Page images

over the shoulders, nearly to the ground; at other times the braids are arranged in a very becoming manner on the top of the head. The latter fashion forms a species of crown, over which elderly women wrap a piece of blue or white cloth, which crosses under the chin, and is tied behind. They may be often seen carrying on their heads large leathern bags, containing clothes, provisions, &c. The Moorish women have generally bright sparkling black eyes, and handsome features. Those who are engaged in laborious occupations become swarthy; but ladies secluded from the influence of the sun often have delicate complexions. The higher classes in Tunis are particularly spoken of as handsome in their persons and elegant in dress; they often wear robes of the richest silk, adorned with gold buttons, lace, and embroidery. The Moorish ladies have generally a great passion for ornament. They decorate their persons with heavy gold ear-rings; necklaces of amber, coral, and gold; gold bracelets; gold chains and silver bells for the ankles; rings on the fingers; silver cords around the head, with silver rings hanging pendent to the shoulder; and around the waist, under their garments, they wear ten or twelve strings of glass or crystal beads, which jingle as they walk. The poorer class in Fezzan wear glass beads around the head, and curl the hair in large ringlets, into which they stuff a kind of paste made of lavender, cloves, pepper, mastich, and laurel leaves mixed up with oil. Men are proud of having their wives handVOL. I. 16 .

somely dressed, because it is an indication of their own wealth and importance. Dr. Shaw says the Barbary women are so partial to the small mirrors which they wear about their necks, that “they will not lay them aside even when, after the drudgery of the day, they are obliged to go two or three miles, with a pitcher or goat-skin, to fetch water.” The want of water in many places prevents them from washing their garments so often as is necessary for cleanliness. They anoint themselves with rancid butter, in order to keep off musquitoes and other insects. *_ When engaged in the house at work, the Barbary matrons not only lay aside their hykes and tunics, but even their drawers, wearing merely a cloth wrapped around them. The women weave a coarse kind of cloth for the tent-coverings, made of goats’ or camels’ hair. It is woven in broad stripes, impervious to the rain. One of their principal occupations is the manufacture of the hykes or blankets, universally worn both by men and women. They have no looms, or shuttles. The warp is fastened to a peg in the ground, and the woof carried through with their fingers. They make butter in a goat-skin exposed to the sun. The Barbary cows give very little milk, but the sheep and goats are both useful for the purposes of the dairy. When the women make cheese, they separate the curd from the whey with the flowers of the greatheaded thistle, or wild artichoke. The curds are put into small baskets made of rushes, or dwarfpalm, bound up close, and pressed. These cheeses seldom weigh more than two or three pounds. In the morning, the children and slaves are sent out to tend the cattle, and do not return until nightfall; the women in the mean time are engaged in their numerous household occupations, and not unfrequently work in the fields, and collect wood for cooking. When the tribes find it necessary to travel, the slaves drive the cattle, and the women take care of the dromedaries, while the men, mounted and armed, form a van-guard to protect the troop. The wives and daughters of the wealthy sit cross-legged on a small round concave saddle, placed on the back of a dromedary, and generally screened from the sun by a slight awning. The Barbary ox, a strong docile animal, with a large hump above the shoulders, is likewise much used for riding. The Moors are indolent to excess. They lie whole days upon their mats sleeping and smoking, while the women and slaves perform all the labor. Owing to their uncleanly habits, they are much infested with vermin; and as they consider it beneath their own dignity to remove this annoyance, the task is imposed upon the women. They are very impatient and tyrannical, and for the slightest offence beat their wives most cruelly. The women, far from thinking a sound drubbing any disgrace, are rather disposed to regard it as a sign that their lords and masters consider them of some importance; but they are extremely mortified if the husband makes any complaint to relations. The Moors, like other Mohammedans, regard women as a very inferior race, created to serve them with unconditional submission. Wives are obliged to stand and wait upon their husbands while they are eating, and must be content with whatever food the men choose to leave. When a European expressed his surprise at such customs, they answered, “Why should such inferior creatures be allowed to eat and drink with us? If they commit faults, why should they not be beaten ? They were made to bring us children, pound our rice, make out oil, and do our drudgery; these are the only purposes to which their degraded natures are adapted.” Precisely the same arguments for abusing the defenceless are urged by Christian slave-owners' Among the Moors, masters and their Mohammedan slaves eat together ; but if the slave be a Christian, he must eat by himself, and even the women and children will not touch the food he leaves. Illiberal and barbarous as this custom appears to us, they no doubt would regard as still more absurd the customs of the United States, which render it an abomination for two people of different complexions to eat at the same table. Their own superstitious abhorrence is inculcated by the Mohammedan creed, which they regard as sacred; but our prejudice is in direct opposition to the maxims of that religion, which we profess to reverence. In this respect, we must yield to the Algerine in point of sincerity and consistency. Moorish daughters receive no portion of their father's property, and have no dowry at the time of their marriage. When a man dies, his wife takes her young children and goes to live with her mother. The daughters are dependent on their elder brother. If the children are quite young, the chief of the tribe takes possession of the property, until the boys are old enough to have it divided among them. If there is no male child, the brother of the deceased is his heir. The Moorish women, like the men, are exceedingly ignorant, covetous, and gluttonous; but they are not, like them, universally licentious ; for they are taught that virtuous wives will become celestial beauties in another world, while all who fail in this duty will be forever annihilated. An unfaithful wife is punished with immediate death. A man has as many wives and female slaves as he can maintain. Although the inhabitants of Fezzan are Mohammedans, their women are seen a great deal in public, and are remarkable for wanton manners. Some of the customs of the Moors seem at variance with their habitual contempt of women. The wives of chiefs are always appointed to conduct negotiations for peace ; and a feminine voice of entreaty will arrest the uplifted scimetar just ready to fall on the head of an enemy. In common with the Bedouins, they consider the female apartments as a sanctuary, which protects even the murderer. In some tribes, where the women never appear before the men, the criminal, if he gets within hearing of their dwellings, calls out, “I am under the protection of the harem s” The inmates, without showing themselves, cry aloud,

« PreviousContinue »