12 AUGUST 1882, Page 10


THERE are those who tell us that Cairo, even if it escape the evil chances of war, must inevitably yield to the in- fluence of Western civilisation—which is not of a beautifying tendency—and become as common-place as Venice will be, when the "City of Song" has been put to rights, and accommodated with quays. The traveller of the future, directing the course of the most recent representative of Prince Hassan's Carpet— whereon who is there that has not longed to lay him down, and be carried to the Beautiful Isles P—will most likely find even Tunis metamorphosed by the process which will be Republican French for Haussmannization. But while "the old robber's den, Tunis, the whitest of all African towns, the Burnous of the Prophet,' as the devout Arabian calls it," remains unchanged, it is a sight well worth seeing. All writers tell of the beauty of the Gulf on whose shores lie the ruins of Carthage. Little isles with rocks towering high above the blue waves protect it against the raging storms of the open sea, and a chain of picturesque mountains frames the water towards the east; while westward the banks slope gradually, showing far far away the mist-swept peaks of the last spurs of the Atlas. In the background of the gulf, ou one of the dark heights, rises the city, which has so fierce a history and. so fanciful a name; shaped. like an extended burnous, with its citadel, the Kasba, for the hood. Seen from the sea, Tunis, as the Chevalier de Hesse-Wartegg describes it, lacks nothing that actual beauty and historical association can lend to satisfy the gazer. From among the far-stretching crowd of dazzlingly white houses, sur- rounded by the mighty walls, rise the menacing Kasba, and numberless domes and minarets. On a flat sandbank at the foot of the city lies Goletta ; the coast on either side is covered with white villas, to which large pleasure-gardens, orangeries, and olive-groves are attached. Here and there, but, on the whole, sparingly, the date-tree—true " note " of African land- scape—soars above all. Such is the actual aspect of Tunis; and on the coast, in the midst of this fair scene, rise two bare, mournful mounds to record two momentous struggles and tremendous defeats, the triumph of Rome and that of Islam; one marks the ruins of Carthage, the other the place of sepulture of St. Louis, King of France. To the east of the narrow strip of land on which the town extends lies a great salt lake, El Ba,hireh, the dwelling-place of a bird-population. What a picture that must be, formed by the long lines of camels journeying along the bank with their Arab guides, and the innumerable multitude of pelicans and flamingoes among the reeds and in the salt-scummed water; their plumage of white, and all the shades of red, from pale pink to rich crimson, show- ing out under the cloudless blue African sky ! Very beautiful, seen from the sea, is the old stronghold of war, palace intrigue, murderous deeds, and prosperous piracy ; and although its magnificence and wealth are of the past, it cannot be disappoint- ing to explore the Tunis of to-day, of which it is said :—" The people have remained the same, and ithey have preserved the primitive originality of their customs and usages, from the state of constant hostility to the:surrounding tribes in which they live. In Tunis we still see, therefore, a part of the purely genuine Orient, a bulwark of the Middle Ages reaching dark and threatening into modern times." The perfect expression of Maho- medan life is afforded by Tunis, when the town of the Franks is passed, and one penetrates into the town of the Moors, through one of five little streets leading up from the Marina (where Western life is represented by Italian coffee-houses), the widest of which is just broad enough to admit one carriage, while in the others three foot-passengers can hardly walk abreast. The narrowest and dirtiest of these streets lead. to the Jews' quarters, chiefly distinguished for dirt. The wretchedness of the Ghetto forms a strange contrast to the growing importance of the Jewish population, which is supplanting the Arabs in trade and industry so fast, that it will soon be the more important element all along the coast. In the Ghetto, "the streets are, after every fifty or 100 steps, blocked by walls or houses, the latter having no numbers nor the streets names. The inhabits ants leave their houses rarely, and then only to go to a syna- gogue, or to see a friend close by. There are others who do not leave their houses for years, who live and die where they have been born, without ever entering the Arabian part or the Marina." When, having ascended to the Kasba, one looks down from the outer walls, grand even in decay, over the majestic Moorish town, following the maze of the thou- sand lanes and passages that compose it, and gazing on the multitude of domes, snow-white and dark-green, above the great expanse of houses clustering down to the sea, with the tall minarets towering above it all, one's glance falls on a quarter in which there is the mere monotony of crowded dwellings, without dome, mosque, or turret, or even a tree to break it. That quarter is the Ghetto. The Arab quarter is not much less dreary, though the streets are wider, for the houses have only a ground-floor, no windows, and the doors are always shut; but the scene is full of strange features, and well worth studying, before the grand quarter, that of the, Dar-el-Bey, is reached, Here are numbers of mosques—there are 500 in Tunis—bazaars, barracks ; khans crowded with heavily packed camels and mules ; silent streets, where now and then a muffled. woman slips by; noisy lanes, "where you are either pushed about or carried forward, and where you are in danger of getting under the feet of a camel, which, with its bale of goods, takes up the breadth of the little street, while slowly and solemnly stalking towards you." One may enter a dozen well-paved streets, that all get narrower and darker, until they are closed. by a high house in ruins or by a barred and bolted gate; and if one sits down to rest on a stone, one may be beaten and pelted, because it is the tombstone of a saint, and have to run from enraged fanatics. "Some of the houses," a recent traveller tells us, "are bedaubed with the most primitive drawings of wild animals, plants, or houses, at which a wild fellow, half naked, works, as we pass; he jumps up at us as if he were mad, and is only kept back with trouble by his co-religionists ; he is a saint, which in Tunis is equivalent to a fool. Walking on, we come to wide-open gates, through which we scan spacious courts, with rows of columns; but scarcely do we put our first step leading there, than some Arabs, who are lingering about, drive us back with screams; we have approached a mosque, inaccessible to Europeans." With these and other strange features of this typical Mahomedan city, the grand quarter of the Dar-el-Bey contrasts finely. Here is a great square, with a well-kept garden, planted with palm and almond trees ; a bazaar, where the merchants congregate, and over which is raised. a mosque, covered. with fine sculptures and an hexagonal minaret of yellow sandstone; on the third side is the Kasba, on the fourth the stately front of the Bey's palace, with a couple of ragged soldiers at the gate, occupied. in knitting or basket-making. Near this square stand the palaces of centuries ago, desolate indeed, but still magnificent. "I found," says the Chevalier de Hesse-War- tegg, " many houses in which the colonnades were marble mono. lithe, with splendid capitals, evidently taken from that great qu arry which lies in the immediate neighbourhood, where the building- stones are ready cut, and beautifully ornamented,—Carthage. This ancient town was such a fruitful field for the Tunisians, that in every second house are found Roman stones, with in- scriptions or sculptures, parts of columns and capitals. If Tunis were destroyed, her ruins would be the ruins of Carthage !" The palaces of the Bey are splendid and incongruous ; the Bardo, an hour from the capital, is a fine sample of Oriental architec- ture and decoration, spoiled by Parisian upholstery and vulgar European carpets. Dar-el-Bey, his only town residence, is magnificent and neglected; his real abode is in a separate building, walled, and standing in a garden, near the Bardo. He goes to the Bardo once a week, to sit in judgment on his subjects, and receive the Ambassadors and Consuls of the great Powers; and then there is a brief stir, and the Court presents a stately picture. " It is, however, only an ex- ternal brilliancy, and it cannot deceive the visitor as to the misery reigning within the Moorish Empire." Mahomed Es Sadock Pasha Bey is an amiable enough prince, by all accounts, fond of children, but childless, and very simple in his habits. He has only one wife, and though lie pays her a formal visit of an hour's duration at her castle every day, be rarely sees her, as the hour of his visit is generally one appointed for devotion, and on his arrival he goes to a small room in the palace to pray. He is supposed to know nothing of the manage- ment of his possessions ; before him all is splendour, behind his back all is desolate ruin. Whichever of his palaces ho shall die in will be dismantled and left to decay, for a Bey must not live in a palace in which a predecessor has died. "None of them has had himself transported into the street ou death approach- ing, and there are more than a dozen palaces in Tunis to-day which cannot be used by the Beys. A melancholy example of this absurd custom is Mahomedia, once the magnificent resi- dence of Achmet I3ey, who had it built thirty-five years ago, at a cost of 10,000,000 francs. This palace, with its secondary buildings and villas for ministers and dignitaries, was situated two miles out of town ; and when Achmet Bey died, the furni- ture was moved, the floors, glazed tiles, doors and windows, were broken out, and dragged to another palace. The heavy marble columns, statues, the curbs of the wells, &c., remained behind with the walls, and he who passes those imposing ruins to-day might think thousands of years had passed over them. The hand of the Arab destroys thus in our day, in the midst cf peace, as his ancestors, the Vandals, did centuries ago, only in time of war ! So much for Oriental culture!"

The population of Tunis is a chaos of nations, costumes, grades, and classes. " Society " is represented by the Mame- lakes, who in reality are Greeks and Syrians ; the Moors form the middle-class, the women are absolutely invisible, except when they visit the bazaar which furnishes the beautiful and luxurious articles of their attire ; and even then, they are so waffled up that no notion can be formed of what they are Eke- Moorish ladies are said to be entirely uneducated, 'without an idea of reading, writing, or music ; and so strict is their seclusion that no man can invite male guests to enter his dwelling,—he must receive them " in the gate." There is ago social life ; the men meet at the bazaar. The jewel bazaar is entirely in the hands of the Jews ; perfumes and spices are told by the pale, handsome, grand-looking Moors. It would take volumes to describe the bazaars, and the wonderful wares they contain, the astonishing results that are produced by the

the patience, and the untiring perseverance of the race rrat knows nothing at all about competition or the envy of , Besse- "It happened to me several times," says the Chevalier 'e esse-Wartegg, " that a dealer had not got what I twanted. Re went to his neighbour, and brought from his shop the article asked for. When I asked him whether it was his property, or if he had a share in it, he always said, Kif, kif.' It is the same, whether you buy here or there."

Who shall depict the street-life of Tunis, with its variety of race, colour, and costume. It severely taxes the imagination of us Westerns, who hardly know what colour means, to picture a crowd with the great majority of the individuals composing it dressed, being Moors, in the following costume :—" The turbans are sometimes white, sometimes yellow, flowered, and always carefully wound ; the

folds, jackets are short, and embroidered, the

wide trousers full of

body-. Then they (the olds, there is a coloured sash round the :round their shoulders Moors) wear a light cloak of thin silk ; their feet, covered with the whitest of

stockings, are put into slippers of red or yellow leather ; the handkerchief, tied by a corner to the cloak, hangs in front ; a rose behind the right ear, and a cane with a silver button, com- pletes this dress." Then there are the red-turbaned Moors, Hadji or Mecca pilgrims ; the Shereefs, or descendants of the Prophet, green-turbaned ; the Kadis, with white turbans, in closer folds; the Jews, in darker attire, and dark blue or black turbans ; the Bedouins, in their white-hooded burnouses ; the Kabyle women, who only are unveiled ; negresses, and women from Malta and Greece. There can be fewer stranger subjects of contemplation on the face of the earth than the aspect of " The Burnous of the Prophet."