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CHAPTER V I.
Enter the Mediterranean-Luminosity of the sea--Coast of Barbary-City of Algiers
Quarantine-The Ramadan-Phosphoric lights-Health officers-Narrow streets—Fountains -Bazaars — Trades-Costumes - Moors—The Hyke and Burnoose - Kadees-Jews—Their government-Costumes-The Sarmah-Henna-Turks-Arabs-The Swauves and SpaheesTheir dress-French soldiery-Black Moors, Bedawees–Kabyles-Algerine ladies-Negroes-Chierology-Decay of the kingdom-The Ottoman empire-Census.
DECEMBER 14.- We left Gibraltar, and commenced our voyage up the Mediterranean, intending to make Algiers our first resting-place, not merely on account of the interest excited by that extraordinary spot, or to view its condition under its present masters, but in the hope of finding a climate suitable to invalids -to us a matter of no small importance. During the whole of this day, the wind was favourable, but it headed us during the night ; and on awakening on Friday morning, the 15th instant, instead of finding ourselves half-way to Algiers, we were beating along the coast of Spain, beneath the lofty snow-clad mountains of Granada. We felt the cold much, as the thermometer was not above 57° at any one time during the day ; still we were much amused with the scene, which was rendered interesting by the shoals of vessels around us—often from twenty to thirty in sight, all taking advantage of the change of wind, and running down to “The Gut.” Among the rest was an English corvette, towing the wreck of a Prussian brig, dismasted and water-logged ; its shattered spars, the remnant of some shivered sails and broken cordage streaming in the wind, formed a most melancholy object amidst a scene of so much animation. On the following day, we passed the white point of Cape de Gat, having, as usual, a head-wind. On the 17th it was nearly calm, and although still “standing on” the Spanish coast, we were sensible of a great change for the better in the climate.
18th.—A fair wind during the night has taken us to the African coast, along the low undulating shores of which a light wind, right aft, is stealing us on our course. The thermometer was 62°; and we were cheered in the evening by the first truly Mediterranean sunset we had yet witnessed. The night was truly beautiful, the air balmy, and the sea quite luminous, spreading out in waves of spangled light from beneath our cut-water ; while behind it formed an eddying sheet of silver foam, as it fell from the rudder like the tail of an immense comet. Venus rose in great splendour, and her “wake," as sailors express it, was thrown upon the waters, in one vast pillar of light, little inferior in brilliancy to that afforded by our moon.
The next morning we were all expectation to get a view of Algiers, but the wind falling off, it required studding sails alow and aloft to carry us along. This part of the coast of Barbary is a series of small hills huddled together, without a spot of land that could be called a plain. All is covered with underwood, and behind rises the bold range of the Atlas mountains. At last we came in sight of the town, which at some distance has more the appearance of a large white chalk-pit on the side of a hill, than any thing else I can compare it to. Towards the town the hills are more broken, higher, and studded with numbers of large white buildings, embosomed in groves of evergreens, formerly the country residences of the wealthy Turks, and now occupied by French officers.
The town, every thing in which is white, even to the roofs of the houses, rises up a steep from the water's edge, and is much smaller than we anticipated—nor could we have formed an idea of a place so exceedingly close and compact.
It was dusk when we came to anchor; the noise and shouting, the beating of drums, and sounding of bugles, tell of our vicinity to a large army. Here we had to endure that abomination of travelling, a five days' quarantine; for, although there was no sickness at our last port, the great intercourse Gibraltar has with other nations, the French say, renders this precaution necessary. Had we, instead of coming direct, remained a few hours at Algeziras, this unpleasant detention would have been avoided.
We were not allowed within the Mole, but stuck in limbo alongside the lazaretto, behind all the dirty craft in the harbour, and a Maltese guardian quartered on us to prevent communica
tion with our filthy neighbours. On three sides were the high dead walls of the city, and the number of vessels in front completely shut out our sea view; many of the old Roman sewers emptied themselves in our immediate vicinity, an annoyance which even our love of the antique could not make tolerable. Those only who have experienced the miseries of quarantine themselves can form a notion of our disagreeable situation ; yet, even here we were not without some amusement. The Musselmans squatted on the walls and roofs of the houses around was something new; it was then the time of the Ramádan, or Mo. hammadan lent; at sunset, a gun was fired for the faithful, and a small dirty flag hoisted from the minarets of the mosques, three of which were then in sight. The mooeddin or crier then mounted the turret, and ran rapidly from corner to corner, shouting for the faithful to come to pray, or rather, I should say, to feast, for as the true followers of the prophet eat nothing from sunrise to sunset, the greater number take their meals in the mosques after evening prayers. These mosques remained illuminated the whole night, and the minarets also were hung round with small lamps, which had a very pretty effect. The call to prayer occurs three times a day, at sunrise, noon, and sunset. On Friday, the Mohammadan sabbath, instead of the dirty white flag, the green banner, the sacred colour of the Turks, is hoisted. Some fifty years ago, however, our position would have been rather a dangerous one, and probably a worse misfortune than that of performing quarantine would have awaited us.
The water here is particularly phosphorescent; the wake of the boats through the harbour during the night look, at some distance, like so many great luminous worms skimming along the surface, and the whole harbour is at times brightened up as those “lightnings of the wave” break upon the different vessels and buoys. I collected large quantities of the water, and always found the light to result from the innumerable ova of fish floating through it, as well as those little animals called lancelets.*
As we were sitting at dinner on the 22nd, a message arrived from the health-office to say, we should instantly make our appearance at the lazaretto for examination. The medical atten
* See Appendix, D.
in a cage.
dant was very wrathful at having been delayed a few minutes ; if ever he had any French politeness, he must have left it at Marseilles. This farce consisted in parading all the ship's crew at the same time in a railed-in space, like a parcel of wild beasts
We were then conducted back to the vessel, and told if we remained in good health until morning, we would get pratique. Next morning the health-officers came on board in order to fumigate the vessel; a purification so stifling, that we were nearly suffocated, and determined to resist. A fierce dispute arose; the officers insisting that unless we allowed the stiflification to go on, we should remain in durance vile; but a gentle hint that they also were then in quarantine, and should remain so until we were released, settled the matter, and the purificator, to save his conscience, first lighting his combustible on deck, bolted with it over the vessel's side, and set us free. We soon took advantage of our liberty, and landed at the farfamed mole of Algiers, the haunt of the pirate, the terror of Mediterranean commerce, and the scene of unheard-of atrocities for centuries.
This day was the most exciting I had experienced since I left England. Nothing can exceed the variety and incongruity of costume, and the appearance of the people you meet with in the narrow streets of Algiers. These so-called streets, some one says, are only twelve feet broad ; but this is a great exaggeration, as few are more than eight, and you can span most of them with your extended arms. All the houses project from the first story upward, which, in more social countries, would have afforded the inhabitants on opposite sides of the street a comfortable tete-4tete ; but here they are barricadoed with shutters of close-set lattice-wood, admitting little air, and less light. In many places there are perfect arches of stone thrown across the streets, opening here and there to admit a gleam of light, but we were often obliged to grope our way in perfect darkness, with out-stretched arms, and pacing cautiously along we received into our embrace same portly turbaned Turk, had our toes crushed by the splayfoot of an enormous camel, or were almost squeezed to death against the wall by a heavily-laden donkey. I could not have believed that so many human habitations could be crowded into so small a compass. The French have opened a few of these streets, leaving a colonnade on one side, and say they intend
doing so to all. There is one good open space opposite the fishmarket battery--the grand place, where some fine houses have been lately erected. This narrowness of the streets, however, has its advantages, in affording some protection from the intense rays of the sun, which would, under other circumstances, be concentrated into a focus on the heads of the passers, owing to the reflection from the white-washed walls. There are fountains in all the better sort of houses, besides which numbers are placed in the walls throughout the town, each consisting of a small marble basin, having a verse of the Koorán written above it, into which the water flows, with a brass or copper bowl attached for the convenience of passengers.
Our walks through the city constantly presented scenes of exceeding interest and variety; and from their un-European character, particularly in the bazaars, had for the first few days the effect of keeping our wonder on the stretch. Here the shops, about the size of good dog-kennels, are ranged on either side of the street, with the Moors and Turks squatted cross-legged in them, surrounded by their respective wares or implements : all tradesmen pursue their avocations in the open air, and many trades have particular bazaars. Tailors are the most numerous class of artizans here, as they are in all Mohammadan countries, and rank first in the state ; tailors, watchmakers, and barbers correspond to our three learned professions—divinity, law, and physic. Before the French regimê some of the first people were tailors : amongst them were many of the Deys; and the eldest son of the late admiral was a tailor. The janizaries, from whom the Deys were chosen, had all trades or shops, which they regularly attended during the day, when not engaged in service ; but at night they returned to the Kalseira, (their barracks,) near the palace of the Kassauba, or citadel, at the south-west corner.
The dress of some of the people is very beautiful, especially that of the Moors, being covered with gold lace and braid. It consists of a highly-ornamented jacket, generally of blue or scarlet cloth, and some of silk, stiff with gold or silver, and several vests covered with embroidery; a rich Eastern shawl girds the waist; the limbs are covered with wide-bagged trowsers, descending to the knees; the legs are generally bare, and the feet incased in red slippers, worn down at heel. The head is covered by a turban, expressive of the rank and condition of its wearer; in some it is