Sufferings In Africa

by James Riley

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Chapter XXVII

Some account of Suse , or South Barbary , and of its inhabitants, cities , &c .—the primitive plough and mode of using it—primitive churn and method of making butter.

The country of Suse or South Barbary, is bounded by the Moorish province of Hah-Hah on the east, by the Atlas mountains and the great desart, south, and by the Atlantic Ocean on the north and west: its length from east to west is about two hundred and fifty miles; its breadth from north to south one hundred miles. In coming from the desart, its principal towns are, TValdeleim , which is said to be very large and strong, and to contain ten thousand inhabitants. Widnoon is much the largest t 9 wn in Suse, and its inhabitants are computed by the Arabs at thirty thousand. Schelem contains four thousand. Stuka , where I was shut up a slave, does not appear to be a principal town, but is made up of a cluster of small ones, nor could I learn the names of the many little towns or castles in sight of which I passed coming up:^it was formerly a kingdom, and was afterwards united to those of Morocco and Fez, which now form the Moorish empire. Suse has however become entirely independent, for though the emperor of Morocco claims jurisdiction over the whole of Suse, and indeed of the whole desart as far south as Soudan, yet all those' countries are in fact independent, and the emperor’s power extends only a few leagues south and west, from a line drawn through Santa Cruz or Agader, and Tarudant, south to the Atlas.

The soil of this country is very rich and fruitful: here wheat, barley, and indian corn, or maize, are cultivated, and most kinds of kitchen garden vegetables thrive with great luxuriance: the date, fig, pomegranate, olive, orange, lemon, sweet and bitter almond, arga, and many other fruit and forest trees, thrive exceedingly well, and produce, it is said, great abundance in their seasons: the gum arabic and sanderach are also produced there in great quantities. The country being speckled over with small cities, towns, and castles, all strongly walled in with stone laid in clay, is calculated to remind one of the times of the feudal system; each place is under the government of its own chief, who is by common consent the head of the family: they are under a kind of patriarchal government, and each individual feels himself perfectly free and independent. In case of attack or danger, all unite for the general defence, under such leaders as shall have proved themselves brave, enterprising, and worthy of command ; and by this means they are enabled to secure themselves against the frequent inroads and insults of the wandering Arabs, who inhabit* the great Desart in their' vicinity, and to repel^the more formidable attacks of the forces of the Moorish emperor. They raise great numbers of camels, horses, asses, mules, oxen, goats, and sheep, which are guarded by their negro slaves, (of whom they have many) or by the young boys; and they are driven into their towns or castles every night to prevent their being surprised and carried off by the Arabs, or other predatory neighbours: their horses are very handsome, strong, and fleet, of the real Arabian kind, and very high spirited.

The inhabitants are of a tawny colour, like the Moors, though not quite so dark, and I was informed they were principally descendants of the ancient inhabitants of the country before it was overrun by the Arabs or Saracens: they are in their persons about five feet eight or nine inches in height; stout built, robust, and athletic, and are very straight limbed: they have rather a round visage, with prominent features, black hair, sharp pointed noses, and great bushy beards: their eyes are black, but not so lively, expressive, or intelligent, as those of the Arabs: their mouths are wide, and their lips plump. Their dress consists of a kind of shirt made of blue guinea or linen cloth, or coarse white muslin, that passes over their shoulders, and falls down near their knees, but without sleeves: over this, they wear a haick or blanket made of woollen cloth, of about five yards in length, and an ell in width: this the plough beam is lashed fast. The point which enters the ground, is hewn in a triangular shape, but the edges soon wear off, so that it becomes nearly round. In loamy and sandy soils, they plough with the naked wood, but in stony places they point it with a round piece of iron, tapering to a sharp point that lets on with a socket: it turns up the earth on both sides, and goes into the ground about eight inches deep. The people of Suse and those of Morocco, use only one pair of beasts, whatever they may be, and have lines leading from the heads of the animals into the hands of him who steadies the plough, by means of which he directs and governs them : he also carries a thick stick sufficiently long to reach them, with a sharp-pointed iron like a spear in its end; by the help of which he pricks and goads his beasts along at pleasure. This instrument is an ox-goad, and no doubt is similar to those spoken of in Sacred Writ—1st Samuel, iii. 1. but these Moors do not obey that part of of Moses; “ Thou shalt not plough with an ox and an ass together.” See 22d chapter of Deuteronomy, 10th verse, except by sometimes substituting a cow instead of an ox. This, I imagine, was the primitive plough, or something very near it, and the first method hit upon for using it.

I have also promised to treat of the primitive churn, and manner of making butter, which is simply this. The Arabs, or people who inhabited the country near the river Euphrates, as long ago as the time of Abraham, the father^pf the Jews, and probably much earlier, knew the use of the camel and actually kept him in a domestic state: they would very naturally feed on its milk, and they, no doubt, in those days, made use of the same means to carry their milk about with them, that the wandering Arabs do at present—that is, whatever milk is left of what the family has been using over night or in the morning, is put into a goat skin, or some other skin, and slung on a camel to sen e for drink in the heat of the day—thus equipped, they set off together: and when they stop to take refreshment or to pitch their tent, they find a lump of butter in the milk; for the vm’ent and continued agitation' occasioned by the heavy motions of the camel, has churned, or forced it to produce butter: this simple method was suggested to my mind by seeing a lump of butter in my old master’s milk bag, when we were wandering on the desart—this must, without doubt, have been the first ifcode found out by chance, of making butter; for what reason would he have, who had never seen such a thing as butter, for supposing milk could be converted into that substance, more than any other fluid ? For a further illustration of this subject, and a view of the camel, see plate, figure 7, copied from an original drawing by the author.

The country of Suse', altogether, resembles the narrow country as described in Holy Writ, called the land of Canaan : its vast number of small cities, or rather castles, with high and strong walls, with gates and bars, each under its own sovereign, must be similar to the cities there described, as taken and destroyed by the Jews, (together with their kings) soon after they emerged from the desarts of Arabia, under the command of their- chieftain and prophet, Joshua, and have, doubtless, been constructed for the same purpose; i. e. to guard against the irruptions of the wandering inhabitants of the contiguous desarts, &c. The inhabitants are brave and warlike: all well armed with single-barrelled muskets, stocked and mounted in the Moorish manner, and with Moorish locks; they have also knives, daggers, scimitars, and swords, and are the best of horsemen : they seldom or ever go out of their little cities unarmed ; but like the wandering Arab on the de- sart, they are completely equipped either for offence or defence, even when they go to visit their nearest friends. They are said to be, like the Arabs, warm and sincere in their friendship; in their enmities implacable, cruel, and revengeful; and in trade, cunning and deceitful.

The whole number of inhabitants in Suse, including white add black slaves, is estimated at near one million: they are all strict observers of the Mohammedan doctrine and ceremonies, and appear to be enthusiasts in religion, though like the Moors they are net generally taught the arts of reading and writing, and are in consequence considered by the wandering Arabs much beneath them in acquirements, as well as in point of natural abilities. Their language is the corrupt Arabic, not easily understood by the Arabs of the desart, who pretend to speak and write that ancient and beautiful language in its greatest purity.


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