot, and our most cherished national convictions openly
contested, it is hardly surprising that even the revered name of Murray
has failed to maintain its authority. There are abandoned men who openly
flout it, who want to see nothing of the things that ought to be seen,
to know none of the things that ought to be known. The reaction was
inevitable. Murray and Baedeker and the like set poor human weakness an
impossible ideal. They direct us as if we were an army of invasion; they
map out our operations day by day and hour by hour with a ruthless
precision. Has anyone ever carried through the programme of How to spend
ten days in Rome, and survived to boast of it?

Wherefore in our iconoclastic age there are men to whom the guide-book’s
double star is but a danger signal. Let me implore them to waive their
prejudices as far at least as the Chabet pass is concerned. If much
be-praised it is still quite un-hackneyed; and it is magnificent. And
they may steal a march on the enemy. The guide-books, as far as Algeria
is concerned, have not discovered the motor-car. They direct you to hire
a carriage at Sétif, to sleep at a roadside inn, and to lumber into
Bougie at the close of the second day. We have changed all that. We take
a car at Sétif after _dejeuner_, and loitering by the way we yet reach
Bougie in time to stroll round the town before dinner. So we have a day
in hand. But let us haste to do it before a revised edition comes out.

The plateau of which Sétif may be considered the centre lies at a high
altitude, and as the sea is no great distance off, we may perceive from
a glance at the map that there must be a more or less rapid landfall
towards it. Such conditions commonly produce a picturesque coast-line.
Here we have more than this. The plain is supported by a very abrupt
range of mountains rising to twice its height,—the peaks to 6000 and
7000 feet. Such a range must either be crossed by a high pass, or it may
be that we may find an outlet where a mountain stream, taking advantage
perhaps of a rift caused by a natural convulsion, has worn for itself a
passage. Such a passage is the gorge of Chabet-el-Akhira.

From Sétif, most hideous of modern French towns, the road leads
northward for some distance through an uninteresting corn-growing
country. After a few miles the surface becomes more broken, Khabyle
villages begin to appear on neighbouring hill-tops, and Khabyle gardens
are rich in apricot blossom. We cross a chain of hills running east and
west, from the summit of which we obtain a splendid view of the mountain
range which we are about to penetrate. We descend rapidly to the stream
which is to be our companion, and at a distance of fifty-three
kilometres from Sétif reach Kherrata, at the mouth of the pass. Here is
the half-way house where the carriage-folk of former days were wont to
pass the night. It lies in a cool upland valley at the foot of bare
stony hills which might be in Wales or Cumberland. It is market-day in
the village, and the street is crowded with Khabyles,—as ragged and
dirty a crowd as you may see in county Galway. Their Arab dress looks
curiously incongruous with such very northern surroundings.

Immediately beyond Kherrata the road enters the gorge with a dramatic
suddenness. It descends rapidly by the side of the stream which here
becomes a torrent. The valley contracts and soon grows so narrow that
the road has to be bored, as it were, through overhanging cliffs, or
borne on arches above the river. There are many kinds of gorges; the
least interesting perhaps are those which run directly between unbroken
cliffs. This is of the finest kind. Its turns are rapid. It has numerous
lateral valleys which break its almost perpendicular sides into seeming
pinnacles of rock. One looks almost directly upwards to peaks five and
six thousand feet high. Even where the road is carried several hundred
feet above the river you may toss a stone and strike the opposite cliff.
It is said that before the French road-makers came not even an Arab
could pass the gorge on foot. Great caves appear on the mountain sides,
the haunt of innumerable pigeons; monkeys are generally to be seen, but
on market-days the exceptional traffic scares them to seclusion. Here
and there waterfalls descend from the tributary gorges, and rapidly
swell the turbid stream.

Even the all-pervading Roman seems to have found this gorge too much for
him. Yet it is not easy to discover an _endroit_ which has not echoed to
the tramp of the legions. Mr. Belloc[12] tells a delightful story of a
French general who, filled with pride at having conducted his troops
through an almost impossible defile, sent a party to inscribe a record
of the achievement on the face of a cliff. The men came back to say that
there appeared to be lettering on the cliff already. On examination this
proved to be “Legio III Augusta.”

Footnote 12:

  “Esto Perpetus.” London, 1906.

The actual gorge is about four miles long. The valley then gradually
widens, the hills become rather less abrupt, their sides are clothed
with ample vegetation, chiefly forests of cork and oak trees, and the
lateral valleys grow larger, in due proportion to the general scheme. We
pass from the thrilling sensations of the unique defile into a mountain
valley of great beauty, but less unusual in character.

It happened that I offered a seat in my car to a gentleman whose party
were inconveniently crowded in their own. I began by doing the
unpardonable thing; deceived by certain guttural syllables, I said, “Are
you a German?” He replied: “No! thank God, I am Dutch.” And my heart was
glad within me, for the Dutchman is our brother, and our friend; perhaps
because we have fought him over and over again, and sometimes we have
beaten him, and sometimes he us. We have had, as far as I am aware, no
such pleasant relations with the German; perhaps if we had fought him
for a century or two we should appreciate his good qualities. In spite
of this inauspicious beginning, I soon found points in common with my
chance companion. We both knew many lands; especially we both knew the
same places and the same men in Norway. My Dutchman loved Norway as I
love it, and knew it better. Our points of view were different. His to
range far and wide, to sip as a bee winging from flower to flower the
varied beauties of fjord and fell, of fond and brae; mine to mark the
rise and fall of one much-studied river, chained as a galley-slave to my

So we played the pretty and seductive game of resemblances. Here in this
fierce African landscape we contrived to see Bratlandsdal, here Sundal,
here the smoothened rock-faces of Naerodalsosen. Lower down where a vast
amphitheatre of hills guarded the meeting of two waters we saw the
Pyrenees. But the while I was hugging to myself a secret study of which
my comrade recked nothing. Even as a man may travel by train, and mark a
country, and consider within himself how he would ride over it to
hounds;—so was I noting the pools and streams of the river, muddy as a
glacier-fed river may be in a hot July, and judging where the fish would
be like to lie, and how I should put the fly to them. A very pretty
pastime, but clouded by the knowledge that no fish that is a fish, not
even a wee trout, may live in these waters. They contain calcareous
salts, or something unpleasant, which no fish of the royal race will
stand. There are hopes of acclimatizing tench; but who can wax warm at
the prospect? Yet was this to look upon a real river, the finest river
(with all respect to the Nile and the Zambesi; I speak as an angler)
that I have seen in Africa; a fair succession of pool and stream,—of
pools running swiftly beneath steep banks and shelving shores, of
streams just steep enough to make the pools holding. The pity of it!
From end to end Africa has an air of being unfinished and ill-designed;
there is always something wanting to its completeness; in some ways it
is too big, in others too small; it lacks water, or it has too much; and
things are seldom what they seem,—when you descry a distant lake it is
generally the mirage; wherefore a salmon river without salmon falls
quite within the natural order of African things.

So on through the broadening valley, with glimpses of azure sea ahead,
and soaring mountains, clad with primeval forest, all around. The road,
well engineered,—that goes without saying,—is much cut up by the heavy
traffic to and from certain mining enterprises in the hills. One
iron-ore mine,—the property of an English company, I hear with national
pride,—on the opposite side of the valley has a little railway and a
little port of its own; and two vessels, hovering suspiciously in the
offing, are not corsairs, but intent on a lawful freight. But here, as
everywhere, the authorities are busy in making the road smooth for the
motor-car, and the repairers and a steam-roller are at work. The car is
not yet a familiar object to man and beast. A mule bearing a native
bolts at our approach, and unseats its rider. We call to the chauffeur
to stop. He replies, “Mais, ce n’est qu’un Khabyle”; in which I
recognize a common colonial note. We look round to see the mule caught
and the rider up again, and go on happily.

The long descent comes to an end at length, and at a point about
twenty-three miles short of Bougie we reach the sea. The coast-lands
here consist of a series of semicircular plains, divided by great spurs
which run northward from the main range, and form capes. Across these
flat and highly cultivated plains our road lies where it may with
Algerian directness, but rises to dizzy heights by zigzags to surmount
the precipitous headlands which once or twice bar its progress. The
contour of this variable and rocky coast is eminently picturesque, the
views of sea and mountain of infinite variety. And afar the dazzling
whiteness of Bougie stretching upwards from its harbour among the olive
groves invites us. The level lands appear to be of great fertility; amid
great fields of corn and vine pleasant and prosperous-looking country
houses stand, girt about with fruit trees,—figs, apricots and peaches.
In some places the cultivation is carried almost to high-water mark, in
others a sward of fine turf seems to meet the sand.

Bougie, rising on the steep hill-side behind its protecting cape, looks
almost southward, and its bay appears to it as a land-locked lake. On
the southern shore stand the majestic mountains through which we have
bored our way from Sétif, with plenty of snow on this, their northern
face, crowning their copious forests of cedar and pine. Few seaports
have such a romantic outlook. It cannot be doubted that this coast is
destined some day to be a second and grander Riviera, and if another
Lord Brougham sets to work to create another Cannes, it is perhaps in
the neighbourhood of Bougie that he will place it. Apart from its own
abounding attractions, it is surrounded east and south and west by
incomparable scenery. Its charms are already beginning to be known. It
is a meeting-place of excellent roads, and the motor-car has rendered it
easy of access. Its comfortable hotel is always full, and is making
haste to enlarge itself. Let Bougie start a casino and band, and it will
begin to have a season. And in my mind’s eye I can see golf-links along
the shore of the bay, _para thina thalasses_, where the sea-sand meets
the verdure.

There is something theatrical about Bougie’s scenery. Stand on the shore
in front of the old Saracen gateway and look upwards at the background
of the town rising tier on tier, a town of brilliant white houses gay
with the dazzling purple of the _bougainvillea_, with the bastions of an
apparently cardboard fort to the right, and a suggestion of ruined
castles to the left, and you may fancy that you are in the stalls at the
Opera, and that a chorus of fisher-girls will shortly appear and point
to a pirate in the offing.

Bougie, exporter of wax, is said to have given its name to the candle.
And it has other historical associations. Its story is not very
dissimilar from that of many ports on this coast. Phœnician traders,
Roman colonists, Vandal invaders, Byzantines, Berbers, Arabs, Spaniards
and Turks,—all have had their day, and many of them have left their
impress. Traces of the Roman wall exist; the Saracenic _enceinte_,
enclosing a space seven times the size of that which lies within the
present fortifications, is still marked by ruined towers which rise
picturesquely among the olive trees. In the matter of piracy Bougie
followed the example set by Algiers with great zeal and success. So
troublesome were its corsairs to Spain that in 1508 Ferdinand V was
goaded to action, and sent a fleet of fourteen ships under Don Pedro
Navarro to take possession of it; and the Spaniards held it for nearly
forty years. But the failure of the expedition of Charles V against
Algiers in 1545 put great courage into the Algerians. They attacked the
castle on the harbour and the citadel on the heights with an
overwhelming force. The governor, Don Alonzo de Peralta, seeing
resistance hopeless, and anxious to save the lives of his garrison and
its women and children, surrendered the town on condition that all the
Spaniards within the walls should be allowed to depart, and that ships
should be furnished to carry them to Spain. The Emperor, doubtless still
smarting under his defeat, did not take this fresh reverse in good part
and condemned the unfortunate governor to lose his head. Thenceforth
until the French invasion Bougie was held by a small Turkish garrison,
and the town, which is said to have contained in its palmy days a
population of 100,000, fell into decay. It is now once again on the
up-grade of prosperity.

From Bougie it is possible to proceed to Algiers by steamer, or by
train, but the traveller who has reached it by motor-car from Sétif
should on no account miss the opportunity to drive through Khabylia, the
beautiful and interesting mountain district which lies between the snowy
Djurjura and the sea. The distance via Fort National to Tizi-Ouzou, on
the western side of the upland country, whence Algiers may be reached by
train in three hours, is about 150 miles. A magnificent new road breasts
the mountain wall which confines the valley above Bougie, and leads with
interminable curves and zigzags through forest and cultivated land,
through heath and downland turf, to a chilly height of nearly 5000 feet.

The configuration of this country, the foot-hills of the Djurjura, is
peculiar. A series of slopes confines a wealth of valleys great and
small, into which project knife-edges, commonly crowned at their
termination with castle-like rocks. The Djurjura range protects these
valleys from the hot and drying winds of the desert, and its snows
supply copious torrents and a moist atmosphere. The country affords a
very striking contrast to the typical arid upland of Algeria. In such
conditions we naturally find a very luxuriant vegetation. Cedars, oaks,
olives, figs and vines flourish exceedingly, and beneath them the sward
suggests a more northern land. Africa maintains its character as the
continent of surprises.

On every vantage-point which offers possibilities of defence, especially
on the narrow ridges near their final crests, stand Khabyle villages,
commanding both slopes. In such a situation there is seldom water to be
found; and it is the perpetual task of the women (who are unveiled) to
carry it to their homes from the cascades on the neighbouring hills. The
villages are composed of small stone houses densely crowded together,
roofed with tiles, the lines of the roofs being generally parallel,
which gives them a curiously symmetrical appearance. Their dirt and
squalor is indescribable.

A strange people these Khabyles:—a white race, or at least not more
tanned than many dwellers on the northern shore of the Mediterranean,
and recalling in physique an Italian type; ardent cultivators and
determined fighters in defence; with a long-established and intelligent
system of local self-government, and elaborate institutions, public and
domestic; yet confessing the faith, and wearing the garb of the Arab,
with whom they have nothing else in common. Till the French came they
had never owned a master. Before 1871 they had maintained and been
permitted a modified independence; but to their own undoing they took a
leading part in the rising of that year, and committed many savage
murders and outrages on helpless French colonists. Their subjugation
followed as a matter of course; many of their lands were forfeited, and
they became the servants of the new lords.

There is quite a large and serious literature dealing with the peculiar
habits and customs of the Khabyles after the thorough and logical, if
somewhat dull, manner of French writers. From an artistic point of view
an Englishman, Mr. Edgar Barclay, has made Khabylia his own. His
“Mountain Life in Algeria” (London, 1882) is a description of the
country as it appears to an artist and a scholar. The common eye is
filled with the non-essential details of personal uncleanliness and the
squalor of seldom-washed garments; the artist looks below these to the
inherent qualities of form. In the troops of girls filling their
pitchers at the waterfall or bearing them in line to their village, in
the wood-cutter and the shepherd, Mr. Barclay has seen again the types
of ancient Greece when the world was young.

Fort National crowns a common ridge running east and west between the
two chief valleys of Khabylia. It looks southward to the great snowy
rampart of the Djurjura, here evident in all its glory. The road
westward follows the ridge to its extremity and then descends to the
vale in a series of abrupt and, to the motorist, rather alarming
zigzags. And so we come to Tizi-Ouzou and Algiers.

The magic carpet of our day has borne us in a brief space through
landscapes of astonishing contrast; through territories which are a
storehouse of conflicting yet commingled human interests; across the
vast cornfields which suggest man’s taming of a newly discovered
continent, to the siege-scarred cliffs of Constantine, the awe-inspiring
immensity of the Sahara, the speaking ruins of the Roman marches, the
Alpine gorges and sylvan sweetness of the Mediterranean shore. Perhaps
nowhere within so small a compass is the history of twenty centuries
writ so large, nowhere the evidence of man’s struggles, and especially
of his failures, more plain for him who runs to read.


  Extracted from the Michelin Guide to the Sunny Countries 1912




 Ain-Beida, 252
 Algiers, 21 _seq._, 48 _seq._, 97, 103, 104 _seq._, 124 _seq._, 298,
 Atlas, the Lesser, 28
 Aurès range, the, 185, 197, 202, 205, 208, 245, 252

 Bagai, 279
 Batna, 197, 198, 201, 242, 248, 252, 285
 Biskra, 43, 197, 198, 203 _seq._, 247
 Blidah, 88, 133, 145
 Bône, 72, 184
 Boufarik, 89
 Bougie, 56, 171, 287, 294 _seq._
 Bou-Saida, 247

 Chabet-el-Akhira, 286 _seq._
 Cherchel, 88, 92 _seq._, 113
 Colomb-Béchar, 240
 Constantine, 83, 103, 136, 178 _seq._, 245

 Djebel-Chénoua, 97
 Djerba, 58
 Djurjura, the, 28, 180, 298, 301

 El-Eubbad, 171
 El-Guerrah, 178
 El-Kantara, 201
 El-Mzab, 43, 234

 Fort National, 298, 301
 Foum-ês-Sahara, 201

 Gouraya, 113
 Guelma, 190

 Isly, the, 142
 Isser, the, 179

 Jardin d’Essai, 104 _seq._

 Kairouan, 60
 Khabylia, 143, 178, 298 _seq._
 Khenchela, 252
 Kherrata, 288

 La Macta, 135
 Lambessa, 113, 247, 252, 279
 La Sikkah, 137

 Mansoura, 164 _seq._
 Marengo, 88, 90
 Mascara, 135, 136
 Matifou, Cap, 61, 97
 Medea, 59, 133
 Medrassen, the, 198
 Ménerville, 179
 Metidja, the, 145, 179
 Miliana, 136
 Mustapha Supérieur, 27, 109 _seq._

 Oran, 56, 59, 83, 103, 134, 143, 149, 172 _seq._
 Oudjda, 59
 Oued Atmenia, 257
 Oued Fedhala, 198
 Oued Rir, 232

 Palestro, 179

 Roumel, the, 180 _seq._

 Sahara, the, 43, 82 _seq._, 144, 201 _seq._, 228 _seq._
 Sahel, the, 82, 97, 179
 Sbeitla, 31
 Sétif, 178, 180, 285 _seq._
 Sidi Bel Abbès, 150
 Sidi Bou Medine, 170 _seq._
 Sidi Ferruch, 129
 Sidi Okba, 221 _seq._

 Tafna, the, 138
 Taguine, 141
 Tchad, Lake, 239
 Tebessa, 245, 247, 279, 280
 Tell, the 82, 85, 143
 Temacin, 232
 Timbuctoo, 235, 239
 Timgad, 187, 243 _seq._
 Tipasa, 95 _seq._
 Tizi-Ouzou, 298, 302
 Tlemçen, 53, 59, 117, 136, 148 _seq._
 Tobna, 223
 Tombeau de la Chrétienne, 89, 198
 Touggourt, 216, 232
 Tubusuctu, 261


                           Transcriber’s Note

Errors deemed most likely to be the printer’s have been corrected, and
are noted here. The references are to the page and line in the original.
The following issues should be noted, along with the resolutions.

  14.13    Timgad: Arch [at/of] Trajan                    Replaced.
  143.8    and [raised] the whole province of Oran        _sic_: razed
  221.14   As we approach Sidi O[bk/kb]a                  Transposed.
  279.3    They [rased] the fortifications                _sic_: rased

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "About Algeria - Algiers, Tlemçen, Constantine, Biskra, Timgad" ***

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 search system 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
means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.