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ous detachment of sailors in their longboats
into the harbour, and burnt every vessel that lay there. This bold action, which its very temerity, perhaps, rendered safe, was executed with little loss, and filled all that part of the world with the renown of his country's valour.*
The city itself is placed on a rising ground, but has nevertheless the great disadvantage of being encompassed by swamps and marshes, which, in a less favourable climate, would render it extremely unhealthy. It is supposed to be about three miles in circumference, and to contain nearly 150,000 inhabitants. The number of houses has been computed at 12,000, though it is acknowledged that they are neither lofty nor magnificent. The town, according to Mr. M‘Gill, is surrounded with a miserable wall of mud and stone, fitted neither for ornament nor for use. The buildings are of mean architecture; the whole city not presenting one worthy of description. “The bey,” says he, " is erecting a palace, which, when finished, may perhaps be handsome ; but it is buried in a dirty narrow street; and, that nothing may be lost, the ground-floor is intended for shops. He is also build. ing extensive barracks for his soldiers. The streets are narrow, dirty, and unpaved ; the bazars are of the poorest appearance, and but indifferently stocked with merchandise. The inhabitants who crowd their miserable alleys present the very picture of poverty and oppression.”+
It was at one time the intention of his highness to drain the lake, and to form a channel in which vessels of burden might proceed to the town, where a handsome port was to be prepared, fitted to contain not only merchantmen, but also The national ships of war. Many obstacles, however, arose to prevent the execution of this princely design. The withdrawing of the water from so large a surface might, it was said, create bad air, and the country, which had just been scourged by the pestilence, might again be visited by disease. The engineers were also of opinion that ten years would be necessary to complete the work, with the labour of 10,000 slaves, and a great outlay of money and materials. For these reasons the plan was abandoned, and he has contented him
* Hume's History of England, vol. vii., p. 254.
+ Account of Tunis, p. 56. Mr. M'Gill remarks, that the population must be great ; but in Mohammedan countries it is not permitted to number the people.
self with constructing a small harbour at the Goletta. Into this vessels of moderate size can enter through a handsome canal built of stone, in which there are at all times fifteen feet of water. We may add, that the lake is daily becoming more shallow, and will, it is probable, at no distant date, accomplish by natural means the object on which Hamooda was willing to expend so much labour and wealth.
The climate of Tunis is one of the finest in the world, and admirably adapted for the production of most of those articles which, for the supply of Europe, are brought from an immense distance. All the coast of Barbary is capable of bearing cotton, sugar, and spices of almost every kind. Indigo and silk might also be procured with a little care. The soil, too, throughout the whole state, is remarkably good, and, with scarcely any cultivation, renders to the husbandman an astonishing return. The district to the eastward gives in a good year even a hundred fold. But the contrast is great when the usual rains are withheld. The ground then becomes arid and steril; the seed perishes in the furrow; the olive appears shrivelled and withered ; and the flocks die for want of food. Such, it is said, was the dreadful spectacle in 1805, when thousands of human beings, as well as of the lower animals, sunk under the pressure of famine.
It is remarkable, that throughout the greater part of the regency, the water in the springs is either salt or hot. There are, indeed, some fountains, such as those at Zowan, which supply a cool and refreshing beverage ; but the water used at Tunis is that which is collected during the winter in cisterns. With one of these reservoirs each house is provided ; and as the roofs are flat, every drop of rain is saved. On this subject, it is not undeserving of notice, that the natives of the interior, who are accustomed to their salt and tepid currents, not only experience no inconvenience from such an unpalatable draught, but even prefer it to the more natural state of the liquid in streams or fountains.*
Mr. M'Gill observes, that the regency of Tunis was never on so respectable a footing as it is at present; and the subject never before enjoyed such independence, and so great a degree of protection from external enemies. The troups of Hamooda, 'also, are better paid than those of any former
* Account of Tunis, p. 62
prince; and though they are much more like a band of freebooters than a regular army, yet they are sufficient to keep in check his principal foes, the Algerines, who cannot in any respect be pronounced better soldiers. It is presumed that, under his successor, Sidi Hassan, who ascended the viceregal throne in 1824, the progress of improvement has not been checked.
Thirty years ago, a Christian could scarcely walk through the streets, much less the country, without being insulted. This, says M. Blaquière, seldom occurs now; and although the hatred of the natives towards the Jews and Nazarenes has not subsided in the least, the fear of punishment is a certain bar to their insolence. Even in the days of Dr. Shaw, he could pronounce the Tunisians the most civilized nation of Barbary ; having very little of that haughty behaviour which was then very common at Algiers. They had for some years,
if we may trust to his favourable report, been more intent on trade and the improvement of their manufactures than upon plundering and cruising.
The great body of the inhabitants are Moors; the number of Jews being about 30,000, while the Christians are not supposed to exceed 1,500. The people of Tunis present little in manners or usage peculiar to their country, or which may not be found among other Mohammedans. From their great ignorance, they are, as might be expected, extremely superstitious; and hence, most of their actions are guided by omens, signs, or prognostications. In their religion, too, they are thought to be more rigorous than their brethren elsewhere. Mosques which, even in Constantinople, may be visited with impunity, would at Tunis be regarded as utterly profaned were they entered by any individual not of their own belief. It is even asserted, that for such an offence a Christian would forfeit his life.
The evil eye is a superstition which prevails greatly among the African Mussulmans. If a horse, mule, or any domesticated animal belonging to one person be praised by another, it is considered as irretrievably lost ; and a child that is admired is expected with certainty to meet some misfortune. The unlucky omen thirteen sitting down at the same table, has no less influence among ignorant Turks and Moors than it has among certain classes in Europe, who maintain that the same individuals will never meet again. A strange be
lief obtains among the people of Barbary, which they say is founded on an ancient prophecy, that their country is to be taken from them on a Friday, during the hour of prayer at
For this reason the gates of their cities are carefully locked during that service, and no one is allowed to pass until the mid-day devotion is ended. It is also predicted, that the country is to be taken by a people clothed in red ; and they themselves anticipate that this exploit is to be achieved by the English. “It will certainly be a matter of regret,” says Mr. M Gill, “ if the prophecy is not fulfilled."*
Before their armies march on any expedition, the astrologers are employed to watch the rising of a particular star. Should it attain the horizon in a clear sky, they augur good, discharge their artillery, and plant the standard round which the camp is to be formed ; but if it rise obscured by clouds or by a fog, they consider the omen unfavourable, and defer the display of their national flag until another day. When the camp breaks up, which is usually established near the bey's palace, a pair of black bulls are sacrificed as the commander passes. The arrival of a detachment to join the main army was attended with impressive circumstances. Before entering the gates of Tunis, we are told, they grounded their colours and arms, knelt down, and prayed. After this ceremony they advanced into the city ; when the ladies from the roofs of the houses saluted them with their “ loo-loo,” and the men answered by the discharge of their muskets.
The Moors here are said to be less jealous of their wives than the Turks. The latter have them guarded and watched very strictly, whereas the former allow them a considerable degree of freedom. They are served by Christian slaves, and fear less to be seen uncovered by them than by their own countrymen. It is doubtful, however, whether this greater liberty does not arise from the contempt or indifference with which they regard all mankind who do not profess the Mohammedan faith. The cut inserted opposite represents a lady of condition, accompanied by one of the other sex in the same rank of society.
The Tunisians have a curious custom of fattening their young women for marriage. A girl, after she is betrothed, is cooped up in a small room, when shackles of gold and sil
+ Account of Tunis, p. 87.
Moorish Lady and Fashionable Moor. ver are put upon her ankles and wrists, as a piece of dress. If she is to be united to a man who has already had a wife, the shackles which the former spouse wore are put upon the new bride's limbs; and she is fed until they are filled up to the proper thickness.
The food used for this purpose, worthy of barbarians, is a seed called drough; which is of an extraordinary fattening, quality, and also famous for rendering the milk of nurses rich and abundant. With this and their natural dish cuscusou, the young female is literally crammed, and many, it is asserted, die under the spoon.
It is hardly necessary to observe, that a plurality of wives is allowed in Barbary as well as in all Mohammedan countries. A man, it is well known, may have four, and as many concubines as he can maintain. It seldom happens, however, that a Moor has more than two at the same time ; but the ceremony of divorcing them is so simple, that he may change as often as he finds it convonient.