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Il7l ll| E || , | S n T |Tll?im9^, l i l l F0RNIA / SAN DIEGO 

3 1822 02605 9378 


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AURES . . . .233 

II. SPORT . . . . .237 

INDEX 243 
























. 26 

. 34 

. 42 

. 44 

. 56 

. 6G 

. 80 


. 94 


. 100 





THE "GOUM" AT BRANIS .... 122 

COOKING A "MECHWI" ..... 122 




INTERIOR OF A " GUELAA " ...... 150 



TAGHOUT ...... 172 







MOSQUE ...... 214 



KHEIRANE ....... 222 


SKETCH-MAP OF THE AURES . . . page 242 


TO the reader of guide books, of railway time-tables, 
and of the advertisements of tourist agencies it 
may appear almost absurd that a traveller should pretend 
to have anything new to say about a range of wild and 
barren hills whose western spurs are visible to the naked 
eye of the visitor to one of the most popular tourist 
resorts of the whole world ; Biskra, the oasis on the 
fringe of the Algerian Sahara, whose hotels are thronged 
each winter by hosts of seekers after sunshine and a 
dry climate. 

It may indeed seem incredible to these visitors, as they 
wander around Biskra's crowded market, or lounge in 
the beautiful garden of the Chateau Landon, that less 
than one hundred miles away, amid and beyond the 
ranges of barren rocks, whose glorious coloration at 
sunset fills them with wonder and almost with awe as 
they gaze to the north-east from the oasis, there are to 
be found to this day many villages in which a European 
woman has never been seen, and a white race of natives 
very many of whose arts and crafts, customs and beliefs 
have never been described in print. 

Nevertheless it is a fact that during our three winters 
spent in the fastnesses of the Aures mountains, for such 
is the name of the hills to which I have referred, my 
wife has been the first European woman to be seen by 
the stay-at-home inhabitants of many a remote village, 


natives who do not wander to the great centres of civiliza- 
tion, and that we have been enabled to elicit a considerable 
amount of information as to the manners and customs 
of the fair-haired Berbers of the hills which has hitherto 
remained unknown to European students of native life. 

The object of our journeys in the winters 1912-13, 
1913-14, and 1919-20 was to collect specimens of Berber 
handicraft for the Pitt-Rivers Museum, Oxford, as well 
as to glean all possible information upon the life of the 
people and upon the ancient medicine and surgery which, 
it was suspected, had been secretly practised in the 
Aures for many generations past, and which it has been 
our privilege to examine in some detail for the first time. 
Some of the information we have collected has been 
laid before various learned societies in England ; it is 
hoped, in due course, to publish the technical results 
of our work in full. 

The present volume, far from attempting to discuss at 
length the various ethnographical problems presented by 
the Berbers, constitutes an endeavour to answer some 
of the innumerable questions as to their life and as to 
the conditions under which journeys in the hills can be 
carried out that have been put to us by passing travellers 
at Biskra, El Kantara, and elsewhere, each time we have 
come down from the Aures to rest ; questions which 
show clearly that many a visitor to Algeria would gladly 
learn more of the life of its natives than a stay in a 
tourist centre can reveal to him, and that there are many 
who would undertake expeditions among the hill-folk 
were they aware of the conditions prevailing in the 

Having wandered up and down all the main valleys of 
the Aures massif, visiting many of its remotest hamlets 
as well as all its larger villages, I have endeavoured in 


the following pages so to describe the country that 
any of my readers who care to undergo the discomforts 
incidental to travel in such districts may follow in our 
footsteps, and in addition, for it is hoped soon to con- 
struct motor roads through the heart of the massif, to 
point the way to many interesting and beautiful localities 
which will, in the future, be accessible to the tourist who 
indulges in the luxury of a car. 

In taking the reader from village to village in the 
Aures I have attempted to bring to his notice many of 
the more remarkable of the customs of the Berbers so 
that, having accompanied us through these pages in our 
wanderings in the hills, he may obtain a greater knowledge 
of the life of this ancient people than he could acquire 
without spending many months in daily contact with 
it or by the study of existing literature on the subject, 
for, although during the seventeen years and more which 
have elapsed since I commenced my travels in Algeria 
I have read most of the serious works relating to that 
country, I have found no detailed description of Berber 
life in the Aures in either the French or English languages. 
I have omitted in these pages all account of matters 
of strictly archaeological interest. 

My work is that of the ethnographer, and I do not 
pretend to the knowledge which would have enabled me 
to carry out useful archaeological studies in the field, 
even had I found the time necessary to devote to them 
amid my investigations of existing native life. I have 
confined my attentions to my chosen line of research. 
It has always been my experience that the natives' 
natural love of hunting provides an avenue by which 
his friendship can be most easily approached ; I have, 
therefore, at various times done a fair amount of shooting 
in the area dealt with in these pages, as a result of which 


I have ventured to offer to my brother sportsmen some 
notes upon the sport obtainable in the form of an 
Appendix ; some hints upon outfit, etc., suitable for the 
hills forming the subject of another Appendix, which, 
I hope, may prove useful to travellers who follow in our 
footsteps in the Aures. 

With the exception of the picture of the drug seller, 
illustrating Chapter IX, for which I am indebted to a 
friend, all the photographs in this volume are from our 
own negatives ; the sketch map which accompanies it 
is merely intended to enable the reader to follow at a 
glance our routes upon one of the excellent large-scale 
maps of Algeria prepared by the French military 

If these pages, penned during a pressure of other work, 
can succeed in increasing the enjoyment of my fellow 
travellers by inducing them to visit the mountain homes 
of the Berbers of the Aures ; if the picture, incomplete 
as it must necessarily be in any but a strictly technical 
work, which I have endeavoured to draw of native life 
in the hills, can give my readers a clearer insight into some 
of the phases of that life than a brief visit to Algeria can 
afford them ; or, especially, if an acquaintanceship with 
the natives, formed by a perusal of the pages, may lead 
some future wanderer to study and describe the many 
points in their maimers and customs which are still 
shrouded in mystery before the slow but steady advance 
of western civilization has hidden them from us for ever, 
then the labour expended upon the writing of these lines 
cannot, surely, have been in vain. 





IF we draw upon the map of eastern Algeria a straight 
line running from north to south from the Mediter- 
ranean coast, through the town of Constantine, to a point 
some fifty miles to the east of Biskra in the great desert, 
we shall find that the line so drawn, upon leaving the 
coast, will pass through a region of green wooded hills 
well watered by its annual rainfall, upon descending from 
which it will cross the high central plateau of Algeria, 
some three thousand feet above the level of the sea, the 
great grain-producing country of the Romans, near the 
famous ruins of whose once flourishing town of Timgad, 
it will enter another range of hills before finally descending 
to nearly the level of the sea in the Sahara. 

This range of hills, which more or less continuously 
forms the northern boundary of the desert from the 
Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Gabes on the Tunisian 



coast, is divided into various massifs, through the highest 
of which to be found in Algeria our imaginary line will 

The geography of the Aures itself, the Mons Aurasius 
of Roman times, is in a sense a replica in miniature of 
the geography of the country in the same longitude ; thus 
were we to traverse it from north to south we should 
find that its northern slopes are well wooded, its high 
central valleys less extensively so, while in the south its 
few poor streams flow through a tumble of barren hills 
till they lose themselves in the great desert ; in less than 
sixty miles as the crow flies we should have left behind 
us forests of pine and cedar, and, after passing through a 
high country of grey rocks studded with juniper and ilex, 
suggestive of parts of southern Europe, we should find 
ourselves at last in Africa, a desert land in whose deep 
canons oases of date palms extend along the banks of 
its streams. This mountainous massif of the Aures is 
peculiarly well fitted from its geographical position to be 
the home of ancient survivals, for it offers to its inhabi- 
tants magnificent natural facilities for defence against any 
invader who might be tempted to subjugate them. 

Its steep densely wooded northern slopes, above which 
the peaks of Chelia (some seven thousand feet above the 
sea), Mahmel, and Ichemoul gleam white with snow until 
the spring of the year has wellnigh given place to the 
fierce heat of summer, offer but scant hope of success to 
an invader approaching from the level country between 
Batna and Khenchcla, two French settlements on the 
plateau ; the barren rocks which form its southern boun- 
dary, those rocks whose ever-changing shades of pink 
to purple at eventide present to the traveller at Biskra 
one of the most lovely distant panoramas he will find in 
Algeria, constitute a barrier which might well daunt any 


foe who threatened the country from the desert ; to the 
east the great ridge of the Djebel Cherchar, between 
Khanga Sidi Nadji in the south and Khenchela in the 
north, provides a bastion of defence for the central portion 
of the range ; while its western border, roughly speaking 
the valley now followed by the railway from Batna to 
Biskra, though scarcely so well defined as its northern 
and southern limits, is rugged and forbidding enough to 
provide its inhabitants with a magnificent line of defence. 
The history of the country is precisely what a glance at 
its geography would lead us to suppose it to be. Rome, 
doubtless not caring to undertake extensive military 
operations for the complete subjugation of such an 
inhospitable region as the Aures, appears to have been 
content to protect her granaries on the plateau by means 
of a permanent camp — the size of the ruins of this camp 
at Lambese will show us that she did not despise the 
wild tribes of the hills ; the great Arab invader of Africa, 
Sidi Okba ben Nan, who carried the sword of Islam from 
the Red Sea to the Atlantic in the seventh century, was 
defeated and slain by these same tribesmen who, led by 
their chief tainess Kahena, came down to give him battle 
in the desert at the spot to the south-east of Biskra near 
to which now stands his memorial, the oldest mosque 
in Africa ; the Beys of Constantine, in the days of Turkish 
rule, held but little sway over the sturdy mountaineers 
of the Aures. 

Indeed, it would not be too much to say that from 
time immemorial until the French invasion of the massif 
in about 1845 the Aures has never been definitely con- 
quered by the sword, and even quite lately it afforded 
shelter to a couple of bands of outlaws despite repeated 
efforts of considerable bodies of troops to effect their 
capture. What the sword could not accomplish, however, 


religion succeeded in attaining ; the inhabitants of the 
Aures bowed to the faith of Islam, and with the faith they 
gradually acquired many, very many, of the customs of 
the East. 

But to this day these people have retained most of 
their physical characteristics. Members of the ancient 
Berber race, their fair hair, blue eyes, and complexions 
which are pale beneath the tan produced by the great 
heat of the African summer distinguish them at a glance 
from the darker Semitic and negroid types of the desert ; 
while the old Berber language, though no longer written, 
is still spoken by the Shawia tribes, as the Berbers of 
the Aures are called, who have never adopted the Arabic 
of their new faith. 

It was on account of the probability of finding the 
Berber of the Aures as little changed as any of his 
kindred, less so than his Kabyle cousins of the mountains 
near the coast, who have been more progressive in the 
adoption of Western ideas, that my wife and I turned our 
attention to the study of Shawia life in the winter of 
1912-13. Owing to the fact that the Shawia tribes, 
unable, of course, to live upon the barren rocky peaks of 
their native hills, inhabit the six main valleys of the 
massif, the valleys of the Wed (river) Bouzina, Wed Abdi, 
Wed el Abiod with its continuation the Wed Rassira, 
Wed Guechtan, Wed el Arab, and Wed beni Babar, which 
run from the high country in the north of the range 
towards the Sahara, and that these valleys are divided 
by precipitous ridges passable by but few rough tracks, 
I considered that the best means of exploring the Aures 
would be to select a suitable base in the neighbourhood 
of the hills and to take from it a series of short journeys 
of one or two months' duration in each of which we 
could investigate one particular valley, returning after 


each journey to our base to replenish our stores, thus 
avoiding the necessity of encumbering ourselves with 
impedimenta for a stay of a whole winter in the hills, 
which impedimenta implies the use of additional mule 
transport, as well as giving us opportunities to rest after 
the unavoidable discomforts of a stay in remote Shawia 
villages. I found a very suitable base for such expedi- 
tions in El Kantara, the " Foum es Sahara," or " mouth 
of the desert " of the Arabs, Fromentin's " Golden gate 
of the Orient," where, after rounding the eastern spurs of 
the great frowning mountain Metlili, upon which the 
sportsman may try his skill in the quest of Barbary sheep, 
the train, following the course of an oleander bordered 
stream, suddenly plunges into a narrow cleft in a red 
wall of rock, whose precipitous sides tower a thousand 
feet above the brook, and emerges two or three hundred 
yards further on into a wide stony valley, revealing to 
the traveller from the coast at once his first glimpse of 
real desert and of an oasis of date palms, spread like a 
deep green carpet at the foot of the rocky ridge he has 
just left behind him. Far abler pens than mine have 
described the glories of El Kantara and the ever-changing 
hues of its barren rocks, at once the ambition and the 
despair of many an artist, soft in the light of dawn, 
shimmering beneath the noonday sun, or glowing in all 
the fiery splendour of the evening ; I will, therefore, 
content myself with describing the place as a centre 
from which to explore the neighbouring hills and in which 
to commence a study of native life. El Kantara is 
peculiarly suitable as a base owing to the fact that Shawia 
villages can be reached, and thus the traveller's investi- 
gations can be begun, at a shorter distance from the 
railway than is possible from either Batna or Biskra ; 
thus a ride of a short half-day's duration, upon slow- 



moving mules, will enable him to reach Beni Ferah to 
the south-east or Maafa to the north-east, while a shorter 
ride still will take him to a purely Berber hamlet in the 
gorge of Tilatou, from which he can return to El Kantara 
for the night, there being but scant accommodation for 
a European, however modest his requirements, in its tiny 
cottages perched like eagle's nests among the crags. 

In addition to this, the mules necessary for a journey 
into the hills are readily obtainable at El Kantara, and, 
although El Kantara is devoid of any European shops, 
the stores required for such a journey can be ordered 
by telephone from Biskra or Batna and received next 
day by train, while the existence of a post and telegraph 
office opposite to its little hotel ensures constant 
communication with the outside world. 

The European settlement at the Gate of the Orient, 
which lies upon the north side of the ridge, through 
which runs its famous gorge, has little to offer to a seeker 
after the amenities of social life, for it consists merely 
in a wayside railway station, a gendarmerie, an inn, 
a small school for the children from these establishments, 
and a couple of other European households. 

The inn, a survival from the old coaching days before 
the railway to the desert had been commenced, is quite 
the best in which I have stayed in the course of some 
years of wandering in Barbary ; scrupulously clean, 
comfortably if simply furnished, providing a plain but 
excellent table, and personally worked by members of 
the family of Bertrand, to whom it belongs, the Hotel 
Bert rand should certainly satisfy every want of the 
traveller who enjoys its hospitality, and who will remember 
that he is staying at an inn and not at a great modern 
hotel, for the individual who expects to find a Piccadilly 
or a Ritz in a hamlet such as I have described will be 


better advised to confine his wanderings to the great 
highways of European civilization than to seek the nooks 
and corners of Algeria. Once installed at El Kantara the 
traveller who is interested in native life will find much to 
occupy his attention in the three villages that, under the 
control of one native Kai'd or chief, nestle beside the palm 
groves on the southern side of the gorge, for the majority of 
travellers spend but a day or two at the inn, in their haste 
to proceed to Biskra, so that the three villages have not 
become mere " side shows " overrun with European 
visitors, in which much that is native in the life of its 
inhabitants has given place to occupations called into 
being by the requirements of the visitors themselves, 
and the undesirable nondescript who dogs the footsteps 
of the visitor in most fashionable resorts of the near 
east is scarcely to be found in the villages of El Kantara ; 
therefore the sedentary Arab population of an oasis can 
still be profitably studied without even leaving behind 
the accommodation of an inn and the facilities of a railway 
and a postal service. 

After passing through the gorge along the highroad 
which closely follows the track of the railway, and leaving 
on his right the school built in native style by the French 
for the Arab boys of the oasis, the traveller quickly finds 
himself in the main street of the first hamlet of El Kantara, 
known as the " White Village," whose tiny native shops 
which border the road to Biskra on either hand, miniature 
emporiums some twelve feet square, provide the Arabs 
with almost anything they require of European manufac- 
ture, from a length of calico for a woman's dress to a mule's 
bit, or a packet of unwholesome looking sweets. By still 
following this road, after crossing an iron bridge over an 
often waterless river bed, he will in a few hundred yards 
arrive at the " Black Village," a hamlet possessing little 


of interest, beside which a camp of a Senegalese battalion, 
still occupied two and a-half years after the Armistice, 
has been built during the war. 

Beyond the Black Village the road winds on, skirting 
the fringe of the oasis, across a stony level plain between 
the ridge, in which the gorge is the only cleft, and a line 
of low rocky hills to the south-east, round the spurs of 
which it wends its way towards the great Sahara at 

Upon returning to the White Village the traveller will 
find that, in addition to the main road by which he has 
passed, it possesses a veritable maze of narrow tortuous 
lanes between houses built of the same mud and straw 
bricks which occupied the attention of the Children of 
Israel in Egypt some thousands of years ago, whose 
corner-stones not infrequently consist of fragments of 
Roman masonry, of which large quantities are found when 
foundations are dug at El Kantara, and that beyond 
this labyrinth of streets of windowless houses lie the date 
gardens which extend from the village to the high left 
bank of the stream. 

Wandering along lanes, scarcely wide enough in which 
to pass a laden mule, leading through the gardens to 
the river, the traveller whose gaze has so lately contem- 
plated the barren stony desert and rocky hills will 
probably begin to realize why the Prophet of Islam has 
chosen a garden as the idea of heaven to place before 
the desert-weary eyes of his Arabian followers in the 
sacred Suras of his Koran. 

No greater contrast can be imagined than that which 
exists between the panorama of a desert dancing in the 
heat of a still powerful sun and the quiet shade of a 
forest of stately palms, beneath which flourish in fair 
profusion apricots, almonds, and other fruit trees, clothed 


in delicate blossom of white and pink in the springtime, 
or adding a glorious note of gold to the scene as their 
leaves assume an autumn tint, whose presence serves to 
break the otherwise somewhat monotonous beauty of 
the oasis. 

Gardens and a plentiful supply of clear limpid streams ; 
such is the dream of the sun-scorched thirsty soul in the 
desert, and these are precisely the reward which the wise 
old Arabian prophet has promised for ever to the Faithful 
in the life beyond the grave, adding to his picture of the 
land of the hereafter the presence of maidens, to whose 
allure it must be confessed the Arab, and for that matter 
the Shawia also, are far more susceptible than to the 
charms of scene and verse, despite the literary tendencies 
with which some travellers have attempted to endow the 
usually illiterate dwellers in the Sahara ! 

Arrived at the side of the Wed el Kantara the traveller 
will obtain a glimpse of the third hamlet of the oasis, 
called from colour of the surrounding soil the " Red 
Village," standing high upon the bank of the opposite 
shore, amidst its groves of date and fruit trees, commanding 
a fine view of a bend in the watercourse and of the gorge 

Crossing the river by means of stepping-stones, with 
the use of which he can dispense after one of the all too 
frequent periods of drought which afflict this otherwise 
pleasant land, for the water which comes down from the 
mountains has usually nearly all been transferred to 
little irrigation canals to supply the gardens at a point 
well above the Red Village in dry seasons, he can climb 
up a steep path to the village itself, and rinding his way 
along its narrow streets, passing a quaint native cafe" 
as he goes, he will gradually turn northward on a French- 
made road towards the gorge, re-crossing the stream by 


means of an unsightly iron bridge situated a couple of 
hundred yards below the renovated Roman structure 
from which the place takes its Arabic name of El Kantara, 
" the bridge " ; then in a few minutes he will have passed 
northwards through the gorge, in which the wind usually 
blows chill at early morning and at dusk, and will find 
himself back again at his inn. 

In these surroundings my wife and I commenced our 
inquiries into the customs of the Arabs of an oasis with 
a view to comparing them with those of the Berbers of 
the hills. I have always found that the best means of 
becoming well acquainted with the inhabitants of an 
Algerian village is to approach them in the guise of a 
hunter, for the natives entertain a strong fellow-feeling 
for the sportsman, and to frequent their coffee houses ; 
when not undertaking expeditions in search of the Bar- 
bary sheep and two species of gazelle obtainable in the 
district, therefore, we spent much time in the consumption 
of black coffee in the club-like caf£s of the Red and White 

There, in the cafe\ a rectangular building of mud-brick, 
its rafters of palm trunk supported by one or more pillars 
of the same wood or of brickwork, are to be met with 
natives of all classes, nomads from the tents of the sur- 
rounding desert, Shawia Berbers from the hills, as well 
as the male inhabitants of El Kantara, who drop in to 
partake of coffee, their only stimulant, and to pass the 
time of day with their friends in what is, to all intents 
and purposes, their club. 

Squatting upon mats spread upon the ground amid 
clouds of smoke from cigarettes, or from juniper leaves 
smoked in the bone of a goat's leg hollowed to form a 
tube, the coffee-drinkers indulge in such amusements as 
dominoes, a form of draughts, or, sometimes, in defiance 


of the Prophet, for considerable stakes in games played 
with highly-coloured Spanish cards. 

Often music in the form of the reed and tambourine is 
provided in the cafe\ while, rarely, an itinerant bag-piper 
from Tripoli or Morocco delights his audience with sounds 
remotely resembling those of the Highland pipes, whose 
strains, recalling a far-off desert home, have brought 
tears to the eyes of many an Algerian soldier amidst the 
mud and misery of Flanders. 

Very soon we began to make a considerable number 
of acquaintances in El Kantara ; at first among the 
male population only, for women, other than an occasional 
danseuse of shady reputation, are never to be seen in 
an Arab cafe*. The men of the place were eager enough 
to talk of sport, or of the great desert to the far south, 
a country in which I had wandered fairly extensively 
in years gone by, and as the Arab, a dweller in a land of 
great distances, is very inclined to respect those whose 
travels have led them further afield in his barren land 
than have his own, we quickly found that we had inter- 
ested the natives in us sufficiently to receive many 
invitations to visit their gardens, or to watch them plying 
their various crafts. The natives of El Kantara, as a 
rule, are well-to-do, and many of them own plantations 
of date palms in the oasis, but to the casual observer it 
may well appear that very little use is made of the ground 
beneath the trees, though in some instances beans, red 
pepper, pumpkins, etc., are to be found under cultivation 
in the gardens. 

The Arab is, in truth, a poor agriculturist compared 
with the more industrious Berbers of the hills, but a 
certain excuse for his indolence in this respect is to be 
found in the fact that although El Kantara, situated 
some 1,500 feet above sea-level, can be cold enough in 


mid-winter, when the wind blows chill from the snow-clad 
peaks in the north, its rainfall is extremely small, so that 
the waters of its " Living River," even when swollen by 
the melting of the mountain snows, barely suffice for the 
date palms themselves, which, as the Arabs say, require 
to have " their feet in the water, their heads in the fire " 
to produce a satisfactory crop. 

The gardens of El Kantara are at their busiest in the 
autumn, the season of the date harvest. 

At this time some members of each family, accompanied 
by their savage jackal-like watchdogs, always pass the 
night in their plantations to protect the crop from passing 
nomads, whose attentions to the ripening fruit not 
infrequently lead to the use of gun or knife. 

The picking itself is by no means devoid of danger. 

A man, or boy, carrying with him a long cord, climbs 
the tree, using as a ladder the projections in the trunk 
made by constant cutting of the branch-like leaves as the 
tree grows upwards. 

Upon arrival at the leafy summit of the tree, from the 
centre of which hang down great clusters of dates upon 
branches resembling the mid-rib of the leaf, he attaches 
one end of his cord to the tree, allowing the other end to 
fall to the ground. 

He then saws off whole branches of dates with the aid 
of a small serrated sickle, and, calling to an assistant 
below to hold the cord taut at an angle with the tree 
trunk, he places each branch as he cuts it across the cord 
so that it can slide gently to the ground, thus avoiding 
the shock, and the consequent loss of fruit, which would 
result should he drop the branch directly from the tree. 

The date palm, that great wealth of the desert, is by 
no means the only source from which the natives of El 
Kantara derive their prosperity ; they are the owners of 


numerous herds of goats and sheep, which latter, lean 
though they are compared with our English sheep, are 
considered nowadays to approach, if not to exceed, in 
value even the date palm as a possession. Although the 
surrounding country is not so absolutely devoid of the 
poor pasture which serves to keep life in these hardy 
animals as to force the stock-owner of El Kantara to lead 
the nomadic life of the Sahara in order to maintain 
them, it is necessary to take the animals to some distance 
from the oasis to search for food. This the owner is 
far too indolent to undertake himself, he therefore entrusts 
his animals to the care of professional shepherds, often 
mere boys, who, forming herds of as many as two or three 
hundred head from the animals of a number of owners, 
drive them out daily at dawn to feed upon the poor herbage 
of the desert and the lower hills in the winter, leaving 
the more plentiful supply to be found upon the higher 
slopes of Metlili for the summer months, when the great 
heat will render the animals less diligent in their search 
for food, and when the scorching plains would be almost 
unbearable to the shepherd. All day long the shepherds 
move slowly over the country, their animals feeding as 
they go, keeping a watchful eye upon any straggler 
among their charges, for they are responsible for their 
loss, calling them on with strange cough-like cries, and 
rounding up a wanderer by means of a well-directed stone 
often hurled from a sling made of cords of plaited halfa 
grass. Great vigilance is required to protect the flocks, 
especially in the lambing season, from the attacks of 
jackals, which are very numerous in the country round, 
and whose shrill cry often breaks the silence of the night 
around the inn at El Kantara, for these creatures are 
bold enough to carry off a lamb or kid even in broad 


Visits to the cafes and a desire to ingratiate ourselves 
as far as possible with the natives in order to obtain an 
insight into their daily life soon brought to our notice 
an oft-recurring festival both at El Kantara and in the 
hills, namely, a subscription feast on the anniversary of 
the birth or death of some local Moslem saint. All 
mosques in the country are built to the memory of some 
native who, owing to his blameless life or to a reputation 
for performing miracles — frequently to a combination of 
the two — has been deemed worthy of inclusion in the 
endless lists of the Mohammedan " marabouts," and who 
sleeps his last sleep in a tiny chapel in the building, while 
those lesser saints, whose memory has not been perpetu- 
ated by the erection of a mosque, repose each within a 
form of mausoleum, which varies considerably in design 
according to its locality, those at El Kantara and in centres 
such as Batna and Biskra usually consisting of a small 
rectangular building surmounted by a dome or cupola, 
known in Arabic as a " kouba," while in the poorer 
villages of the Aures a mere rectangle of stones, without 
any roof, or a whitewashed conical heap of baked earth 
may serve to mark the last resting-place of a minor 

Some of the more important of these " marabouts," 
whose character we will examine more closely when we 
visit a living example in the hills, are revered throughout 
a wide extent of country, while even a lesser holy man 
possesses long after his death a considerable local following 
of natives who consider him their patron saint, who 
worship in the mosque erected to his memory, or who 
bring candles and incense at certain times to burn in 
his " kouba," or in the recess which is usually provided 
for the purpose in the tomb of even the meanest saint. 
As the anniversary of a marabout draws near a subscrip- 



To face p. '26. 


tion is opened in the village to provide a meal upon the 
day for all his followers in the neighbourhood. 

Each household contributes according to its means ; 
thus a wealthy stock-owner may present one or more 
sheep, a well-to-do shopkeeper a sum of money, a poorer 
person a quantity of barley, while the very poorest will 
contribute something, even if his gift should consist only 
of a little red pepper to flavour the dishes, though 
inability to bring an offering does not debar the destitute 
from the forthcoming feast. 

Upon the day appointed all the male followers of the 
saint repair to his " kouba," or his mosque, accompanied 
by a number of women, whose duty it is to cook food in 
the shape of stews of meat and " kuskus," or steamed 
semolina, in the courtyard of the building, or some adja- 
cent spot, the flat loaves of unleavened bread meantime 
having been placed in the little chapel, heavy with the 
scent of burning incense, beside the raised tomb of the 
holy man, which is decked with gaudy muslins and hung 
round with brightly coloured silken flags, in order that 
some of the " baraka " or holiness of the illustrious dead 
may enter into them, and thus be absorbed by his devotees 
when the food is eaten. The crowd, especially its younger 
element, many of which have been commissioned to carry 
home dishes to their mothers and sisters, who in many 
cases in an Arab community would not attend in person 
at the mosque, not infrequently becomes unruly, so that 
a doorkeeper, armed with a thick stick (which he does 
not hesitate to use) and a fine flow of language, such as 
we should consider singularly inappropriate to a place 
of worship, has no small difficulty in regulating the 
traffic in such a manner that the incoming throng of 
devotees, as hungry for the food as they are for any 
blessing it may contain, does not trample under foot 


those who are attempting to take some of the sacred 
meal home to their relatives. 

The European traveller will experience no difficulty 
in visiting any of the mosques at El Kantara or in the 
hills ; as a rule, however, they possess little or no archi- 
tectural charm, and usually consist of a bare whitewashed 
apartment, its roof supported upon palm-stems or pillars 
of mud brick, a niche in the wall indicating the direction 
of Mecca, to which the Moslem must turn in prayer. 

The minaret, the tower from which the long-drawn 
wailing cry of a mosque official summons the faithful to 
their devotions in all the large Algerian towns, is by no 
means always to be found upon the mosque in the hills, 
and at El Kantara in the majority of mosques, of which 
the oasis possesses several, the muezzin, as the official 
is called, stands upon the flat roof to utter his call in 
the absence of a tower from which to deliver it. 

Mingling daily with the natives in their cafe's, at their 
festivals, or in search of sport, we had not long to wait 
before opportunities presented themselves, in the shape of 
invitations from various friends, of seeing something of 
the life of the Arab women in a desert oasis, opportunities 
which were valuable enough to us as enabling us to com- 
pare their existence with that of their Berber neighbours 
in the hills. 

My wife was the first of us to be allowed to enter the 
house of one of our friends. It is easy enough for 
travellers in a large town to find a " guide " who will 
take them into his house or that of a friend whose ideas 
of the sanctity of home have undergone considerable 
modification as a result of the veneer of western civiliza- 
tion to be found upon many of these gentry, and whose 
female relations have been schooled in a suitable manner 
of receiving European guests, but such opportunities 


were not those that we were seeking ; we wanted to 
become really friendly with a few households so that we 
could gradually proceed to inquiry into matters relating 
to superstitions, etc., which, of all subjects, are best 
known to the women-folk. 

The women of El Kantara, despite the number of 
travellers who annually visit the " Foum es Sahara," 
were by no means so familiar with the appearance and 
costume of European ladies as might be expected, for 
while they are scarcely kept in such prison-like seclusion 
as the women-folk of wealthy town-dwelling Arabs and 
are not veiled as are the rich women of Algiers, they 
rarely leave their homes, especially when in possession of 
their youth and beauty, except for some definite purpose, 
such as bringing in heavy goatskins of water, or washing 
clothes in the stream, when they stamp with rhythmic 
tread upon the soap-sodden cotton dress material placed 
upon a boulder beside the brook, gossiping the while 
with friends similarly employed and usually watched 
over by some relation of their husbands, a toothless hag 
who would not hesitate to make mischief should a young 
wife throw too many inquiring glances at a passing 

Thus the women, especially the younger ones, were by 
no means averse to making the most of an opportunity 
of critically examining a European lady's appearance 
when my wife was taken to call upon them. As a rule 
their curiosity on these occasions did not manifest itself 
until the head of the family, who had brought in the 
visitor, saw fit to withdraw, for nothing will more surely 
damp the enthusiasm and generally cramp the style of 
an Arab woman than the presence of her lord and master, 
but when once the husband's back was turned the atmo- 
sphere became clearer, and my wife, between gulps of milk, 


often sour and always tasting strongly of the goatskin 
in which it had been kept, or mouthfuls of honey and 
dates pressed upon her by her eager hostesses, had to 
reply to a regular bombardment of questions. Why did 
she wear so little jewellery ? Had she more at home ? 
How many children had we ? Why had they not accom- 
panied us to Africa ? Why did she wear such dull garments 
as her skirt of tweed ? Had she made the cloth herself ? 
How much had she paid for everything she had about 
her ? These are but a very few of the inquiries made 
at every native house she visited in Algeria, her replies, 
intended to be intelligent answers to the questions, often 
evoking roars of laughter from the assembled women, 
the fact that she never wore earrings and was unable to 
weave cloth for her skirt being considered remarkably 

Scornful though they doubtless were at my wife's 
ignorance of many of their most ordinary occupations, 
the women of El Kantara never tired of receiving her 
visits, and gradually, often as the bearer of some simple 
remedy from my medicine-chest for a sick child, I too 
gained access to many of the households in which, when 
once I had been introduced by the head of the family, 
I was always welcomed with my wife (though I would 
never visit a house without the chaperonage either of my 
wife or of one of its male occupants) : indeed, I believe 
that in certain families, whose men-folk are often away, 
I am the only male person of any race who has the entree" 
to their homes in their absence. We may, perhaps, 
examine in some detail the dwellings in which the women 
of El Kantara pass the greater number of their days, 
secluded as far as possible from the gaze of their neigh- 
bours, for these dwellings, while similar to those of the 
oases in the great Sahara, will be found to differ very 


considerably from the houses of the Shawfa in the hills. 
Windows in the outer walls of an Arab house are con- 
spicuous by their absence, the temptation they would 
offer to some fair member of the family to see — and be 
seen — by means of them would probably be so strong as 
to cause a gross breach of Mohammedan etiquette ; the 
streets, therefore, present nothing to the eye but a long 
vista of sun-baked mud walls, broken here and there by 
portals, the doors of which are almost invariably closed 
and barred in a manner which might seem to belie the 
reputation for hospitality enjoyed by the followers of 
the Prophet. 

Having reached the entrance to a house which we have 
visited before, we beat upon the door and shout : " Oh, 
Fathma, open the door." At first no notice may be taken 
of our summons, but in a moment or two a voice from 
within will inquire our business, and in response to our 
" It is no one but Simsim and his wife " (for a European 
prefix to a name has no place among the women) the 
door will be opened a little to allow us to slip through, 
yet not exposing the opener to the gaze of passers-by. 
Once inside, and the door closed quickly behind us, we 
find ourselves as a rule in a sort of inner porch or a vesti- 
bule, often provided with a bank at one side to sit upon, 
which communicates directly with a courtyard, occupied 
at night by the animals, or in a large unfurnished room, 
which is used for the same purpose ; the other apart- 
ments, built upon no special plan, a room being added 
here and there as required, open on to the courtyard. 
These apartments are dark and dingy in the extreme, 
for they are lighted only by the open door, their mere 
slits of windows high up in the wall admitting but the 
faintest glimmer from the courtyard, and they boast 
nothing which can be dignified with the name of furniture. 


On one side a hand-loom for the weaving of burnouses 
and the silk and wool hai'ks or shawls, which the women 
of El Kantara make in fair quantities for sale, will usually 
be found rigged up close to the wall ; in a corner, below 
a hole in the roof serving as a chimney, a heap of ashes, 
in the midst of which are three smoke-blackened stones, 
upon which to rest the stew-pot, marks the fireplace, 
and from the roof at hand may often be found suspended 
a hoop of bent sticks to which a piece of network is 
attached, the easily rocked cradle of the Arab child ; 
the bedding of the whole family, consisting of a halfa 
mat and a tellis or two (home-made sacks of goat's hair 
for carrying merchandise on muleback) to lie upon, with 
one or more brightly coloured blankets as covering, lies 
in a tumbled mass upon the mud floor, or upon a platform 
made of date-leaf stems, supported by wooden posts, 
raised between two or three feet from the ground to 
protect the sleepers from scorpions, which, in the summer 
only, are unpleasantly common in the houses as well as 
beneath the stones of the desert, and whose bite not 
infrequently proves fatal to a victim who is not in the 
best of health. 

Near the fireplace a tripod of stakes supports a dripping 
goatskin of water, while a similar skin containing milk 
and suspended in the same way, so as to be easily swayed 
to and fro, forms the churn for making butter, which, to 
the Arab taste, is more palatable in a rancid state after 
weeks, or even months, of storage in a goatskin than 
upon the day in which it is churned. The nooks and 
corners of the family apartment are choked with an 
indescribable medley of objects ; saddles, bridles, sacks 
or huge amphora-shaped wicker baskets of grain, a quern 
or hand-mill for grinding corn (of a twin stone type to 
be found in the Highlands of Scotland), old clothes, heaps 


of juniper logs for fuel, and bundles of dry date leaves 
with which to kindle the fire are but a few of the articles 
to be found strewn upon the floor, while from wooden pegs 
driven anywhere into the crumbling walls are hung the 
cooking utensils, earthern bowls and dishes made by 
the Shawia, or by the housewife herself, tin pots of 
European manufacture, plaited halfa funnels for filling 
the water-skin at the brook, and even in the poorest houses 
one or two china coffee-cups with which to honour a 
guest. In addition to the human members of the house- 
hold, cats of a leanness which must be seen to be believed, 
goats, kids, chickens (and their usual unpleasant asso- 
ciates) wander all over the room. 

Such are the conditions in which live the poorer 
families of El Kantara, or families, which as is not infre- 
quently the case, share a house with their relations. 

More wealthy people will cook and spend the day in 
one large room, retiring to another apartment for the 
night, while their grain, etc., will be kept in a separate 

Many houses have additional rooms on the roof, which 
is reached by means of a palm-stem notched to form a 
ladder, and in these rooms the branches of dates are 
usually suspended to ripen after the harvest and for 

The flat roof itself, surrounded by a parapet, is much 
frequented by the women, the parapet serving the 
purpose of the garden wall of cheap suburbia, a medium 
for scandal and gossip rather than a safeguard to privacy. 
It is not good manners for the male visitor to go 
upon the roof unless specially invited to do so, which he 
will not frequently be, for in so doing he may show 
himself to the curious gaze of the women of neighbouring 
households to which he has not been invited, and thus, 



though his gaucheness will be attributed to his ignorance 
and passed over in silence by his host, he may unwittingly, 
be the cause of some young wife " next door but two " 
receiving a pretty severe talking-to, if not a thrashing, 
from her husband should he hear of her curiosity, a man 
I know having actually broken his sister's arm as a 
result of seeing her peep at strangers over the parapet ! 

We have already seen that the male population of 
El Kantara and, for that matter, all Saharan villages 
pass their days and much of their nights in the cafe, 
returning home merely to eat and sleep ; family life there- 
fore, as we understand it, can hardly be said to exist 
in the villages of an oasis, there being little to attract 
the husband in the dingy surroundings we have attempted 
to describe above, surroundings which, however, are 
considered quite sufficiently comfortable in which to 
imprison that inferior animal — woman. While the Arab 
can be an affectionate husband for a short time to a young 
and pretty bride, and is usually a far too lenient parent 
to his sons, how does he regard the female sex in general ? 

Though it is admittedly impossible for the European 
to comprehend fully the inner workings of the oriental 
mind, we can fathom to some extent the Arab's idea of 
the gentler sex when we remember that in his own tongue 
the native finds it necessary to apologize should he use 
in conversation the name of that, to the Moslem, loath- 
some animal the pig, and that a similar apology should 
always follow the mention of the word " woman," an 
association of ideas which gives us some clue to the state 
of degradation from which the Arab woman, of the 
poorer classes at least, has never been able to rise. 





HAVING become acquainted with the Arab inhabitants 
of a desert oasis, we turned our attention to their 
Berber neighbours of the hills. The first Shawia village 
in which we stayed long enough to undertake any investi- 
gation of the habits of the people was Beni Ferah, some 
twelve miles as the crow flies to the south-east of El 
Kantara. A day or two before our departure from the 
little hotel a native mounted orderly from the adminis- 
trative headquarters of the district joined us in order to 
assist us in procuring the baggage animals necessary for 
the journey and to accompany us in our wanderings 
only in the area over which his administrator held sway, 
for, upon leaving this administrative district, we were to 
be accompanied by another orderly from the headquarters 
of the area we should then enter. 

The French authorities have always been good enough 
to lend me the services of such an orderly during my 
various expeditions in the Aures in response to a request 
from a learned society in England to further the interests 
of my work, and these services have proved invaluable. 
The presence of the orderly, who invariably knows every 
inch of his area, and is personally acquainted with most 


of its inhabitants, does away with the necessity of employ- 
ing a " guide," who is not infrequently nothing but a 
plausible hanger-on from a tourist centre and quite ignorant 
of the country beyond the beat of the ordinary tourist, 
indeed it has always been our rule to employ no servants 
whatever, other than the drivers who accompany our 
pack mules for the days upon which we are actually 
moving from village to village, for the blue burnous with 
its red trimmings of the native orderly, his official uniform, 
is a certain passport to the hospitality of the Kaids, as 
the chiefs are called, or the headmen in the case of small 
villages, who will always place a room at our disposal 
and provide us with food cooked by their wives, so that 
all the " housework " necessary consists in merely 
unrolling our sleeping valises and cooking upon a spirit 
lamp any small additions we may require to the fare 
offered us by our hosts, services which we prefer performing 
ourselves to delegating them to a number of hired and 
often undesirable loafers from a town. Indeed it has 
been my experience that the more the traveller can do 
for himself the more he is respected by the natives, and 
that the people of both the desert and the hills regard 
with a certain contempt one who requires a host of 
servants to look after him, although obviously a number 
of followers are required should it be necessary to camp 
out away from a village. The assistance of a uniformed 
representative of the Government has an excellent effect 
upon the prices asked for mule transport, and for any- 
thing the traveller may require to buy, and, in addition 
to his other uses, he provides a most valuable interpreter, 
for all these " dei'ras " who have accompanied me speak 
the Berber language of the Shawia as well as Arabic, 
indeed those I have employed in the remoter parts of 
the Aures have been Shawfa themselves. 


It may be objected that the presence of a Government 
servant might arouse the suspicions of the people, and 
cause them to be especially reticent with regard to many 
of their customs. 

I have not found this to be the case. The orderlies 
are natives first and officials afterwards ; they are well 
acquainted with what goes on in the villages, but are by 
no means anxious to interfere with the liberties of their 
own people by objecting to various practices which, 
while outside the letter of the law, they would, and 
probably do, indulge in themselves. 

The first deira we employed has accompanied us upon 
several subsequent expeditions. Belkadi ben Hamou 
has grown old in the service of the French. Of a 
kindly, if somewhat fussy, disposition, he took over 
both moral and physical charge of us from the 
moment he first joined us at El Kantara, and to this 
day I am convinced that he regards us as a couple of 
headstrong children, who would be certain to get into 
mischief or hurt ourselves should he allow us for a moment 
to stray beyond the reach of his ever-watchful glance. 

A visit to the Kaid of El Kantara resulted in his promise 
to secure for us the two riding mules we should require, 
as well as the two animals necessary to carry our kit, 
so that early in the morning upon the day appointed for 
our departure the animals duly arrived at the hotel, and 
our rolls of bedding, a couple of suit cases and two wine- 
boxes of provisions were placed in nets of halfa-rope, 
laid across the pads on the mules' backs to receive them, 
or stuffed into home-made goats' hair sacks, called in 
Arabic " tellis," in which grain, etc., is carried in Algeria. 

Our baggage having been loaded up we mounted, 
Belkadi riding his own young horse, and followed our 
pack-mules southward through the gorge. 


Upon passing through the gorge of El Kantara we 
left the Biskra road and turned eastwards across the 
wide stony valley towards the range of low rocky hills, 
which, as we have seen, lies to the south of the oasis, 
up whose steep slopes we slowly wended our way till, 
on arrival at its crest, we enjoyed a magnificent panorama 
of wild snow-capped mountains to the north and, a short 
distance farther on, of the foothills which fringe the 
great desert to the south-west, distant barren ranges of 
whose wonderfully delicate shades of blue, purple, pink, 
and grey nothing save the brush of a great artist can 
convey the slightest impression. 

Crossing a high-lying level country, studded with dwarf 
juniper trees, the glorious panorama of the Sahara and 
its foothills always visible on our right, we reached Beni 
Ferah after a march of about four hours, moving always 
at the walking pace of our baggage mules. 

This journey can be very cold, especially upon the 
slopes of the rocky hills. Indeed, on one occasion in 
February we encountered there a north-easterly gale, 
bringing with it sharp scuds of sleet, which was far more 
suggestive of northern Europe in winter than of the 
fringe of the so-called burning Sahara, but on the occasion 
of our first visit the weather was normal, that is to say, 
sunny and warm, without any approach to unpleasant 

Soon after coming into sight of the village, standing 
upon a rocky knoll, with its gardens spread along the 
course of a stream below it, we passed a few dwellings, 
forming an outlying hamlet, and the ruins of a tower 
which had served as an outwork of defence in the 
troublous times before the French occupation of the 
country, and descending sharply to the bed of the stream, 
which barely damped the fetlocks of our mules, we ascended 


a lane, suggestive of a flight of broad steps, round the 
steep side of the knoll, and so entered the lower portion 
of the village, through the narrow streets of which we 
wended our way until, having passed round the knoll 
upon which it stands, we emerged into the level lower 
ground beyond, and halted at a cafe, beside which a vener- 
able olive tree has afforded shelter from the sun in spring 
and summer to the members of the " djemaa," or village 
council, for many generations gone. At the cafe we 
were received by the Ka'id, a somewhat unprepossessing 
looking individual, whose looks, indeed, did not belie 
him for, a year or two later, finding himself in some doubt 
as to the final issue of the great war, he had safeguarded 
such public funds as were committed to his charge by 
departing with them for some unknown destination, 
whence he has not yet returned, and another now reigns 
in his stead. 

Whatever his real character may have been, however, 
he received us cordially enough, and, after partaking of 
the usual refreshment at the cafe\ he conducted us to a 
room in his own house a couple of hundred yards from 
the village, which he reserved for such visitors as came 
his way — an occasional official touring in the district, 
or the not very welcome gatherer of taxes. 

This room boasted a few articles of European furniture, 
mostly in a state of disrepair, such as a bedstead, a table, 
and a chair or two, so that in a very few minutes we had 
settled down in our new surroundings and were partaking 
of a fairly well cooked meal prepared by the family of 
our host. 

It was apparent the moment that we commenced to 
explore Beni Ferah, or Ain Zatout as the natives call 
the place, that it was no Arab settlement we were 
examining. Its cluster of small houses huddled together 


upon the steep eastern slope of the rocky knoll, from the 
summit of which a little mosque looks down some couple 
of hundred feet sheer to the brook below it to the west, 
were very different from the dwellings at El Kantara, 
for, although some of the newer buildings scattered about 
the lower ground boasted upper stories of mud brick, 
thus displaying a certain Arab influence in their con- 
struction, the older huts on the hill-top were entirely built 
of rough stone in the style which we soon learned to 
associate with a Shawia village, while the merest glance 
at the people around us showed us clearly that we were 
now in the land of Berbers. A very large proportion of 
fair (sometimes golden) hair, blue eyes, and complexions, 
especially in the case of young children, who lack the 
tan produced by years of exposure to the fierce heat of 
the summer sun, often paler than our own, were the 
physical characteristics which at once arrested our atten- 
tion, while their strange Berber tongue, akin to that 
spoken by the Kabyles in the north, bore no resemblance 
to the Arabic of the nomads and of the oases of the 

Another outstanding difference between Beni Ferah 
and an Arab settlement immediately forced itself upon 
our notice. Everywhere, in the streets, on the roofs, 
sitting about outside their houses, coming and going 
without attempt at concealment, were numbers of 
women and girls. 

Although the Berbers have embraced the faith of 
Islam, their women enjoy a freedom quite unknown to 
their Arab neighbours, and we soon found that we should 
not lack opportunities of talking to them and watching 
them at their various occupations, many of which, for 
example, pottery making, arc carried on outside their 
homes in the full view of the passer-by. This pottery 


making is quaint if simple, and constitutes a survival 
of a very early art. 

Nearly every Shawia woman is capable of manufac- 
turing such earthenware utensils as she requires for her 
own home, but at Beni Ferah, where earth can be found 
which is peculiarly suitable to the potter, a large number 
of milk-bowls, stew-pots, large flat dishes, etc., are made 
by the women for sale to the nomads of the desert in 
Biskra market and in the neighbouring oases. 

No tools whatever are used in their manufacture, the 
Berber woman simply fashioning the moistened clay 
with her hands, attaining really remarkable symmetry 
of form in the simple models she adopts, leaving the 
pots when made to dry in the sun. When nearly dry 
she polishes them with a snail-shell, or a smooth round 
pebble, to produce an even surface inside and out, and 
proceeds, in many cases, to decorate them with criss- 
cross or lozenge patterns, each with its own name and 
significance, by means of a reddish earth moistened and 
applied upon a blade of halfa grass doubled back to 
serve as a brush ; and, finally, when the sun has hardened 
the pots, she combines with one or two friends, who have 
each made a number of articles, to bake her pots outside 
the village, where no danger exists of setting fire to 
neighbouring buildings. 

A pile of stones is made upon the ground, the pots 
being carefully laid upon the heap and covered with 
brushwood, old halfa grass sandals, the sweepings of the 
houses, etc., which is then ignited and the fire maintained 
for a couple of hours, after which the heated vessels are 
carefully removed with the aid of sticks, and a coat of 
shellac is applied to the inside of them, and sometimes 
to the outside as well to form a very rough ornamentation, 
while the pots are still too hot to be touched by hand. 


The women displayed no embarrassment whatever 
when we approached to watch them plying the potter's 
trade, and we soon began to make friends among them 
and to learn something of their methods. The Shawfa 
woman has a very shrewd head for business (indeed, I 
would rather bargain with a number of Arab men than 
with one obstinate old Berber woman), as we discovered 
when collecting specimens of pottery at Beni Ferah. 

In 1913 we obtained as many pots and bowls as we 
wanted at prices varying from ten to twenty-five centimes 
each ; in 1919, however, " owing to the war," one franc 
was scornfully refused for exactly similar pots made by 
the same woman from the same earth, for the manufacture 
of which an infinitesimal quantity of shellac was the only 
material that she had purchased, and this despite the 
fact that, should I not buy the pot, there would be no 
one to follow me with a longer purse, or a more gullible 
disposition, with whom a better bargain could be driven. 

War profiteering is an occupation to which the Berber 
women have taken very kindly indeed ! 

The gardens of Beni Ferah, which stretch away to a 
considerable distance along the course of the stream to 
the south-west of the knoll upon which the main part 
of the village stands, differ considerably from those of 
a desert oasis, for while apricots, walnuts, olives, figs, 
quinces, etc., grow in profusion, the comparatively few 
date palms are of an inferior quality owing to the greater 
altitude of the village above the sea and the corresponding 
decrease in the temperature. 

The vegetable plots of Beni Ferah are much more 
neatly kept than those of El Kantara, for the Shawia 
are better gardeners than the Arabs, and are far more 
numerous owing to the greater annual rainfall they 
enjoy, but nevertheless in the spring and summer the 



To face p. 42. 


gardens of Beni Ferah are entirely dependent for their 
water supply upon their stream, often reduced to very 
small proportions in the driest part of the year, the 
resources of which are husbanded with the greatest care. 

The system of irrigation in use at Beni Ferah is that 
which obtains all over the Aures, and, as its study brought 
to our notice a very quaint method of measuring time, 
we may examine it in some detail. At a point situated 
some distance above the gardens the river is tapped by 
means of a barrage, often consisting merely of a line of 
boulders so placed as to deflect a certain amount of the 
stream into a narrow canal, known in Algeria as a 
'* seggia," by means of which it is conducted through, 
or rather beside and slightly above, the land to be culti- 
vated, each garden possessing its own branch channel 
from the main " seggia " by means of which it can be 
flooded in its turn. This simple system of canals must 
be of great antiquity, indeed at El Kantara and in certain 
parts of the Aures " seggias " cut in the solid rock dating 
from the time of the Roman occupation of Algeria are 
in constant use to-day, while disused channels at an 
altitude far higher than any now employed show that 
in ancient times the country enjoyed a greater rainfall 
and, in consequence, more abundant streams, so that a 
considerably larger area in its valleys was kept under 
cultivation than is possible now. 

When a garden is purchased the buyer must acquire, 
also by purchase, the right to a supply of water according 
to its size ; thus an extensive property may require the 
uninterrupted flow of all the water in the canal which 
irrigates it for one whole day in the week, while another 
may only be allowed one or more hours of irrigation 
in the same period. 

The stream is tapped by more than one main " seggia," 


and the flow of water is turned into these in turn. Upon 
the day on which any given " seggia " is to be used the 
owners of the various gardens situated beside it assemble 
and, repairing to a point overlooking the gardens, proceed 
to divide the flow of water between them. 

So precious is the liquid that even a few moments 
more or less in the period of its flow into a garden is of 
considerable importance, the Shawia therefore mistrust 
the employment of modern watches, whose rate can be 
dishonestly adjusted, as a means for measuring the 
time for which each owner is entitled to the flow of the 

Instead, they make use of a system of measuring time 
which must be of very great antiquity, and has probably 
persisted in this land of survivals for countless genera- 
tions in company with other strange customs of the 

A member of the village council accompanies the 
landowners, bringing with him a large earthen bowl, or 
metal pail, of water, and a small copper bowl, the bottom 
of which is perforated with a very minute hole ; at the 
moment when the mud wall of the " seggia " is cut through 
and the water allowed to flow into the first garden the 
councillor carefully places the perforated bowl, the 
property of the village council, and therefore the legal 
measure, upon the water in the pail, watching carefully 
for it to sink, which it will do in about fifteen minutes, 
and refloating it again immediately it does so. Thus 
each landowner is entitled to three, four, six, or eight, 
as the case may be, sinkings of the copper bowl rather 
than to any given number of actual hours or portions of 
an hour, and, as the time approaches when the flow of 
water into a garden is to cease, a neighbour in the little 
group of landowners will shout to an assistant in his 


garden below to be ready upon the instant to cut open 
an inlet into his land in the side of the " seggia " as soon 
as the bowl has sunk for the last time in the series 
allotted to his friend, who at that moment will cry out 
to a man in his garden to stem *he flow of water he has 
been receiving by filling up with mud the hole through 
which it has been running. 

Each landowner being present in person, and the fact 
that the measuring is done by an elder with the official 
bowl, appears to ensure that this quaint old-fashioned 
method of measuring time gives satisfaction to all 

The lack of a sufficiency of water, which has called 
into use the water-clock just described, also tends to 
maintain in existence an old custom connected with 
prayer for rain which may well have existed in Algeria 
for countless ages before the arrival of the Mohammedan 
faith, and which, when once we had observed it, helped 
us considerably towards commencing our investigations 
into the superstitions of the Shav.ia. 

One afternoon, during a prolonged period of drought, 
we heard the shrill piping voices of young children singing 
in the streets, and, eager to ascertain what this might 
mean, we hastened into the village to find a number of 
very young girls parading the streets carrying with them 
a very large wooden ladle, such as is used in every 
Shawia home, carefully dressed up with silk kerchiefs 
and silver brooches, earrings, and pendants to resemble 
a woman's head. At every door the little party paused, 
singing some such words as : " The ladle is playing in 
the street ; Oh, clouds that are on high, allow the rain 
to fall," and asking alms of the inmates, who, in response, 
presented them with dried fruits, semolina, and other 
foodstuffs according to their means. After the whole 


village has been paraded the children take the food to 
a mosque or, in some villages, to a sacred tree and there 
cook and consume it, hoping that the ceremony they 
have gone through will cause the much desired blessing 
of a shower of rain to refresh their parent's sun-baked 

A knowledge of this ancient superstitious rite, com- 
bined with the acquaintanceship of numerous women, 
made while watching them at their potting and other 
crafts, enabled us to push forward to some extent in our 
inquiries into the practice of magic in the mountains, 
for the women are better equipped with magical lore 
than are the men of the Shawia — do we not speak of 
" old wives' fables " in this country even now ? — and 
when once the traveller possesses a knowledge of even 
a very few magical observances he will find it far easier 
to increase that knowledge than it had been to commence 
to acquire it ; for the confidence of the natives in such 
matters is notoriously hard to obtain in the beginning 
of investigations, owing to their dread of exposing them- 
selves to the ridicule of a thoughtless listener. 

The Shawia, as well as his Arab neighbour of the low 
country, is extraordinarily credulous in his faith in the 
old magical observances of his people, observances, such 
as that which we will now describe, which the merest 
child should realize are part and parcel of a system of 
obtaining money under false pretences which flourishes 
like a green bay tree in every community in which 
superstition is still rife. 

In Algeria divorce is obtainable, with or without just 
cause, in the simplest manner possible ; a word before 
the Kadi or representative of Mohammedan law, a small 
payment to the wife if she be innocent of any grounds 
lor a divorce, and the wretehed woman returns to her 


parents, or joins the numerous ranks of professional 
women whose existence is a blot upon the Shawia 
character. The women, therefore, are very ready to 
avail themselves of any means, magical or otherwise, 
which may enable them to retain the affections of their 
husbands when once they show signs of waning ; a class 
of person, therefore, has been called into being to 
provide these means — for a fee. 

An old woman of this class who possesses the requisite 
knowledge of magic, or whose eloquence can persuade 
her dupes that she possesses it, known as a " Sorceress 
of the Moon," proceeds at dead of night to a cemetery 
and there digs up the bones of an old corpse, which she 
burns upon a fire with some incense and magical herbs, 
at the same time invoking the aid of the Almighty in her 
impious task, for the desecration of a grave is regarded with 
the utmost horror by all right-minded Mohammedans. 

She then stains one of her eyelids only with antimony, 
one lip with walnut bark, and one hand and one foot 
with henna. This done the seeker after the philtre, 
upon whose nerves the eerie environment of a cemetery 
by night has by this time begun to tell considerably, 
will be horrified to notice that the moon has left the 
heavens and commenced to descend towards a dish of 
water placed ready to receive it, the sorceress meantime 
rolling in frenzy upon the ground and calling upon the 
moon to hasten in its descent, the ground around trembling 
the while in the convulsions of an earthquake. The 
moon eventually enters the water in the dish, " growling 
like a camel whose load is being placed upon its back," 
to use the words of one of my informants, and producing 
in the water a sort of foam which remains after, in response 
to vigorous invocations on the part of the sorceress 
the moon has returned to its proper place in the firma- 


merit and the earthquake has ceased to disturb the 
calm of the night. 

This foam is carefully skimmed from the water by the 
sorceress, and subsequently dried, when she retails small 
quantities of it at very high prices to a wife who desires 
to mix it secretly with her husband's food in order to 
retain his affections. 

This love philtre is merely one example of quite a 
series of similar observances, many of them of a highly 
disgusting nature, which are practised to this day in the 
Aures and the desert, although so reprehensible are 
they considered by the more reputable of the natives 
that a sorceress who indulges in them would almost 
certainly be killed should she be caught in the nefarious 
act. The poor women who allow themselves to be duped 
in this way, and who firmly believe that the moon does 
descend into the bowl, probably only do so because the 
environment of the cemetery and the mystic antics of 
the sorceress have combined to frighten them literally 
out of their wits, so that they are quite prepared to see 
the moon perform any weird evolution which the old 
hag may tell them it is performing without any regard 
to the possibility or otherwise of evolution itself. 

During our first stay at Beni Ferah we were lodged 
in the house of the Kaid, but upon a later visit to this 
Berber village we stayed in the school which has been 
established for some years at Beni Ferah, and which is 
the residence of the only European in the place, the 
schoolmaster. This gentleman, whose solitary existence 
in the midst of Shawia culture must be trying in the 
extreme, welcomed us most kindly, and, indeed, I fancy 
he is genuinely delighted to receive a European traveller, 
whose presence gives him an opportunity of exchanging 
ideas with a member of civilized society which does not 


often come his way, save during his short periods of 
leave at Constantine or some other large town. 

While staying as the guest of the schoolmaster we sought 
to excuse ourselves from the many invitations to meals 
which the Shawia, by no means less liberal in their hospi- 
tality than the Arabs of the plains, were continually 
pressing upon us, for these meals are somewhat trying 
functions, but our native friends would take no refusal. 
If we could scarcely leave our European host to dine 
with them in their houses, then the meal should be sent 
down to us — but we would kindly remember to return 
the dishes in which it was sent ! Thus we were enter- 
tained, royally enough according to Berber ideas, whether 
we wished it or not, and upon some occasions we were 
obliged to accept offers of hospitality in the village 

Invitations such as these are apt to test the endurance 
of the European to a considerable extent, for not only 
must the guest attack each and every dish placed before 
him, but he must do so with a heartiness quite foreign to 
the dinner tables of civilized society. As every traveller 
in the Aures, if he stays long enough to make acquain- 
tances among the natives, may expect to partake of many 
meals with the Shawia, we may perhaps describe the 
dishes usually placed before a guest by a middle-class 
family in the hills. 

The first course consists of a broth of mutton, goat, 
or chicken, so strongly flavoured with red pepper as to 
be practically uneatable by any one who is not accus- 
tomed to dishes of the very hottest kind ; flat loaves 
of unleavened bread accompany the soup. This will 
often be followed by a stew of meat and dried apricots 
or plums (a dish which, when well prepared, is quite 
palatable), or, in the case of more modest repasts con- 



sisting of two courses only, by the national dish of 
Algeria, meat and " kuskus." 

The " kuskus," which is simply semolina steamed in 
a home-made pottery " double cooker " in vapours arising 
from the meat stewing in a bowl beneath it, is served 
up in a large bowl, fragments of meat garnishing its surface, 
which is placed on the ground before the guests, each of 
whom is provided with a wooden spoon, and sometimes, 
in deference to western ideas, with a plate as well. 

While " kuskus " can be perfectly wholesome, and 
even palatable if cooked simply, it is very frequently 
rendered almost uneatable by the addition of quantities 
of butter that has been stored until rancid in a goatskin, 
in which condition it is beloved of the natives. The 
traveller, therefore, soon learns many an artifice by means 
of which he can convey to his host the impression that 
he is consuming more of the dish than is actually the 
case, for the fullest justice must be done to the meal, 
and every possible sign of repletion should be exhibited 
after it. Dessert, consisting of figs, or of honey and 
walnuts (to be eaten together), with cups of black coffee 
terminate the repast. 

The meal which I have described above is of the kind 
which we were offered daily during our wanderings in 
the hills, but, as we shall find later on, far more elaborate 
banquets are provided by the richer chieftains of the 
Aures and the desert. 

But meals were not the only functions to which we 
were invited at Beni Ferah, for we enjoyed there, during 
a later visit, several opportunities of attending wedding 
ceremonies in the capacity of invited guests, opportunities 
which revealed fewer differences than we had anticipated 
between the weddings of the Arabs of El Kantara and 
those of their Shawfa neighbours in the hills. Let us 


choose for description a wedding scene at Beni Ferah 
as typical of similar ceremonies all over the massif. 

One gloriously sunny afternoon we proceeded, in 
response to a pressing invitation, to an open space amid 
the houses on the hillside, where we found assembled a 
very numerous company of men, women, and children, 
several hundreds at least squatting upon the ground, 
or perched upon any such point of vantage as a ruined 
wall or the flat roofs of the surrounding houses, listening 
to the weird strains of a couple of tom-toms and an oboe 
played with extraordinary vigour by three musicians 
hired for the purpose, stringed instruments being 
unknown in the hills, before whom a professional danseuse 
from the valley of the Wed Abdi moved slowly backwards 
and forwards, moving her feet, hands, and abdominal 
muscles in the singularly ungraceful movements of a 
native dance. 

Many of the people present had merely turned up to 
look on, but those who were guests at the ceremony had 
donned clean garments for the occasion, the women folk 
being especially resplendent in clean cotton dress material 
and glittering with every ounce of locally made silver 
jewellery which they could obtain, their bright silken 
head scarves adding a fine note of colour to the scene, 
which, from its very setting upon the sunlit hillside 
with a panorama of steep juniper-studded slopes and 
towering rocky peaks behind it, was brilliant enough in 
its simple splendour. 

Accommodated with halfa-grass mats upon which to 
sit, we took our places among the crowd, and listening 
to the strains of the " music," the weird tremulous cries 
of the women, and the occasional firing of blank charges 
from muzzle-loading guns, infrequent owing to a difficulty 
in obtaining the powder which the native so dearly loves 


to hear " speak " upon festal occasions of all kinds, we 
awaited the time when the bride should be brought from 
her home, a few hundred yards distant, to the house of 
the bridegroom, before which we were sitting. Some 
considerable time elapsed before any movement was 
made to bring her, the crowd meantime being engrossed 
in the antics of the professional dancer, whose swaying 
form now seemed to endeavour to symbolize the bashful- 
ness of the bride-to-be, and now the voluptuous passion 
of the young wife. 

At every pause in her dance, and often even as she 
moved, male members of the assembled crowd came 
forward and thrust their offerings, in the form of French 
notes, under her turban upon her brow — she must have 
been carrying as much as a hundred francs in this 
manner upon several occasions, although she frequently 
removed the money and concealed it in her garments 
as she danced — while the musicians, too, came in for 
very generous treatment from their audience. The 
crowd during this part of the ceremony was quiet enough, 
the only incident which occurred being a fight between 
two small girls, one of whom was carrying upon her back 
a child, probably her brother, who gravely maintained 
his jockey-like seat until the conflict had been brought 
to a close, amid the tears and, it must be confessed, 
oaths of the combatants by the interference of their 

The bridegroom had meantime attracted much the 
same amount of attention as does the bridegroom at 
an English wedding, but, conscious of his own lack of 
importance, perhaps, he was not even present for more 
than a very few minutes at the dance ! A wedding 
among the Shawia is a ceremony for the bride, and the 
bridegroom is expected to figure in it scarcely at all ; 


indeed, if, while wedding music resounds in a village of 
the Aures, the traveller should encounter a group of 
young men all dressed in their best, wandering from 
cafe to cafe, and appearing to be ignorant of the fact 
that anything unusual is going forward, he may safely 
assume that this is the bridegroom and his particular 
friends, whom custom compels to hold aloof from the 
ceremony. At length, after two or three female members 
of the bridegroom's family had joined in the dancing 
and had been greeted with cries of encouragement from 
the women, but with no pecuniary offerings from the 
men, they being respectable members of the community, 
a move was made to fetch the bride. The musicians 
led the procession, followed by a mule, across whose 
saddle was spread a bright red rug, and behind the mule 
came a number of gaily-dressed women, singing as they 

We moved with the crowd in the wake of this little 
procession. Upon arrival at the cottage of the bride, 
for she came of humble parentage, the musicians, the 
mule, and the crowd came to a halt, only the female 
attendants who had been singing and the professional 
dancer entering the house, my wife accompanying them 
at the request of the bride's relations. 

In the semi-darkness of the little house she found a 
crowd of women and children, who filled the place to 
overflowing ; some of the women singing, some dancing, 
others emitting the strange quivering cry which is their 
note of rejoicing at festivals. In the midst of this turmoil 
the bride, a child of about twelve years old, was being 
bedecked with new garments, the gift of the bridegroom, 
for her journey to her new home. 

The poor child was far too overcome by the atten- 
tions she was receiving to take much notice of the gift 


of a necklet of coral, so dear to the hearts of Shawia 
beauties, which my wife had brought for her, but it was 
duly placed around her neck, to the envy of her friends, 
and at last she was carried out, a blaze of gaily coloured 
silks and muslins, her face hidden by a veil, and placed 
upon the mule, a boy of about three or four years old 
being made to ride upon the saddle in front of her, a 
symbol of the hoped-for sons to come. 

The short procession to the bridegroom's house was 
accompanied by the firing of guns, much singing, and 
loud cries. Upon arrival at her future husband's door 
the bride was lifted from the mule and carried in, breaking 
upon the lintel as she went an egg, that emblem of a 
fertility which alone can ensure her a protracted residence 
in her new home. 

Once inside, the bride is received by female members 
of her husband's family with much noise and dancing, 
but the bridegroom himself only returns home late in 
the evening, entering his house as unobtrusively as if 
merely coming in from some everyday excursion or task. 
What, may we ask ourselves, are the thoughts of the 
bride as she enters thus upon her married life ? 

Surely, if the poor child is not too overwhelmed by 
the noise around her to think of the future at all, they 
must be some such thoughts as these : " How long before, 
unwanted though unoffending, I shall pass out in ignominy 
from the house in which I am acclaimed to-day ? " 








AT the conclusion of our first visit to Beni Ferah 
we moved on over the hills to the oasis of Djemora, 
which lies at the foot of the Aures massif, some six miles 
in a direct line to the south, our object being to compare 
some of the customs we had noted among the Shawia 
with similar ones obtaining among the nomad Arab 
inhabitants of the plains around Djemora. 

The journey over the hills, along a track difficult enough 
for loaded mules in 1913 but now considerably improved, 
afforded us many fine views of mountain and desert, 
of which perhaps the most remarkable was the panorama 
of the large oasis of Djemora, with its thousands of palms 
on either side of a broad river-bed, down which flows 
such of the waters of the Wed Abdi as are not absorbed 
by " seggia " irrigation higher up its valley ; the valley 
itself, bounded on either hand by rugged barren hills, 
being exceptionally beautiful, for as the fiery desert 
sun sinks in the west its parting rays illumine the hills 
till they glow in brilliant shades of pink and red, fading 



in a few minutes to purple as the mists of evening fall 
upon the land. 

The oasis of Djemora is the headquarters of the Ouled 
Ziane nomad Arabs, who wander with their flocks of 
sheep and goats over the desert to the south-west of 
the Aures in the winter, and on the plateau to the north 
of the massif in the great heat of the summer, when the 
plains cannot provide even the scanty pasture required 
by these hardy animals ; that is to say, these nomads 
own the gardens at Djemora, from which they obtain 
their yearly supply of dates, but, camping out with their 
flocks, they are seldom to be seen in any numbers in the 
hamlets of the oasis, save in the autumn, when they come 
in to pick the date harvest. 

Concerning the early history of the tribe we heard a 
quaint legend. Somewhere in the fifteenth or sixteenth 
century, when the Ouled Ziane inhabited a part of 
Morocco, a small party of men were sent out to bring in 
a bride from a neighbouring tribe. On their way home 
with her they encountered a demon, or, as it is called in 
Arabic, a " jinn," whose particular form of malevolence 
consisted in eloping with brides, and who promptly 
flew away with the lady. Her escort, ashamed to return 
home without their charge, turned their steps eastward, 
and, after much wandering about in an effort to earn a 
living as professional herdsmen, they finally married and 
settled in eastern Algeria and founded that portion of 
the Ouled Ziane tribe which, in course of time, became 
masters of the country round Djemora, after much 
fighting with the Shawfa Berbers of the Wed Abdi, who, 
not without reason, resented the arrival of strange nomad 
neighbours whose presence would probably be a constant 
menace to the security of their own homes and crops. 
This legend we learned from the old Kaid of Djemora, 

P y. •- 

i *< •. . 









Basha Bashir, our host in the oasis, who, as he became 
better acquainted with us during successive visits, 
delighted to spend his evenings in regaling us with stories 
of the past. 

Many of these referred to members of his own family, 
for he came of ancient stock, and to their doings in the 
brave days of old, when raid and counter-raid between 
Arab and Shawia were unchecked by any foreign 

Upon one occasion, in years gone by, both the nomads 
and the Berbers became tired of their never-ending feuds 
and decided to settle a boundary dispute by means of 
a shooting-match instead of by force of arms in actual 

Eight champions were selected by either side, a mark 
was set up upon a stone, and the marksmen loaded their 
long-barrelled flint-lock muskets, which are to be found 
to-day with their woodwork elaborately inlaid with 
silver in every out-of-the-way village of the desert and 
the hills. The Shawia team fired first ; not a man hit 
the mark. The Arabs followed, resting their muskets 
upon boulders and using every aid to steady shooting 
that they could think of. Their first seven marksmen 
failed as miserably as their opponents. Then came the 
turn of their last champion, the grandfather of old Basha 
Bashir. Scorning anything in the nature of a rifle-rest, 
he called for his favourite mare, and climbing into the 
saddle with the usual muttered " Bismillah," without 
which invocation of the Deity no pious Arab mounts 
his horse, he retired to a considerable distance behind 
the firing-point and spurred his mare towards the target 
as hard as her flying hoofs could carry her. Before 
reaching the firing-point he rose in his stirrups and, 
without checking his mount in her mad career, fired over 


her head. Fair and square he hit the mark, and the 
decision in the boundary dispute went to the Ouled 
Ziane ! 

It is perfectly true that certain Arabs of the plains do 
display remarkable skill in shooting from the saddle when 
going at speed — I have seen it among the Haouamed 
near Bou Saada, and described it in a previous work — 
and it is also true that as marksmen in the ordinary sense 
of the word they perform extremely badly. It is possible, 
therefore, that a substratum of truth underlies the tale 
of the exploit of Basha's grandfather, an exploit which 
has doubtless lost none of its glamour in the lapse of 

Whenever we visited Djemora before the war we stayed 
as the guests of the old Kaid, in the four-roomed house 
of mud-brick which he had erected opposite to his own 
residence for the use of passing officials, our meals being 
sent in to us by his wives. Basha Bashir himself is a 
typical Arab gentleman of the old school, a school which 
does not speak French, nor visit the Casino at Biskra, 
nor indulge in any of the pleasures of civilization which 
are daily finding more and more favour among the 
younger generation of wealthy chiefs. 

Seventy years of age, he sits his horse like a boy of 
twenty, a fact that is doubtless attributable to the 
simple, almost Spartan, life he leads, seldom leaving his 
oasis, and never indulging in the late hours and gaiety 
of Biskra. As hospitable as the traditional Arab is sup- 
posed to be, he is deservedly popular with those few 
Europeans who have made his acquaintance, while the 
fact that he comes of ancient lineage, and that he possesses 
sound judgment combined with force of character, have 
long since gained him, to a very remarkable extent, the 
respect and affection of his tribe. 


Living comfortably enough in the Kaid's house, the 
interior of which is grotesquely ornamented with life- 
size wall paintings of French and native officers covered 
with decorations, and with some very realistic, if crude, 
hunting scenes, the work of an Arab from a town, we 
spent our time exploring the oasis of Djemora. 

Like so many oases of the desert, its little mud-brick 
huts are built in scattered clusters rather than in one 
large village, a fact that rather adds to the beauty of 
the place, which, as I have pointed out, is as remarkable 
as that of any oasis to be found on the edge of the desert, 
and is enhanced by the glimpse of snow-capped hills 
visible far up the Abdi valley. But the curse of Djemora 
is its dirt. 

Despite the existence of a plentiful warm spring in 
the oasis (which is used to a considerable extent for 
washing garments), the natives of Djemora appear never 
to bathe their persons. We had ample opportunity of 
observing this fact, for, in our endeavour to ingratiate 
ourselves with the people, and also to lead up to an 
inquiry into native medicine and surgery which will be 
described in due course, we always placed the contents 
of our travelling medicine-chest at the disposal of the 
sick and injured, patients often coming from miles round 
to make use of it. In an enormous number of cases the 
malady seemed to have been caused, or at least much 
aggravated, by dirt. Upon one occasion, when my 
wife suggested that a child suffering from a skin disease 
should be washed before we attempted to treat it, its 
mother exclaimed : " What ! With water ? " roared 
with laughter and departed, taking the filthy infant with 
her, never to expose it to the risk of a washing by 
bringing it to us again ! 
There seems to be a certain reason for the personal 


dirtiness of the Ouled Ziane. As we have seen, although 
a few members of the tribe inhabit the comparatively 
well- watered oasis of Djemora, the people are really 
nomads, who for generations have wandered in wastes 
where water in sufficient quantities for drinking and 
cooking is so hard to obtain that none can be spared for 
washing, so that the Ouled Ziane have never acquired 
the habits of personal cleanliness which to most peoples, 
even the savagest, are as a second nature. 

We found a considerable similarity between the customs 
and beliefs of the Ouled Ziane and those of the Shawia 
of Beni Ferah and other villages of the Aures, doubtless 
owing to the fact that the nomads frequently choose 
their wives among the pretty daughters of their fair- 
haired neighbours ; but a comparison of them would 
be out of place in any but strictly technical work, and 
the few arts and crafts observed at Djemora were identical 
with those noted in the Shawia settlements of the hills. 

One art, however, we found to be specially well 
developed by one individual at Djemora, and that was 
the manufacture of carpets. The individual in question, 
with the assistance of his wife, has earned quite an 
extensive reputation throughout a large portion of the 
Aures massif as a maker of those woollen rugs upon which 
wealthy natives delight to offer an honoured guest a seat, 
and which arc so much sought after, and often dearly 
bought, by tourists in the towns. 

The wealthy native does not visit the carpet-maker's 
house and choose his rug from a pile placed ready for his 
inspection, for the maker holds no stock of his wares. 
Instead, the rich man invites the maker and his wife 
to his house or tent, provides them with accommodation, 
states how much wool he himself has available for weaving 
the rug, and inquires what dyes he must provide. These 


dyes were formerly all of native preparation (madder, 
which grows locally, was used for red), but now, unfortu- 
nately, cheap imported dyes are very rapidly taking the 
place of the home-prepared article, with consequent 
deterioration in the quality of the rugs produced. 

The necessary wool and dyes having been provided 
by the prospective owner of the rug, a price is arranged 
for the labour (and a high one it sometimes is), and the 
carpet-maker insists upon his patron killing a lamb or 
a kid in order to celebrate with a feast the commence- 
ment of the work. The carpet is actually woven by the 
wife upon the very simple vertical handloom to be found 
in every tent or Berber home for the manufacture of 
burnouses. The woman sits upon the side of the rug 
which, when finished, will be upon the ground, while her 
husband, squatting upon the other side, the " right side 
up," of the loom, directs with a stick the insertion of the 
little strands of coloured wool which form the pile, care- 
fully controlling the number of strands of each colour 
used in order to preserve the accuracy of the design he 
is thus causing to be worked in. Enjoying the hospitality 
of their patron, the carpet-makers not unnaturally spend 
some time upon their task, and, when it is completed, 
they usually demand a further celebration in the form 
of a roasted lamb. 

Thus it will be seen that well-made rugs are not 
obtained too cheaply even by the natives themselves, 
but it is none the less true that no native pays anything 
like such prices as I have heard asked for old and dirty 
mats by persons who live, and live very handsomely, 
upon those people who will not try to ascertain the 
current prices of things in a country which they are 
visiting for the first time. 

During our last visit to Djemora, though we frequently 


enjoyed the hospitality of old Basha Bashir, we stayed 
at a " rest-house," or bordj, which the French authorities 
have recently erected there, as well as at various points 
upon projected roads through the Aures, and which offer 
a greater degree of comfort to the traveller than he can 
expect in the home of any but the very wealthiest chiefs. 
These bordj s, where they exist, are I believe all built 
upon the same plan, though my travels in the central 
valleys of the Aures in 1914 were accomplished before 
their completion there. That at Djemora, and also at 
Menaa, consists of a courtyard, containing a shelter for 
the wanderer's beasts, from which courtyard lead off 
some half-dozen bedrooms, all furnished with European 
beds, sheets, and blankets, washstands, mirrors, and 
chairs, and a dining-room and sitting-room, both supplied 
with the necessary tables and comfortable chairs, as 
well as a kitchen containing French cooking utensils, 
tableware and glass, and a room for the Arab caretaker 
of the bordj. 

The caretakers are men chosen for their reliability 
and for a knowledge of simple European cooking, so 
that the traveller upon arriving at one of these rest-houses 
can rely upon obtaining accommodation more comfortable 
than he could find in a most elaborate camp, and also 
meals as eatable as those to be had in many an 
up-country inn. 

Indeed, I have the greatest reason for gratitude to 
the French for having constructed the bordj at Djemora, 
for, on the occasion of our last visit to the village, my 
wife contracted a severe attack of Spanish influenza, 
which might easily have ended fatally in any of the bare 
stone huts we are compelled to occupy for want of better 
accommodation in the remote Shawfa hamlets of the 


Influenza has wrought terrible havoc at Djemora, for 
its poor ill-nourished inhabitants seem to be able to 
offer little resistance to the scourge, so that the cemetery, 
which lies between the Raid's house and the largest 
hamlet in the oasis, very greatly increased in size when 
the complaint made its great attack upon the Ouled 

When we left Djemora in 1913 to resume our investi- 
gations among the Shawia, we moved on up the valley 
of its stream to Menaa, some miles to the north-east, thus 
following the line which the projected road from the 
Biskra-El Kantara highway to the upper part of the 
valley of the Wad Abdi will presumably take when com- 
pleted, and which, I venture to predict, will become a 
first favourite among excursions for those whose travels 
are confined to the metalled road and the luxury of a car. 

The valley between the barren hills, which is wide 
enough where it shelters the oasis of Djemora, narrows 
to something resembling a gorge at the picturesque 
little village of Beni Suig, some half an hour's ride higher 
up, where the sheer red cliffs and the deep green of the 
date gardens form a wonderful picture in the brilliant 
sunlight. High up on the face of these cliffs, long since 
rendered inaccessible to man by the crumbling of the 
rocks, are to be seen the walled-up entrances to caves, 
which were used as dwellings long ago in the days of 
border warfare, indeed, cave dwellings, as we shall find 
in other parts of the massif, are by no means rare even 
to-day in the fastnesses of the Aures, and constitute 
one of those survivals from ancient times which have 
seemed to me so interesting in my wanderings in the 
hills, and of which the life of the Shawia affords so many 
striking examples. 

Above Beni Suig, indeed before Beni Suig is reached, 


the traveller is often compelled to ride in the bed of the 
stream, among the loose boulders of which his mule will 
pick his way with remarkable cleverness, carefully feeling 
for a hold before putting its weight upon a foot, the water 
rushing around its knees the while. 

The only danger the traveller by mule is at all likely 
to run, always provided he can keep his head and sit 
quietly upon his animal while it conveys him along some 
very dizzy overhanging paths, is to be found while riding 
in the beds of streams, which are sometimes liable to 
increase, in an incredibly short space of time, from the 
shallowest of brooks, scarcely damping the mule's fetlocks, 
to the proportion of foaming torrents, sweeping before 
them man and beast who are unlucky enough to be 
caught by them in their wild rush after much rain has 
fallen in the higher country ; but the local natives who 
accompany the traveller can be trusted to see to it that 
serious risks of this kind are avoided. As the traveller 
approaches Menaa, having passed a beautiful little oasis 
of date palms at Amentane on the way, he will enter 
a basin formed by the junction of the Wad Abdi, flowing 
from the north-east, and the Bouzina River, quite a 
considerable stream, which, rising near the village from 
which it takes its name at the foot of the great grey 
rocky walls of the Mahmel mountain, enters the Abdi 
valley through a narrow gorge from the north. 

After passing a cemetery in which the tombs of holy 
men are surmounted by columns of whitewashed mud, 
bearing a striking resemblance to burnoused human forms 
of exceptional stature when dimly seen in the twilight, 
and which might reasonably fill with awe a lonely super- 
stitious stranger arriving late in the evening, the traveller 
will find that, in the few short miles of marching which 
have brought him from Djemora, he appears to have 


left North Africa behind him and reached some mountain 
country of Southern Europe. 

At Djemora he had been staying in a Saharan oasis 
of date palms, beneath red hills as barren as the desert 
below them ; at Menaa he finds himself in a fertile valley 
studded with peach, apricot, walnut, pear, fig, and 
numerous other fruit trees, into which scattered palms, 
to be numbered in tens rather than in tens of thousands, 
appear to have wandered by mistake. The neat fields 
of corn and beans and vegetables which he will see around 
him, too, will at once show him that he has left behind 
him the land of Arab neglect of the soil, and has returned 
to the home of the fair-haired Shawia husbandmen he 
had first met at Beni Ferah, while the hills which dominate 
the valley, far from being barren like those he has left 
at Djemora, are so thickly studded with small juniper 
and ilex trees as to present on some of their slopes the 
appearance of a mountain forest. Menaa can easily be 
reached by a bridle path, ending in a long and very steep 
descent, from Beni Ferah, but as we have seen, the latter 
village, despite its few hundreds of date palms, much 
more closely resembles a settlement of the higher Aures 
than a desert oasis, so that the traveller who approaches 
Menaa from it, though he will ride through some extremely 
picturesque valleys, will miss the apparent sudden change 
from Africa to Europe which will strike him at the end 
of his journey from Djemora. 

The village of Menaa itself, now the terminus of a road 
from Lambese and Batna in the north which gives access 
to wheeled traffic to the heart of the western Aur&s, 
stands upon a rocky mound at the south-western end of 
the basin formed by the confluence of the Abdi and 
Bouzina streams. 

Upon the occasion of our first visit to " the Capital of 


the Aures," as the place is proudly named by its inhabit- 
ants, we stayed as guests with the Kai'd, a young and 
most capable chief who speaks perfect French and to 
whose energy Menaa largely owes the prosperity and 
the progress which we were able to note when we 
revisited the village seven years later. 

The Kai'd, who lodged us in a couple of furnished rooms 
and treated us royally during our stay, took a keen 
interest in our work, and furnished us with many details 
of the history and customs of his people. 

Some centuries ago the people now inhabiting Menaa 
had been driven from their former village higher up in 
the hills, and were searching for a suitable site upon which 
to erect a new settlement. While undecided which site 
to choose they met, near the confluence of the two streams 
alluded to above, a holy man riding up from Djemora 
upon an ass, and they decided to seek his advice. Dis- 
mounting the stranger said : " Follow my she-ass, and 
where she rolls there build your village." 

The ass roamed around the valley and, ascending the 
rocky mound upon which the village now stands, she lay 
down and rolled. " Here build your village," said the 
saint, " and call it your Menaa (saviour), for its situation 
will save you from attacks to come." Thus Menaa was 
founded, and to this day, in token of their gratitude to 
the holy man who chose for them so good a site, the 
people of Menaa pay a nominal tribute of garden produce 
every year to his descendants, who dwell in the plains 
near Barika to the west. The chief was careful to show 
us all the advantages of Menaa. Owing to its plentiful 
supply of running water the crops produced in the limited 
area of the basin are abundant and of excellent quality, 
but the busy Shawfa farmers do not neglect to make 
use of arty patch of soil which can be tilled upon the 


mountains themselves, so that neat rows of small fields 
can be seen high up among the hills, far beyond the 
reach of any possible " seggia " irrigation, which rely 
for their water supply upon the showers attracted by 
the bush-studded ridges, many of which showers do not 
reach the valley below. 

The houses of the village, huddled together upon the 
rocky mound surmounted by the minaret of a mosque, 
though mostly built of stone after the manner of all 
true Berber dwellings in the Aures, are in many cases 
too well built, or, in the case of the north face of 
the village, too neatly aligned to be worthy of close 
examination by any one desirous of seeing a really 
typical Shawia settlement ; indeed, Menaa may more 
reasonably be studied as an example of what such a settle- 
ment can become, if its people would only develop it 
upon its own lines, than as a specimen of a Berber village 
of the Aures. 

Thus the northern face of the village, overlooking 
the depression which now contains the terminus of the 
road, is so neatly constructed as to suggest some 
European influence in its erection, and to give a tinge 
of reason (very slight it must be confessed) to the boastful 
title of " The little Constantine " which some Shawia 
admirers of Menaa have bestowed upon the place, com- 
paring it to the capital city of the eastern department 
of Algeria. 

The northern face of the village contains the somewhat 
elaborate two-storeyed house of the Kaid, a mosque, 
a bath-house (the property of the chief), a couple of caf£s, 
and some shops of the " universal provider " description, 
such as are not to be found in remoter hamlets. 

His lands, his shops, and his bath-house are not the 
only sources from which our host, the Kaid of Menaa, 


derives his income, for he is the owner of one of those 
corn-mills which constitute a striking example of the 
survival of primitive machinery in most parts of the 
Aures, as well as at El Kantara, and other oases which 
can boast of the possession of a stream. 

The upper of two horizontal grindstones, chipped by 
hand by the natives of Beni Ferah, is caused to rotate 
upon the fixed lower stone by means of a horizontal 
water-wheel below it, with which it is connected by a 
vertical shaft, the water being directed from a " seggia " 
to the wheel, or turbine, by means of a movable trough 
when the mill is required to act. 

A piece of wood resting upon the revolving stone is 
connected with a movable spout from the cone-shaped 
box in which the corn is placed so that the rotary move- 
ment of the stone causes the spout to oscillate and the 
grain to fall little by little between the stones. This 
simple turbine mill, the design of which must be of very 
great antiquity, is capable of producing some really 
excellent flour, and seems likely to persist for many 
generations to come among so conservative a people as 
the Shawfa. 

Menaa, besides being one of the most important 
agricultural centres of the poor valleys of the Aures 
massif, is also important as a centre of commerce for, 
in addition to possessing a fair number of native shops, 
it manufactures most, if not all, of the leather goods of 
the Abdi and Bouzina valleys ; natives from these regions 
being compelled to purchase their shoes from the only 
cobblers available, those of the industrious " Capital of 
the Aures." These slippers, made of goatskin, dyed 
yellow for male customers and red with yellow toe-caps 
for the ladies, are well and strongly sewn, and will be 
found useful to Europeans as camp and bedroom shoes 


when once their rather rounded soles have been trodden 
flat by actual wear (I am wearing a similar pair bought 
at Bou Saada fifteen years ago as I write), but they afford 
an example as glaring as that of the Beni Ferah pottery 
of the artificial prices now ruling even in out-of-the-way 
districts of the hills ; in 1914 they cost three francs in 
silver per pair ; in 1920 the Shawia were paying a twenty- 
franc note for them ! 

This increase in price, however, affects the more wealthy 
natives only, for the vast majority of Shawia are content 
to clamber up and down their precipitous hillsides shod 
with nothing more elaborate than sandals of plaited 
halfa grass, which cost them nothing, for the material 
grows upon the hills and even young children are capable 
of making their footgear for themselves. 

Upon the occasion of our last visit to Menaa we found 
that not only had the road which we had seen in course 
of construction higher up the Abdi valley been continued 
to the village, but also that a bordj, exactly similar to 
that of Djemora, had been erected two or three hundred 
yards to the north of the rocky mound on which the 
village stands. We therefore stayed at the bordj, and 
found its guardian, Belkassem, to be an excellent cook 
as well as a very intelligent person, able and very willing 
to help us forward in our work. 

This bordj should prove extremely useful to the 
motorist who would see the Shawia in their own land 
by following the road from Lambese down the Abdi 
valley and spending a few days at Menaa, choosing as 
the time for his visit the spring of the year, when all the 
fruit trees are abloom and the snow has left the higher 
passes over which the road must run, and bringing with 
him a few simple stores from a civilized town, to give 
Belkassem a chance to show what he can really do with 


a few European dainties to add to the local produce 
which he contrived to make palatable enough for us. 

When we reached the bordj which very rarely receives 
even an official visitor, we found that its courtyard was 
largely used as a place of gossip by women and girls 
from the scattered houses round, cronies of Yamina, 
Belkassem's wife, who would bring their distaffs and 
spindles, or bundles of wool for skeining, and, squatting 
on the sunny side of the yard, indulge to their heart's 
delight in picking to pieces other people's husbands, 
whispering over the latest village scandal, or discussing 
clothes with as much interest and animation as their 
more civilized sisters are sometimes suspected of doing 
at tea-parties in an English village. Upon our arrival 
these daily reunions came to an end, but after a day 
or two the Shawia women, who, as we have seen, are 
far freer than their Arab neighbours, finding that my 
wife was anxious to make friends with them and that 
I was harmless, began to resume their habit of visiting 
the bordj, so that in a very short time we came to 
be upon excellent terms with them, and my wife was 
enabled to prosecute her inquiries into many of their 
simple arts and crafts, while as their confidence in me 
increased I managed to secure quite a collection of 
drawings of tattoo marks and notes upon superstitions, 
etc., to add to the information I was gleaning upon Shawia 
life in the Aures. 

It is very certain that, comparatively free as the 
Shawia women are, the European bachelor can hope to 
learn little or nothing of them and of their lives, but in 
the presence of an Englishwoman their curiosity to examine 
her and her garments will lead them to converse freely 
with the male traveller, when once he has to some extent 
gained their confidence. 


Very many primitive customs, such as must be studied 
by any one engaged in examining the daily life of a 
native race, are known only to the women, indeed I 
think that the general success or failure of our work in 
any Algerian village may be said to correspond to the 
degree in which we were able to associate with its female 
population, and that I have been able to see anything of 
their lives, study their weaving and spinning, glean 
details of their superstitions and sorcery, and be welcomed 
as a guest in their homes is due solely to the presence 
of my wife. 

We spent a good deal of our time, therefore, during 
our last visit to Menaa in our home at the bordj, 
receiving relays of visitors of both sexes and gradually 
adding to our notes, but we wandered a good deal about 
the village and, this time, made the acquaintance of a 
powerful marabout who occupies a fairly extensive 
" zawia " a few hundred yards to the north-east of the 
village itself. A " zawia " may be described as the home 
of a saintly or maraboutic family and its retainers, in 
which facilities are offered, in the way of books and 
accommodation, for the study of Mohammedan doc- 
trines, and in which followers of the marabout, who is 
at the head of the establishment, or indeed any passing 
Moslems, are housed and entertained should they pause 
for a night or two upon a journey. Although certain 
maraboutic families are wealthy enough to maintain 
such establishments without appealing to their followers 
for gifts, the majority of the saints do receive substantial 
sums or gifts in kind from those who reverence them, 
and thus they are able to offer the hospitality to all and 
sundry which I have mentioned. I do not know of a 
word in the English language which is exactly the 
equivalent of the Arabic " zawia " ; it is neither a feudal 


castle, a small university, nor a monastery, and yet it 
embodies some of the characteristics of all three. In 
these pages, therefore, when describing other zawias 
which we visited in the Aures, I shall employ the Arabic 
word without attempting a translation. We became 
rather friendly with the saint of Menaa ; I think the 
soreness of a holy toe and a tube of carbolated vaseline 
combined to cement the friendship, and in so doing we 
made the acquaintance of one of his relations, a middle- 
aged man, who, though at times perfectly rational and, 
I believe, of a very genial disposition, also experienced 
periods of imbecility, one of which he was undergoing 
at the time we met him. 

His imbecility fortunately never led him to any acts 
of violence, indeed it seemed rather to increase his natural 
geniality, and it made the poor fellow an unmitigated 
nuisance to us, for he was so anxious to ensure that we 
had everything we could want that he insisted upon 
pursuing us whenever he found an opportunity, and he 
was rather encouraged in his attentions by our super- 
stitious old orderly, who firmly believed that the 
companionship of this poor mad scion of a saintly house 
would lead to his receiving a little of the blessing which 
the lunatic was supposed to give off in his touch and 
conversation, if the unfortunate fellow's gibberish can 
be so termed. All feeble-minded persons are regarded 
as uncanny, if not exactly holy, in Algeria ; a mad 
hereditary saint, therefore, is looked upon as very much 
to be respected indeed. 

Although I made as many inquiries as I could 
into the arts and crafts of the inhabitants of Menaa, 
I found that I obtained my most valuable notes on 
these subjects in more remote hamlets in which im- 
ported implements were less likely to be found, the arts, 


therefore, being more strictly native in character ; but 
at Menaa I found the manufacture of silver ornaments 
to be carried on more extensively perhaps than in any 
other Shawia village, and, as these ornaments are some- 
what striking in character, are made by means of most 
primitive appliances, and in some cases possess a magical 
value, I will give some description of them in the 
next chapter. 





BEFORE proceeding to describe in any detail the 
barbaric silver ornaments of the Aures which are 
to be found, perhaps, in greater profusion and variety 
at Menaa and in the Wed Abdi than in other parts of 
the massif, it may be well to give my readers some 
idea of the costumes of the women, alike in all Shawia 
villages, upon which they are displayed, and for this 
purpose I must call in the assistance of my wife, not only 
because she has made the garments worn herself under 
the direction of Shawia friends, and has often been 
dressed in them to ascertain exactly the native method 
of putting them on, but also because my masculine pen 
is quite unequal to the task of describing accurately the 
costume of any lady other, perhaps, than some I have 
met with years ago in the equatorial forests of Central 

The universal costume of the Shawia woman consists 
of two garments. The first, worn next to the body, is 
a straight " gandoura," or shirt, of stout cotton material 
cut round in the neck, opening a short way at the throat 



to allow it to be passed over the head, and fastened with 
a button. 

The " gandoura " falls from the shoulders to the 
knees, and is usually of white material with short sleeves 
of " flowered " cotton, but often, in the case of a rich 
woman who may wish to appear more elaborately attired 
at fetes, weddings, etc., short sleeves of net or some 
bright coloured material are attached to the " gandoura." 
Over the shirt the second garment or dress, if a straight 
piece of material can be dignified with the name, is worn. 
This dress consists of two lengths, of from six to ten yards 
each, of French cotton, black or dark blue edged with 
coloured braid being the most usually worn at Menaa, 
and these two lengths are stitched together along one 
side to increase the width. 

One end of the material is draped over the back, a 
short piece being left to form the right sleeve, and is then 
brought full under the left arm, forming the left sleeve, 
and folded double over the breast so that the braided 
upper edge falls to the waist. This fold over the breast 
is caught by silver brooches on each side to the material 
on the back, which is drawn forward over the shoulders 
to meet it. 

The length is then gathered full around the waist to 
form the skirt in even pleats, more numerous in front 
than at the back, and is thus brought round to the left 
side and held in place by a girdle of plaited wool of 
various colours passed several times around the waist. 

The loose sleeves, formed by folds of the garment, are 
often tied behind the back, or tucked into the girdle 
while working. Although dark colours are preferred for 
everyday wear, bright coloured or " flowered " muslin 
dresses are worn by the younger women at festivals 
and by brides. 


Shawls, usually woven at home of wool or silk and 
wool, but sometimes made of French net, are very 
commonly seen upon great occasions draped over the 
shoulders and fastened in front by means of a silver 
brooch. These we have seen dyed black for motives of 

Upon the head the Shawia woman often wears as many 
as seven coloured kerchiefs, which are draped around the 
head and knotted in front ; black silk ones with a fringe 
being considered especially smart by rich women, and 
usually worn under the brightly coloured ones with 
one end hanging down the back. 

To all intents and purposes the dress of the little 
girls is a replica in miniature of that of their 
mothers, but the smallest are attired only in a cotton 
" gandoura." 

The hair, which is profusely oiled, is usually made into 
three plaits, which are twisted round the head and 
concealed by the kerchiefs, only one lock on each side of 
the face and a straight fringe being exposed to view, a 
fashion which distinguishes the Shawia women from many 
of the nomads, who wear thick plaits of hair, often 
increased by an admixture of wool, looped up in front 
of each ear so as to give to the face the impression that 
it is enclosed in a massive frame. 

The shoes worn by the women of Menaa, as we have 
already seen, are of red goatskin, often ornamented with 
bright yellow toe-caps. The trinkets displayed upon the 
costume described above arc worthy of examination, 
for some have uses other than mere ornament, and some 
are of very ancient design. We have already alluded 
to a couple of brooches worn upon the breast to join the 
drapery upon the shoulders with that across the chest ; 
these brooches are interesting. 


The brooch consists of a sharp silver pin through a 
hole in the blunt end of which is passed a ring of silver, 
divided at one point to allow the pin (longer than the 
diameter of the ring) to pass from one side of it to the 
other ; the two pieces of the dress material to be joined 
are transfixed by the pin, the point of which is then passed 
through the gap in the ring alluded to above, and the 
ring pushed slightly round so that the point is no longer 
opposite to the gap, and the pin cannot slip back, the 
material thus being locked in position upon the pin 
until the wearer chooses to turn the ring back and allow 
the pin to come out again through the gap. 

It is interesting to note that this form of brooch is of 
very great antiquity. It is found to-day all over Algeria, 
and excavations have revealed it in such distant countries 
as Scotland, Ireland, and many parts of Europe, so that 
some students have arrived at the conclusion that it 
reached the Barbary States at the time of some very 
early invasion from the north, and I have myself found 
such a brooch upon a poor Shawfa child at Menaa which 
would appear to have been buried for a prolonged period, 
and may even date from very early ages, having possibly 
been found while the child's relatives were digging the 
foundations of a house. 

The great majority of the brooches worn are now of 
silver, and the blunt end of the pin is usually produced to 
form an ornamental " head," sometimes crescent-shaped in 
form, but more usually triangular, with perforated scroll 
patterns, the sides of the triangles being often well over 
two inches in length. 

The brooches on the breast are worn head downwards, 
and their heads are usually connected with a chain to 
which are attached a few flat rectangular boxes of silver, 
ornamented with embossed designs, to hold the written 


talismans without which no Algerian woman considers 
herself safe from magical attacks. 

It is not unusual to find in the Aures, though I have 
not noted the custom elsewhere, a neatly made circular 
silver box, containing a mirror, about two inches in 
diameter, suspended from one of the brooches ; its lid, 
often very well decorated with open scroll patterns, 
taking the place of the cheap leather-covered mirrors 
in which the majority of Algerian women love to admire 
their beauty. 

Around their necks the women of the Wad Abdi wear 
silver collars, from which a great number of chains hang 
down over their breasts, each chain ending in a small 
coral bead and either a scroll of silver wire or a very 
small pointed pendant. In addition to this many women 
wear a long necklet reaching to the waist, made of great 
numbers of home-made beads scented with musk, the 
beads being threaded upon several sets of strings, and 
arranged so that silver globes or cones connect the different 
sets at various points in the length of the necklet, at the 
lower end of which a conventionalized representation in 
silver of a human hand, with its fingers extended, hangs 
as a pendant. 

In some districts these necklets are worn by brides 
upon their wedding day, and are subsequently used upon 
the occasion of festivals. The arms of the Shawia ladies 
are laden with bracelets, as many as half a dozen or eight 
pairs being sometimes worn, the bracelets consisting of 
solid flat bars of silver, the outer sides of which are 
decorated with round or lozenge-shaped bosses and with 
pieces of glass, usually red, let into the silver, the glass 
being procured from such places as Biskra and Constan- 
tine, having been manufactured in Europe for the 
purpose. Rings, similarly ornamented with glass, are 


also worn, not only by the women, but by the majority 
of the men. 

All but the poorer classes of women in the Wed Abdi 
wear two pairs of anklets, one consisting of engraved 
bands of silver, between two and three inches deep, and 
the other of plain solid silver bars, the clinking of the 
two as the wearer walks causing her great gratification, 
akin, perhaps, to that anticipated by a certain young 
officer who, rumour has it, was once seen entering a 
London shop to have his spurs tuned ! 

One of the great features of Aurasian jewellery is to 
be found in the earrings worn by all the women. 

These consist of bars of silver bent almost to form a 
circle, the space between the two ends of which are joined 
by wires, upon which coral is threaded after the ring 
has been thrust through the lobe or the upper portion of 
the ear. Some of these earrings are decorated with bosses 
of filigree work, with coral in the centre ; some have 
silver globes and cones threaded upon them ; others 
are beaten out flat and serrated for ornamentation ; 
but all are large, three inches being about their usual 
diameter, though I have a pair from the Djebel Cherchar 
which is slightly oval in form and measures five inches 
at its greatest depth. 

Needless to say, the weight of these ornaments (three 
pairs of which I have once seen worn at a time) cause 
considerable deformity to the ear, but this is reduced as 
much as possible by attaching the earrings, by means 
of silver chains and hooks, to the kerchiefs worn upon 
the head, 

" Head pendants," often consisting of silver stars, 
about two inches in diameter, from the lower points of 
which hang many chains like those worn upon necklets, 
are frequently to be seen suspended by chains and hooks 


from either side of the headdress, while brow bands of 
rectangular silver boxes, connected by strings of coral, 
are commonly worn in many parts of the massif. 

Upon the breast of many a Shawia woman may be 
seen suspended a porcupine's foot set in silver, and the 
eye-tooth of a dog similarly mounted. 

Although silver is the metal most usually employed 
in the manufacture of personal ornaments in the hills, 
some of the wives of wealthy chiefs are to be found almost 
covered with similar trinkets of solid gold, the ornaments 
worn representing many thousands of francs in value ; 
while the Ouled Nail dancing girls to be seen at Biskra 
are also in the habit of investing their gains in gold 
ornaments with which to beautify their somewhat 
unattractive persons. 

Before proceeding to describe the crude method in 
which this by no means unpleasing Berber jewellery is 
produced we may, perhaps, digress for a moment in an 
attempt to examine the reasons for which some of the 
articles enumerated are worn. 

Let us begin with the " hands," which we have seen 
are worn upon their necklets by the Shawia beauties. 
These, as every visitor to Algeria is aware, are worn as 
a charm against the " evil-eye," which is so dreaded 
throughout the Barbary States, but, whatever any 
" guide " may choose to inform his employers, they are 
not representations of the " Hand of Fathma," the 
daughter of the Prophet of Islam ; indeed, they are not 
even called " hands " by the natives themselves, but are 
referred to as " fives," and are carried for the following 

When a native meets a person who is in the habit of 
bestowing the envious glance known as the " evil-eye," 
which is frequently followed by the direst results to its 


victim, in order to protect himself by forestalling the 
coming magical attack, he will extend the fingers of one 
hand towards the evilly disposed person and remark 
" Khamsa fi ainek " (" Five in thine eye "), the gesture 
being considered to be efficacious in preventing the envious 
glance from wreaking mischief. Perhaps in order to 
save the trouble of making the gesture, but more probably 
to carry the gesture ready made, and so available for 
instant use even if the threatening danger is not 
observed, the silver hands with the fingers extended are 
commonly worn in a conspicuous position by the women 
of Algeria, and have probably been so worn for many 
centuries before Fathma, daughter of Mohammed the 
Prophet, graced the deserts of Arabia. The small pointed 
pendants, which, as we have seen, are often suspended 
from silver collars, appear to be similarly intended to 
threaten the eye of the would-be giver of the envious 
glance, and the coral so largely used in Shawia jewellery 
is also worn to protect the woman from the " evil-eye," 
but for a different reason. The damage done by the 
" evil-eye " is not caused by the glance itself, but by 
an invisible demon which accompanies it, a " jinn " 
similar to that which, as we have seen, flew away with 
a bride and so caused a migration of the Ouled Ziane, 
and these demons are commonly believed to have the 
greatest repugnance for anything that is red in colour, 
a fact which seems to account for the popularity and 
magical value of coral, for which the Shawia will pay 
exorbitant prices, and also for the use of red glass set 
in various silver ornaments. 

The effect of the envious glance is believed to be very 
remarkable. Belkadi, our old orderly, once purchased a 
new pair of French scissors and displayed them to a 
friend, who remarked upon their excellent quality without 



attributing that quality to the favour of God ; the 
scissors instantly broke in half as he held them ! It is 
therefore considered extremely unlucky, and it renders 
the speaker liable to be suspected of giving the " evil- 
eye," for any one to admire a person, or a thing, without 
implying in some way that its beauty or value is due to 
the Almighty, so that the traveller in remoter districts 
has to be careful to avoid anything like fulsome flattery 
or unstinted praise, especially of children and animals. 

Inanimate objects are often protected against the 
envious glance by a very simple form of charm, to which 
my wife and I always refer in conversation as a " lightning 
conductor " ; for example, when a new house is built 
an old black pot is placed upon a corner of its roof in 
order that it may " catch the eye " of a malevolent 
passer-by, and so, by attracting his envious glance to 
itself, save the building from the evil which is threaten- 
ing it. 

The silver-mounted dog's tooth, which is quite commonly 
worn suspended from the dress, is carried as a threat 
to lurking demons by suggesting to them the presence 
of a savage creature, even demons being very subject 
to fear, but the reason underlying the wearing of the 
foot of a porcupine as a preventative against soreness 
of the breast in a young mother has so far defeated all 
my efforts to obtain a coherent native explanation of its 
character and its origin. 

But I have already digressed too long upon the magical 
uses of jewellery, especially as magic will be referred to 
again when I take my readers to the central valleys of 
the Aures massif; I will therefore turn to the manufac- 
ture of the silver ornaments, one of the chief arts of the 
Shawia of Mcnaa. 

The silversmith squats upon the mud floor of his dingy 


stone-built room, blowing into flame the glowing embers 
in a hole in the floor by means of a bellows, consisting of 
an old gun-barrel, fixed in a lump of baked earth, and a 
skin of a kid open at one end and attached to the gun- 
barrel at the other, so that, by opening his hand as he 
draws the bag backwards by its open end, he fills it full 
of air, which, by closing the hand as he pushes it forward 
again, he forces through the barrel on to the embers, 
amid which the silver is melting in a little metal cup. 

When the silver is molten, lifting the cup by means of 
a pair of tongs, he pours the liquid metal into a mould 
in the shape of a horse-shoe filled with oil and sand, in 
which he has previously made an impression of the article 
to be cast, the mould being divided into two parts down 
the centre, so that it may be opened for the moulding and 
the parts clamped together again when the metal is to 
be poured in. 

Thus the brooches, etc., are very easily moulded, 
and only require to be finished off with the aid of a 
European file. 

Deep anklets are beaten out upon a small anvil, and 
their scroll patterns are traced upon them by means of 
a hammer and chisel, while the solid ones are similarly 
beaten out from a bar of silver, but as a rule are not 
decorated with any elaborate design. 

Although the filigree work to be found upon a few 
earrings at Menaa is perhaps the most difficult task the 
jeweller sets himself to perform, undoubtedly the most 
laborious is that of making the chains which are worn 
in such profusion in the Aures, for the bar of silver has 
to be beaten with a hammer until it assumes the propor- 
tions of coarse wire, then drawn through a series of holes, 
decreasing in size, in a steel plate until this wire becomes 
sufficiently fine, and, at last, it is beaten flat, cut into 


minute lengths, and hammered round the pointed end 
of the anvil to form the tiny links required. 

Sometimes imported silver chain is to be found upon 
otherwise genuine native jewellery, so that, in collecting 
specimens of Shawia ornaments, I always carefully examine 
the chain-work first of all in order to observe any little 
irregularities in the links, none too easily noted in a 
really well-made chain, which would stamp it as a real 
example of the handicraft of a native silversmith. 

Some of the metal used is silver purchased in the form 
of bars at Constantine, but a very large amount of the 
jewellery is made from broken or discarded trinkets, 
and silver money very frequently finds its way into the 

In a land of survivals, such as the Aures, it may well 
be imagined that fashions would remain the same, and 
to a great extent this is true, but nevertheless there is 
a distinct change taking place with regard to the large 
earrings, of which we have seen that several patterns 
are worn at Menaa. Unfortunately this change is in 
favour of the flattened and serrated type of ring, which 
is far less picturesque than those adorned with bosses 
of filigree work or with hollow globes and cones, so that 
many fine old specimens of Shawia silver-work daily 
find their way to the jeweller to reappear again in the 
crude form which seems now to please the ladies of the 

Before the war the silver-work of the mountains was 
obtainable very cheaply in districts in which the fabulous 
prices sometimes paid in the towns arc unknown. 

The native himself, when he brings his own silver to 
the jeweller, pays him a very small sum for his work, so 
that should the traveller purchase an ornament with 
silver money he ought to obtain it for very little more 


than its own weight in coin ; but the Shawfa have a great 
dislike for paper money, which in the winter of 1919-20 
was almost exclusively used in Algeria, and can only 
with the greatest difficulty be persuaded to sell their 
jewellery for it, even at prices which are utterly absurd, 
so that an offer of twenty francs in paper will probably 
not tempt a native to part with an object whose weight 
is equivalent to ten francs, or even less, although, of 
course, bargains can still be made with persons to whom 
ready money is a necessity. 

During our stay at Menaa we experienced an oppor- 
tunity, even better than the weddings at Beni Ferah, 
of seeing the women attired in their very best, for we 
were in the village during the three days of the annual 
Feast of the Spring, which is held at the end of February. 
Late at night on the 28th of February all, or nearly all, 
the able-bodied women and girls of the village repaired 
to the juniper-studded slopes of a mountain some miles 
away, and there commenced to celebrate the beginning 
of the feast by following their ordinary and very laborious 
task of cutting huge loads of firewood, beneath which 
they staggered next morning to the village, being accom- 
panied upon their homeward march by some tom-toms 
and an oboe, as well as by men armed with guns and 
pistols which were discharged as often as the existing 
shortage of powder would permit. 

A halt was called a mile from the village, and, while 
the women rested beside their burdens, one or two young 
girls danced in turn to the strains of the band amid the 
quivering cries of the female spectators. 

The crowd by this time had assumed considerable 
proportions, for many men and boys had come out to 
meet their mothers, wives, and sisters, and to accompany 
them with every sign of rejoicing to Menaa. It was 


noticeable that every one carried with them some sprig 
or shoot of a plant, emblematic, no doubt, of the life which 
recommences after the dreary months of winter have 
gone by. On arrival at Menaa the women scattered with 
their burdens to their own homes, while the musicians 
and a goodly concourse of men and boys visited the 
" zawia," before which the " band " gave a brief 
performance, and then returning to the village they 
stopped in a little open space on the edge of the very 
steep western slope of its rocky mound, where they were 
rejoined by many of the women, to listen to the music, 
squatting upon the ground, or perched upon the roofs 
of the surrounding houses. 

It would almost appear that the Shawia choose their 
rendezvous for gatherings of this kind with the skill 
of a trained producer of spectacular plays, for I have 
always noticed that open-air functions, in which dancing 
takes place, are held so that a wonderful natural back- 
ground of mountains or of distant views enhances the 
picturesque character of the scene. 

The Spring Feast at Menaa was an example of this 
natural instinct for the picturesque. In the brilliant 
light of the midday sun the Shawia gathered round the 
band on the slope, with a wonderful view of a wild rocky 
valley, in which the blossom gleamed white beside the 
stream beneath the towering juniper-studded slopes of 
the mountains, in the background. From every coign 
of vantage men and boys in clean white garments eagerly 
watched the slow movements of a gaily dressed dancer, 
while the crowds of women, seated apart from the men, 
with their gay kerchiefs of shades which never seem to 
clash, their bright dresses, and their mass of silver chains, 
anklets, bracelets, and brooches reflecting in many a 
gleaming point of light the powerful rays of the sun, 


added just that gorgeous medley of colour which seemed 
necessary to complete the barbaric splendour of the 

The dancers at Menaa were all girls of the village itself, 
for the Kai'd had refused admittance to quite a number 
of professionals from the Wed Abdi, who had arrived 
before the fete hoping to realize large sums of money 
by dancing at it, for he looks with disfavour upon these 
very unrestrained ladies and the brawls which their 
presence so frequently entails. The dancing, therefore, 
was not as skilful as it would have been had the profes- 
sionals performed. 

The second day of the feast resembled the first, save 
that few women went overnight to the hill and that the 
music and dancing was attended mainly by children, 
all, including the tiniest, of the girls being most resplen- 
dently attired in their mothers' or sisters' clothing and 
silver ornaments. Never shall I forget the ridiculous 
appearance of some of the smallest ! 

Their heads adorned with numerous kerchiefs, their 
little bodies swathed in bright dresses which were ordin- 
arily worn by full-grown women, and their limbs, heads 
and breasts covered with all the silver jewellery the 
family could produce, some of the poor little creatures 
presented a picture quite as pathetic as gay. Indeed, 
one little mite we found after the dancing had ceased 
sitting almost in tears beside the track, utterly unable to 
stagger the few remaining yards to her home beneath the 
weight of the finery she was almost concealed by until 
she had rested by the way. 

Another young lady, upon whom finery sat heavily, 
was a child of about five, who lived near the bordj, and 
rejoiced in the name of Rosebud. As we had come to 
know her, Rosebud was one of those children who are 


never happy unless their persons are in an indescribable 
state of dirt ; and Rosebud was always very happy 
indeed. Wearing nothing but a gandoura many sizes 
too small for her and black with grime, her unkempt 
hair flying in the wind, she was always running in and 
out of the courtyard of the bordj, playing with her 
dog, throwing stones at every one else's dog, and getting 
into any mischief she could find. 

Upon the morning of the second day of the Spring 
Feast, when I looked out of the bordj gate, I beheld 
a remarkable apparition. Standing still (because she 
could scarcely move), her head swathed in silken scarves, 
her body rigid in a large clean dress, her person almost 
obscured by silver trinkets, two pair of anklets almost 
slipping from her feet, was Rosebud — clean ! Whether 
it was the finery she was wearing, or the ablutions she 
had recently endured, I cannot say, but something induced 
the poor little thing to burst into tears, as she took my 
hand to be brought for inspection to my wife. 

Even in the Aures it seems to be as necessary to suffer 
to be beautiful as in the gayest cities of the west. 

In the evenings during the Spring Feast is played at 
Mcnaa and elsewhere in Algeria the game called " Koora," 
which very closely resembles hockey, and is of very great 
antiquity. At Menaa the game is taken very seriously 
indeed. The opposing sides, consisting of any number 
of men and lads, face each other in a depression near 
the village, through which the road now runs and thus 
provides them with an arena for their warlike game. 

The ball, usually a stone, has to be propelled to one 
or other of the very ill-defined boundaries, which take 
the place of goals, by means of bent sticks, often large 
and fearsome-looking weapons cut from rough juniper 
branches on the hills. 


The game is the most dangerous one I have yet seen. 

Apparently unhampered by any rules, the combatants, 
as they might reasonably be termed, fling themselves at 
the ball, slashing right and left with their club-like sticks, 
those unable to get at the ball itself seeming just as 
contented to belabour those who impede their way. 

After a time upon the first occasion on which I watched 
the melie, both sides frankly left the ball to itself and 
commenced a very good representation of a mediaeval 
'prentices' dispute, until the Kai'd, remembering that a 
vendetta may follow an accident and that he was per- 
sonally responsible for the order maintained in his village, 
ordered the game to be stopped, and I produced from 
my pockets the bandages I had been advised to bring 
with me and proceeded to deal as well as I could with 
the casualties, eight in number, who came to me for 

There appeared to be no ill-will resulting from the 
game, but had it continued the consequences might have 
been serious. 

The young women and girls also indulge in " Koora " 
at this period of the year, playing near the bordj, 
with no spectators other than a few women and some 
passers-by. Doubtless in a desire to display their 
prowess at the expense of a Roumiya, as all white women 
are called in Algeria, some of my wife's friends invited 
her to join them in their game, and were all agog with 
excitement and sly amusement when she agreed. 

But the Shawia ladies were unacquainted with the 
pastimes of an English girls' school, which pastimes are 
not easily forgotten, so that their astonishment was 
unbounded when my wife scored the first goal and imme- 
diately followed it up with a second, for the Shawia had 
no idea of defence, nor, indeed, of any of the tricks of 


hockey as " scientifically " played in England. This 
game, I think, greatly increased their respect for my wife, 
and did something to cement the numerous friendships 
she had made at Menaa. 

Menaa, as we have seen in the last chapter, can be 
approached by two distinct routes from the south, one 
from Djemora and the other from Beni Ferah ; it can 
similarly be left by two other tracks, one leading up the 
valley of the Wed Abdi to Batna to the north, the other 
to Tagoust at the southern end of the Bouzina valley, 
and thence to the Batna-Biskra railway through the 
defile of Maafa to the west. The first of these two routes, 
when the high passes are clear of snow, is already accessi- 
ble to motor traffic, but the second can only be traversed 
by mule, and it is with a description of the latter that 
I will conclude this chapter, reserving an account of 
our wanderings around Bouzina and in the Abdi valley 
for the pages which follow. 

One gloriously fine morning in March, when a spell 
of really warm weather set us thinking of procuring 
topees when next we came out of the hills and which 
heralded the approach of summer, never too unbearable 
at such an altitude as Menaa, we left the " capital of 
the Aures," and, riding along the road over the new stone 
bridge which spans the Bouzina River, we marched 
northwards up the Abdi valley for a mile or so before 
turning to the north-west to commence the ascent of 
the steep ridge which lies between that valley and the 
Wed Bouzina, whose stream is too liable to flood to 
render its gorge a safe passage for mules to Tagoust. 

The panorama of the Abdi valley was magnificent. 
Deep-green fields of corn, trees snow-white or pink with 
blossom, great grey rocky hills with forests of juniper 
and ilex upon the higher slopes, glimpses of snow-clad 


peaks to the north ; a scene as different from the barren 
land of Djemora as any one country could well provide, 
and, in its way, of a beauty that cannot be exceeded in 
the Aures, for it betokened some degree of prosperity, 
while many of the great valleys of the southern part of 
the hills are at once magnificent and forbidding, desolate 
as well as grand. A good track and willing beasts soon 
brought us over the ridge, along the edge of a defile on 
its farther side, and so to a distant view of the gardens 
and gleaming minaret of Tagoust, lying in a broad valley 
at the foot of a frowning wall of red cliffs towering over 
the village to the east. Fording the stream as we neared 
the village we rode on through Tagoust itself to the White 
Hamlet, a small village in which is situated the house 
of the chief. Although we had not previously approached 
Tagoust from Menaa, we had visited the place before, 
and were, accordingly, welcomed as old friends by the 
Kai'd, who provided us with accommodation in his home 
and entertained us to meals of quite a sumptuous 

This chief of Tagoust, who holds sway all over the 
Bouzina valley, is a magnificent specimen of a man ; 
very tall and broad in proportion, he is one of the most 
commanding figures I have seen, while a flowing white 
beard adds considerably to the stateliness of his appear- 
ance. I spent most of the few days we passed at 
Tagoust in obtaining from the chief some notes upon the 
history of some of the Shawia tribes to add to those I 
had obtained elsewhere, which, while scarcely of sufficient 
interest to warrant their inclusion in these pages, are 
noteworthy in that they corroborated some statements 
made by other natives that a number of Shawia tribes 
claim direct descent from the Romans. 

Beyond the fact that scattered Roman settlers very 


possibly have left an infusion of their blood in the veins 
of the inhabitants of the Aures, there seems to be little 
evidenee yet available to show that any one tribe can 
substantiate a claim to such descent, but the natives 
themselves regard with no little pride their boasted 
Roman ancestry. 

Tagoust itself, a true Shawfa village, is built of stones 
fairly well trimmed, and it is one of the neatest villages 
I have seen in the Aures, but it contains little to interest 
the casual visitor if he has previously seen Shawia settle- 
ments elsewhere ; instead of spending much time in it, 
therefore, he will probably continue his journey to the 
railway at Maafa. 

The track upon leaving Tagoust rises steeply, zigzagging 
up the rocky side of a mountain, till it reaches a high- 
lying valley, the northern portion of the main valley of 
Bouzina, from which the defile of the Maafa canon leads 
the traveller to the west. As he rides up this steep 
hillside the wanderer will be travelling upon holy 
ground, for he will be ascending the north-eastern spurs 
of the Djebel Bouss, a mountain which is greatly revered 
over a wide extent of country in eastern Algeria. 

At a certain date in every year a pilgrimage takes place 
to the tomb of Sidi Yahia, the great saint of Maafa, 
following which the pilgrims betake themselves to the 
hallowed slopes of the Djebel Bouss in order to obtain 
some of the holiness which the mountain is believed to 
be capable of bestowing upon the faithful. Just before 
entering the defile that leads to Maafa the track by which 
the Ouled Ziane nomads move northwards in the spring 
and southwards in the autumn in their migrations with 
their flocks and herds to and from the northern slopes 
of the Aures will be found very clearly defined by walls 
of stones, so that the herdsmen shall have no excuse for 


allowing their animals to stray and inflict damage in the 
fields of the Shawia. The gorge of Maafa itself, studded 
with juniper and other trees, winding for some miles 
between precipitous cliffs, is certainly extremely pictu- 
resque, but the most interesting point to be noted in it 
by the student of native manners and customs is the 
existence of some cave-dwellings, which are inhabited 

These dwellings are situated upon a ledge half-way 
up the cliff-side which is provided with a natural roof in 
the form of overhanging rocks, so that all that the Shawia 
have had to do in order to provide themselves with houses 
has been to wall up the front of the ledge level with the 
face of the cliff. A spring or two in the defile furnishes 
the cliff-dwellers with water, so that they merely lead the 
same existence as their compatriots whose nest-like 
villages overhang the streams in the valleys which we are 
to examine in a later chapter in the centre of the Aures 
massif. Nowadays, under the rule of the French, such 
dwellings are by no means necessary, but of old there 
was much desultory fighting between the peoples of 
Tagoust and of Maafa, so that an inaccessible or easily- 
defended village was a necessity to the dwellers in this 
once troubled land. 

I have read that the natives find it necessary in some 
places in this valley to be hoisted by cords in order to 
reach their homes in the face of the cliff, but I have seen 
nothing myself to substantiate the statement. 

The cave-dwellings are difficult enough to reach it is 
true, but I do not think any Shawia would permanently 
inhabit a place in which even his goats could not move 
in and out, while should this tale refer to the disused 
rock-dwellings at Maafa itself, I can only say that my 
wife and I have managed to get to most of them 


wearing boots which had not even soles of rope or of 
rubber ; and that some others, inaccessible to-day, have 
only become so through the crumbling of the rocks 
which has occurred since their inhabitants had forsaken 

Maafa itself, situated just at the western end of its 
defile, where the gorge expands into a wider valley with 
less precipitous sides, consists of three hamlets built, as 
are Beni Ferah and Menaa, upon eminences in the valley, 
one of them lying a mile or so farther down the ravine 
and containing the mosque and " zawia " of Sidi Yahia, 
the famous holy man whose tomb, as we have seen, is 
a noted place of pilgrimage. The mosque has been 
rebuilt by the French authorities, and presents little of 
interest to the traveller, while the zawia merely consists 
of a group of ordinary Shawia huts. 

The valley of Maafa and its long defile are beautiful 
enough, especially when spring clothes its numerous 
fruit trees with blossom, and, although the only accommo- 
dation available is a small room in the house of the chief 
who, like all Kaids of the Aures, is very hospitable to 
his guests, the place is well worthy of the attention of a 
traveller who can spare the time to examine one Shawia 
settlement only. 

As the village lies but an hour and a half's walk from 
the railway " halt " which bears its name, it can be visited 
in a day from El Kantara, the traveller leaving the 
" Mouth of the Desert " by the early morning northward 
train and returning by the train which goes down towards 
Biskra after dark. 

When we stayed for a short time at Maafa, at the 
conclusion of a spell of work in the hills, we rode down 
to the little railway " halt," and, sending Belkadi north- 
wards to his headquarters at A'fn Touta, went down by 




To (ace p. 94. 


train to El Kantara to rest after our wanderings and to 
prepare for a further journey in the Aures. 

The reader who has followed me up to this point in 
my narrative will have found sketched for him a short 
mule journey, which can be undertaken by any one who 
is not wholly dependent upon the comforts of hotels, 
and which will reveal to him more of the native life and 
varied scenery of this part of Algeria than any journey 
of its length that can be undertaken. None of its stages 
are long or difficult, and all are through a country whose 
beauties cannot even be suspected by the traveller on 
the railway, for the Aures massif jealously hides the 
glories of its views from all who do not care deliberately 
to seek them out. The journey can be made easily in 
six days without undue fatigue, or it could be completed 
in three days by sleeping at Djemora and Menaa, merely 
passing through Beni Ferah and Tagoust on the way. 

Any one desirous of obtaining, in a short time, a glimpse 
of Shawia life should find this little journey well worth 
the undertaking, but the autumn or the spring should 
be the season selected, for the higher villages are cold 
in the depth of winter. 



THE traveller who seeks the higher ridges of the 
Aures, in preference to returning to civilization 
and the railway through the gorge of Maafa, will notice 
as he rides up the road which, as we have seen, has 
reached Menaa from the north-east, a remarkable simi- 
larity in the appearance and siting of the numerous 
Shawia hamlets which, built high upon the side of the 
rocky hills forming the eastern wall of the Abdi valley, 
overlook the stream as it winds through a narrow strip 
of cultivated land besprinkled with apricot and other 
fruit trees. 

Built each upon a spur formed by the junction of some 
small ravine with the main valley of the Wed Abdi, 
the hamlets were well enough situated from the point 
of view of defence in the old days of inter-tribal war, 
and, being Berber settlements unaltered by any Arab 
influence such as we noticed in the mud-brick sometimes 
used at Beni Ferah, they all consist of clusters of tiny 
cottages built of stone, often quite untrimmed, such as 
the traveller will find to be the ordinary Shawia dwelling 
all over the heart of the Aures massif. The villages of 


the Wed Abdi are interesting enough, and visits to them 
have enabled us to observe a number of the arts and crafts 
of their inhabitants, the valley itself, however, as we 
marched up it from Menaa, became less beautiful as we 
ascended it, the blossom on the fruit trees and the narrow- 
ing belt of green beside the stream providing the only 
touches of colour in a grey wilderness of rock, but a very 
few miles distant to the eastward are to be found high- 
lying valleys in the range of hills separating the valley 
of the Abdi from that of the Wed el Abiod, which afford 
another contrast in scenery almost parallel to the abrupt 
change from Africa to southern Europe noticed in our 
short ride from Djemora to Menaa. 

We found an opportunity of visiting these valleys 
during a brief expedition in search of the wild boars 
which roam in considerable numbers about them, but 
which cannot exist in the all but waterless country 
around El Kantara, the home of the Barbary sheep and 
the gazelle. 

Riding up the road one afternoon at the beginning of 
March we halted at the village of Chir by the wayside, 
half a dozen miles from Menaa, the Kai'd of which hamlet 
had agreed to conduct us to Taghit Sidi Belkheir, another 
village of his domain, in the area in which pigs were to 
be sought. 

We found the Kai'd ready to start, and accompanied 
by eight or ten members of his " goum," or body of 
irregular troops, we hastened on our way in order to 
arrive at Taghit in time for a good night's rest before 
hunting in the morning. 

Turning to the eastward a mile or two above Chir we 
left the road and, fording the Abdi River, rode up a 
precipitous track to the village of Nouader, one of the 
line of hamlets which, often no more than a mile or less 



apart, overlook, as we have seen, the valley from its 
steep eastern side. 

At Nouader we found a very passable imitation of a 
road winding along a ledge on the hillside up a tribu- 
tary ravine, at the junction of which with the Wed Abdi 
Nouader lies. This road, in a state of disrepair when 
we saw it, had been cut by the French to enable the 
produce of a mercury mine at Taghit to be conveyed 
by wheeled traffic to the main road from the Wed Abdi 
to Batna and the railway, but the mine had been closed 
down for some considerable time when we visited Taghit, 
and the track that leads to it had been neglected in 
consequence during the war, most of the buildings which 
had been occupied by the little colony of mining engineers 
between the two hamlets of Taghit, however, had been 
looked after by Shawia guards, so that we found at least 
a better lodging than can be obtained in a Berber cottage 
when we rode into Taghit in the moonlight and halted 
at the former residence of a Frenchman. 

Here we were soon comfortably installed in a room 
which boasted a fireplace that did not smoke, a conveni- 
ence which we should certainly not have enjoyed in a 
native hut, and before turning into our blankets consumed 
the provisions we had brought with us in front of a heap 
of blazing juniper logs, for, despite the most luxuriant 
peach and almond blossom I have ever seen, which we 
found next day in the garden of our lodging, the night 
was distinctly cold at the considerable altitude at which 
the mines of Taghit lie. 

Next day, as the light of early morning increased 
sufficiently to enable us to observe the country round, 
we left the mines and, passing through the main hamlet 
of Taghit clustered round the minaret of a mosque 
reared to the memory of Sidi Bclkhcir, the Moslem saint, 


after whom the villages and ravine — in the Shawia lan- 
guage " taghit " — are named, we found the natives and 
the dogs, with whom we were to search for boar, awaiting 
our arrival upon a track which led eastward to the higher 
slopes of the hills. We then continued our way until 
the ravine in which the mines are situated expanded into 
a little basin, fertile by comparison with the Abdi valley, 
for its greater altitude ensured it an ampler rainfall, 
surrounded by steep hills which revealed to us the third 
variety of scenery which the massif of the Aures will 
display to those who pry into its secrets, namely the 
forests of the northern and higher portions of the range. 

We have attempted to give the reader some idea of 
the African oasis of Djemora, from the shade of whose 
date-palms the traveller passes in so short a journey to 
the southern European scenery of Menaa, and as we 
take our readers to the great canon of the southern-central 
part of the massif we shall again show him a glimpse of 
Africa, this time inhabited by fair-complexioned Berbers, 
but here, on the heights above Taghit, we lead him to 
a land clothed in a vast forest of pine and cedar, amid 
which the lighter green of other forest trees breaks the 
somewhat monotonous grandeur of the scene, while the 
snows of Ichemoul, the great mountain at the head of 
the Wed el Abiod, lend an almost Asiatic character to 
the panorama of woodland which is spread before his 

I think that after months spent in the glare of a desert, 
or amid the stunted ilex and juniper trees with which the 
country around Beni Ferah and the Wed Abdi is studded, 
I experienced more pleasure in travelling through a real 
woodland at Taghit and on the northern slopes of the 
massif than I should have believed possible for any one 
who has sweltered for two years in the heart of the great 


equatorial forest of Central Africa, the damp depressing 
climate of which, I thought, had years ago removed any 
partiality I may have had for woodlands in general. 

Amid pleasant surroundings, therefore, we commenced 
our search for boar, using the dogs to follow up their 
tracks and to bring the animals to bay in order to enable 
us to git a shot at them when, breathless and perspiring, 
we had struggled up the steep wooded slopes in the direc- 
tion of the short sharp yelps which denoted that the 
dogs had obtained a view of their quarry. 

A long morning's hunt having resulted in a boar falling 
to the Kai'd and another to me, we retraced our steps to 
the mines of Taghit, and so to the Abdi valley, to continue 
our work, after a brief but thoroughly enjoyable respite 
from research on the forest-clad slopes of higher Aures. 

A few miles above Nouader, on the same side of the 
Abdi valley and similarly situated upon the angle formed 
by a tributary ravine, lies the important village of 
Teniet el Abed. It is one of the largest hamlets, for the 
settlements of this district can scarcely be dignified with 
a worthier name, occupied by the Ouled Abdi tribe, 
and, in common with most places in the valley to which 
that tribe has given its name, it bears an unsavoury 

In the course of my narrative I have frequently had 
occasion to refer to the performances at weddings and 
other feasts of dancers of the Ouled Abdi tribe, ladies 
whose unrestrained habits had caused them to be 
excluded from the great Spring Feast at Menaa, a 
village whose inhabitants pretend to Roman origin, and 
who deny that they arc at all closely related to the 
Shawia farther up the Abdi valley. Now these dancers, 
who are always picturesquely attired in the gay 
colours and silver jewellery which wc have noted else- 






where, and who are often really pretty, even when judged 
by the European standard to which, as representatives 
of an ancient white race, I presume they are entitled, 
have been made the subject of many strange rumours 
in which the wildest imaginable orgies of vice figure 
with astonishing prominence, rumours which I am not 
yet in a position to confirm or to deny from any evidence 
I have been able to collect. These women are very 
numerous indeed in the Wed Abdi, and also seek their 
fortunes much farther afield, and, as far as I can see at 
present, their existence is due to a naturally voluptuous 
disposition combined with the very great ease with which 
divorce is obtainable in the Aures ; against this simple 
suggestion, however, we have to set the fact that other 
neighbouring and kindred tribes may almost be regarded 
as models of virtue compared to the Ouled Abdi. 

The existence of the unrestrained woman is fully 
recognized in the Wed Abdi, and, as we have seen, their 
presence is even welcomed at weddings in other parts 
of the Aures ; no attempt, therefore, is made by the 
dancers to conceal their profession, and we became 
acquainted with quite a number of the belles of the 
western Aures during our wanderings up and down its 
valleys. We did not, however, learn much of interest 
from them, though among their more staid sisters of 
Teniet el Abed we were able to carry on our studies of 
Shawia arts and crafts. While pottery making, which 
we noted at Beni Ferah and many other villages, is very 
commonly carried on by Shawia women, it is not abso- 
lutely universal ; the weaving of woollen material, 
however, can be creditably performed by every Shawia 
woman we have met with. 

The white-hooded cloaks worn by all the grown-up 
male population of Algeria, as well as the shawls or 


haiks of silk, or of stripes of silk and wool, affected by 
both sexes in the richer households, while the texture 
of them varies, of course, in accordance with the thick- 
ness of woollen threads employed, are all manufactured 
upon a very primitive hand-loom by the women-folk of 
the wearers' homes. 

The wool, clipped from the owner's sheep, whose backs 
are sometimes covered by pieces of old sacking, etc., 
should it have been necessary to shear them in cold 
weather, is first washed in the stream, and, when dry, 
it is combed by drawing it by hand through a line of 
coarse iron spikes set up in a flat piece of wood for the 
purpose, after which it is " carded," that is to say, rolled 
to and fro between two flat boards, each about eight 
inches square, studded with innumerable fine wire points, 
the boards being provided with handles to allow of 
easy manipulation. After this it is ready to be spun. 
The little snowy tufts of wool, fresh from the carding 
process, are wound around a plain piece of cane about 
eight or ten inches in length, to the top of which in some 
villages, such as El Kantara, a few cock's feathers are 
attached as ornament, and, holding this simple distaff 
aloft in her left hand, the Shawia woman plies the 
spindle by giving deft turns of the fingers of her right 
hand to a pendant stick attached to the wool on the 
distaff by the thread which it spins as it turns. 

One of the commonest sights in an Aures village is 
that of a group of women engaged in these three pro- 
cesses of preparing wool for the loom, perhaps one of 
the party, anxious to commence work upon a garment, 
having called in the assistance of her friends to help her 
hurriedly to make ready for the actual weaving, and it 
w;is while making as detailed inquiries as possible, to 
be published, we hope, some day, of the technicalities of 


spinning and weaving that my wife and I made many 
friends among the women of the hills. 

When spun the threads which are to act as the " warp," 
or vertical threads upon the simple upright loom, are 
stretched between the two heavy wooden beams, of 
which this loom consists, the upper beam being suspended 
from two uprights of wood placed near a wall in some 
corner of the dingy Shawia cottage, while the lower beam 
is held down by pegs thrust through these uprights. 

By means of an ingenious contrivance a simple move- 
ment of a stick allows the " odd " and " even " vertical 
threads to be drawn forward alternately as the " weft," 
or lateral threads, are passed by hand between them, no 
" shuttle " being employed by the Shawia or the Arabs 
of the desert. One, two, or even three women may be 
found working at one hand-loom in any cottage of the 
hills, seated in the narrow space between the loom and 
the wall, often nursing a baby as they deftly pass the 
weft between the warp threads and beat it down upon 
its predecessors with the aid of a heavy iron-spiked imple- 
ment, which, from its weight and from the apparently 
careless way in which it is used, might well be expected 
to tear to shreds the newly-woven fabric on the loom. 

It may seem strange to any one unacquainted with 
the vicissitudes of a traveller's life in out-of-the-way 
corners of the world that upon leaving Teniet el Abed, 
a village famous mainly as a home of notorious sinners, 
we should immediately become the honoured guests of 
a saint. 

We had intended to cross the rocky ridge which forms 
the right wall of the Wed Abdi and stay for a time in 
the village of Bouzina, which gives its name to the neigh- 
bouring valley to the north-west, but we received through 
Belayed, the orderly who was then accompanying us, 


such a pressing invitation from a celebrated marabout, 
named Boubish, to visit him at his hamlet of Tijdad, 
some two miles from Bouzina, that we determined to fall 
in with his suggestion and so, perhaps, see something of 
the blameless life for which the Moslem saints are believed 
to be celebrated, as well as finding further opportunities for 
general inquiries in one of the small places in which old 
customs and crafts persist more hardily than in the larger 
centres. We found Tijdad small enough to suit the most 
enthusiastic worshipper of the quiet of rural life. 

Situated upon the steep north-western slopes of the 
great grey ridge, studded with juniper and ilex bushes, 
which we had crossed on our way from the Abdi valley, 
the score or so of tiny cottages, overlooking a narrow 
stream, are scarcely discernible from a distance, the 
grey stone of which they are constructed being of the 
same colour as the surrounding rocky hills. 

The village is built upon no special plan, the houses 
lying huddled together on the slope, the roof of one 
upon the same level as the floor of its next-door neighbour, 
as is the case in many Shawia mountain settlements, 
but if the village itself presented few features of interest, 
we may at least examine an individual house as being 
typical of a Berber dwelling of the western Aures in a 
village apparently quite uninfluenced by foreign ideas of 
modern or mediaeval times. 

Built of untrimmed stones, the interstices between 
which are filled in with mud, the walls include one or 
two strata of small beams with a line of sticks beneath 
them, the sticks running transversely through the wall, 
the object of which is to add some solidity to an other- 
wise rickety building. Supported by rough beams of 
juniper, sustained by two or more juniper trunks accord- 
ing to the size of the room, a number of thinner branches 


of the same tree act as laths to the earth with which the 
roof is covered ; the roof being flat and unprotected from 
the gaze of the passer-by by any wall or parapet, such as 
we have noticed in the Arab houses of El Kantara, for 
the heavy winter snow would soon soak through the 
roof should a parapet hinder its removal, and, as we have 
seen, the Berbers do not hide their women as do the 
Arabs of the plains. 

The windows, if such exist, consist of one or two small 
rectangular or triangular openings near the roof in each 
of the four walls. As we pass through the roughly-hewn 
wooden door of such a house, a door fastened by one of the 
quaint wooden locks, whose tumblers are lifted by means 
of projections upon a wooden key, to be found all over 
Algeria, in Egypt, and elsewhere, we enter a small 
rectangular apartment, often the only one the house can 
boast of, which is smoke-begrimmed and dingy to an 
extent that must be seen to be believed. 

Of furniture there is no more than in the Arab houses 
of El Kantara ; some large halfa -grass baskets, plaited 
at home, in which are stored grain, dried figs or apricots, 
and other garden produce, a vertical loom set up beside 
the wall, a stone quern, some pottery utensils, roughly 
fashioned agricultural tools, a goatskin churn hanging 
from a tripod of branches, a hanging basket to serve as 
a cradle, such will be found to be the usual household 
possessions of a poor Shawia family, possessions which 
differ little if at all from the goods and chattels to be 
found in an Arab establishment of a similar kind. 

Along one side of the apartment runs a line of stakes 
forming a fence, a yard, or perhaps two yards, from the 
wall, with which the top of the fence is connected by 
means of a platform of sticks. Upon this platform the 
family sleeps upon old sacks and a rug or two, while in 


the small enclosure beneath them, formed by the wall 
and the fence, the goats and sheep, as well as chickens, 
cats, etc., are housed at night, the animal warmth arising 
from their bodies apparently affording some comfort to 
their ill-clad owners sleeping above them during the 
severe cold of the mountain winter, although the traveller 
himself, when once he has experienced a few nights in 
such surroundings, will probably decide that cold is the 
least of the evils which night-time can bring with it in 
the Aures. 

It would be superfluous to add that the interior of a 
poor Shawia cottage is as filthy as can be imagined, and 
far more filthy than can be described. 

The houses at Tijdad afforded us an opportunity of 
noting the most primitive, and therefore the most inter- 
esting, type of dwelling used in the western portion of 
the Aures massif, but we were fortunately not obliged 
to hire one of them as a temporary abode, our host, the 
marabout, having provided us with accommodation in 
the shape of an empty room built upon the flat roof of 
his own house. This apartment, built of stone like all 
the houses around, measured some sixteen feet by eight, 
and was provided with a very small window at one end, 
which, even at the very end of March, the cold at night 
compelled us to block up, and it contained no furniture 
whatever, other than a rug and some halfa-grass mats 
upon which to sit. Here we spread our blankets and 
settled down, making ourselves fairly comfortable, for 
the room was clean compared to the ordinary Shawia 
house, and, remarkable to relate, the rug was untenanted. 
But if our slumbers were undisturbed by any occupant 
of the rug, they were, to put it mildly, considerably 
curtailed by the persistent efforts of some rats to dine 
off the candle which, stuck into the neck of a bottle, 


stood beside my wife's head, the unwelcome visitors 
even climbing upon her hat, which lay at hand, in order 
to reach the tallow. Had we much horror of rats we 
should have avoided the task of studying native life in 
such places as the Aures, so realizing that these creatures 
must be expected, even in the houses of the holy, we 
merely asked our saintly host next day if he would lend 
us the services of a cat for the defence of my wife's hat 
and the candle. The following evening, as we were 
about to retire to rest, the cat was flung into our room. 

A more savage specimen of the so-called domestic cat 
I have never yet beheld. It hissed and swore at our 
every movement, and, despite all the soothing words 
addressed to it by my wife (who had hitherto liked cats), 
its growlings kept us awake throughout the night quite 
as effectually as the activities of the rats, so that, called 
upon to decide which of the two should be permitted to 
annoy us, we agreed at once that an army of rats were 
to be preferred to one Shawia cat ; the latter, therefore, 
was removed at dawn by a native, whose arm it ripped 
open in the process of capture, and we resigned ourselves 
and our candles to our first tormentors for the future. 

Living in a room built upon the holy roof as the guests 
of the saint himself, we enjoyed an excellent opportunity 
of obtaining some insight into the life of a man who 
we found to be interesting as a fair type of the class to 
which he belonged. 

Although the word " marabout " is easily the most 
used Arabic term employed by the tourist in Algeria, 
it seems probable that very few European visitors to 
North Africa are acquainted with the precise meaning 
of the word, a meaning which indicates the origin of the 
class to whom it is applied, and almost as few know how 
to give it its correct pronunciation, " mrabat." 


To give my readers a clear idea of the origin of the 
class of holy men to be found all over Algeria to-day, I 
must refer them to a translation of the work of an eleventh- 
century Arabic author, El Bekri, prepared by the 
eminent French orientalist, de Slane. In the early days 
of Arab conquest the extreme frontiers of their far-flung 
dominions were guarded from the attacks of the infidel 
by means of a chain of block-houses, known in Arabic 
as " ribat," from a verb-root signifying " to bind 

Those Moslems who wished to display the greatest 
possible devotion to the holy cause volunteered to serve in 
these remote outposts of their faith, and during the in- 
tervals of actual warfare applied themselves to the study 
of their religion and to prayer. These occupants of a 
" ribat " were known as " morabet " — the spelling is 
de Slane's — whence is derived the modern Franco-Arabic 
word of " marabout," a term which is often applied 
nowadays to tombs of departed saints and to trees or 
hills which are believed to contain holiness, as well as to 
the living holy men themselves. 

Thus the modern marabout owes the origin of his class 
to the devoted band of early Moslem stalwarts who, 
renouncing the pleasures of this world, sought hardship 
and banishment on the confines of the Islamic empire, 
some trace of their predecessors' spirit being now dis- 
cernible in the hermit-like existence of certain marabouts, 
while the block-house may, perhaps, be considered to 
have left to posterity some reflection of itself in the 
M zawias " of certain of the greater holy men, establish- 
ments which, as wc have seen, combine to a certain 
extent the properties of a feudal castle, a college, and 
a monastery. 

But the title of " marabout " has at some period become 


hereditary, with the result that the term is applied not 
only to those who really practise in all sincerity the 
religion to which, following in their father's footsteps, 
they have devoted their lives, but also to a few degenerate, 
dissolute scoundrels, the black sheep of the family from 
which they are sprung ; while heredity of title has in 
many cases brought great wealth to the saintly families, 
for a well-known holy man has a very wide following of 
adherents who seek his counsel and who subscribe as 
much as they can afford in money or in kind to the 
treasures of the saintly house, and many a pious Moslem 
will leave a handsome legacy at his death to the particular 
marabout whose advice he believes to have benefited 
him during his lifetime. 

The great majority of marabouts are very hospitable, 
not only to their followers, from whom they derive their 
wealth, but to the wandering stranger within their gates, 
indeed it is wise for the traveller in Algeria to cultivate 
as far as possible the friendship of these holy men, for, 
as we have seen, their influence is often very wide and 
their approval may be as helpful during a journey as 
their disapproval would probably turn out to be the 
reverse. Thus, in 1920, I joined a small group of natives 
in a remote village, of whom I was acquainted with 
only one. 

His companions, though polite, were by no means 
effusive until my friend, having been asked who I was, 
remarked : " Don't you know ? This is Simsim, he 
stayed with Sidi Lakhdar, the marabout, at Baniane, 
before the war." The mention of this venerable saint, 
whose home lay fifty miles away, at once thawed the 
reserve of the party of natives, who forthwith carried me 
off to a cafe to cement the friendship formed through 
our mutual acquaintance, Sidi Lakhdar, of Baniane. The 


marabouts are sometimes supposed to possess magical 
powers of healing, and to be endowed with " second 
sight," while an amulet in the form of a slip of paper, 
upon which the saint has written some magic words, is 
believed to protect the person who wears it, sewn up in 
leather, or encased in a silver box, suspended around the 
neck ; but the great power of the marabout is to be 
found in the advice he gives to his followers, advice which 
they will usually follow to the letter. 

Thus, should it be possible for all the marabouts to 
give the same political advice to their followers, very 
widespread results would undoubtedly ensue, but, perhaps 
fortunately, there exists suspicion and jealousy, rather 
than unity and concord in the ranks of the holy men, 
so that combined action, with its probably unpleasant 
results, seems very unlikely to be taken in the Barbary 

Our host at Tijdad, Ahmed ben Mohammed Boubish, 
appeared to be typical of the best class of marabout. 
Some fifty years of age, tall, with the not unpleasing face 
of a dreamer, he lives with his son and two wives (for 
celibacy does not appeal to the Algerian saints) in a manner 
as simple as any of his neighbours, dispensing generous 
hospitality to all who pass his way, but eating little him- 
self, though indulging, perhaps to excess, in two of the 
luxuries of the Shawia, coffee and cigarettes of juniper 
leaf, the latter usually prepared for him by a follower. 
Most of his nights are devoted to solitary wandering 
upon the rocky hills, but, seated upon the opposite bank 
of the brook, whence he can overlook the hamlet of 
Tijdad, to the discomfiture of any intending sinner among 
its inhabitants, he spends his days in reverie or in giving 
counsel to those who seek his aid, many persons bringing 
their disputes to him instead of to a Kai'd or to the 


• - ~ t „ 




To face p- 110. 


French law courts, his judgment being usually accepted 
without question by the parties concerned. 

Indeed, he is reputed to have prevented a lot of litiga- 
tion among his followers, for it is said that loss of his 
case will inevitably punish the claimant who goes to law 
in defiance of Boubish's advice. Many women bring 
their troubles to the saint of Tijdad ; being invariably 
received with the same grave courtesy which the marabout 
extends to his followers among the other sex, and he is 
accredited with the power of divining an applicant's 
difficulties before they are explained to him. 

Boubish certainly seemed to me to set a very fair 
example indeed of the blameless life usually supposed 
by the faithful to be led by marabouts as a whole, and 
his advice, as far as I could judge from a number of 
instances which came to my notice, appeared to be very 
sound indeed, while he did not seem to abuse his position 
by exploiting to his own pecuniary advantage the 
credulity of his followers, a temptation to which many 
marabouts succumb. 

His views on morality were strict ; utterly disapproving 
of the customs of the Ouled Abdi dancers, he believed 
in the removal of temptation as the best means of com- 
bating vice, and, accordingly, he countenanced no music 
in his village, the oboe being considered the adjunct of 
the danseuse, while, in his opinion, the end-flute (the 
only other wind instrument of the Aures where strings 
are unknown) might be expected to give rise to the 
practice of serenading, with its usual unfortunate result, 
murder, and the beginning of a blood-feud. 

From what I have seen of marabouts in the Aures, 
and I am on friendly terms with most of those to be found 
in the massif, I have arrived at the conclusion that, so 
long as they will continue to avoid politics, their presence 


is a help rather than a hindrance to the peace and good 
order of the community, and that, looked at from the 
moral standpoint, they do far more good than harm. 

While staying at Tijdad we frequently found occasion 
to walk over the couple of miles or so which separated 
us from Bouzina, and so were able to form some acquain- 
tance with one of the greatest Berber centres of the 
western Aures, the greatest, perhaps, after the progressive 

Lying at the head of the valley which bears its name, 
at the foot of the horseshoe-shaped rocky wall of Mahmel, 
one of the highest of the Aures hills, Bouzina is invisible 
until very nearly approached by the traveller from 
Tijdad, that is to say, from the east. As we walked along 
the track which leads to the town we first noticed a 
couple of ruined towers, evidently outworks, such as 
are to be seen near many an Aures village, which had 
doubtless defended Bouzina in the troublous days of 
old, and only upon arriving at one of these towers did 
we become aware of the existence of a cup-like depression 
in the main valley, which revealed to us the village of 
Bouzina, built upon a knoll in the centre of it, at our 
feet. In this cup-like depression rises a considerable 
stream, flowing south-westwards to Tagoust, and thence 
into a gorge, which, as we have seen, leads it to its junc- 
tion with the Wed Abdi at Menaa. The houses of 
Bouzina, huddled together upon the knoll, are, of course, 
of Berber type, and they are in many cases well built, 
for the natives of the place are noted as trimmers of 
building stones, in which capacity they obtain employ- 
ment in many a distant village of the hills. 

But my readers have accompanied me to enough of 
the villages of the western Aures ; I will not, therefore, 
weary them with a description of Bouzina, which differs 


in no essential detail from such places as Beni Ferah 
and Menaa. 

I will rather lead them over the Mahmel, and so to 
the railway, in order to invite them in succeeding chapters 
to explore the different settlements of the central part 
of the massif, settlements which will be found to be 
more picturesque, more remote, and, therefore, more 
interesting than any of the Abdi or Bouzina valleys. 
As we climbed into the saddle to take our departure 
from Tijdad our host, the marabout, appeared to be 
depressed, and, calling me aside, he handed me a ring 
from his own finger, a ring of silver in which was set a 
piece of blue glass, telling me that I was to keep it as a 
protective charm, such trinkets belonging to holy men, 
as well as the food they offer to their guests, being 
considered to contain some of the holiness, in Arabic 
" baraka," of their sainted owners. I thanked Boubish 
heartily for his present, and rode off. 

As we wended our way up the narrow ledge on the 
hillside, which zigzags from the valley of Bouzina to 
the crest of Mahmel, I had been admiring the wonderful 
view of the broad valley which lay beneath us, and, in 
some doubt as to the name of a distant village or peak, 
I turned to inquire it of the orderly, Belayed, who was 
riding a few paces behind. 

Touching his horse with the spur, Belayed came up to 
hear my remark, whereupon, I suppose, his horse bit 
my mule in the tail, for, next instant, the tellis upon 
which I was riding and I descended some yards down 
the precipitous rock-strewn slope, on the edge of which 
lay the track, leaving my mule kicking furiously on the 
path. Having been picked up, severely shaken, and 
firmly convinced that I had broken at least one rib, I 
was helped up to the path again, and the natives gathered 



round me to inquire how much I was hurt, all the time 
exchanging glances among themselves. 

At last Belayed said : " The marabout foresaw this. 
He told me he was uneasy about you, and did not wish 
to let you go ; that is why he gave you that ring. If 
you had not been wearing it you must have been killed." 

Nursing my rib, my temper as ruffled as my body was 
shaken, I was on the point of inquiring why the ring had 
not prevented the fall altogether, but, realizing that I 
really had had a remarkable escape, I decided to agree 
with Belayed and not to risk offending the marabout by 
expecting more than his powers were supposed to have 
done for me. 

When once we had crossed the ridge of Mahmel we 
found ourselves at a great altitude above the sea, upon 
a tableland which sloped away to the wooded country 
to the north. 

As we traversed this plateau snow began to fall — we 
were already in the first half of April — and we rode up 
to the home of another marabout on the edge of the 
forest in a blinding snowstorm. This marabout, though 
he practises agriculture rather than religion, being 
merely an hereditary saint, proved to be most hospitable, 
and quickly provided us with a hot meal and with a huge 
and magnificent carpet, spread before a roaring fire, to 
lie upon, remarking naively as he pointed it out : " You 
need not be afraid of it ; the weather is too cold for 
fleas ! " 

A statement which was apparently true, for we suffered 
no ill-effects from contact with it before we rose at dawn 
to continue our way to Batna. 

The track lay through grand forests of cedar, pine, 
and other trees, whose size, though in no way remarkable, 
struck us as extraordinary after our stay in a country 


in which dwarf juniper, ilex, and fruit trees are the largest 
members of the vegetable kingdom ; the region we had 
now entered resembling in all respects the area in which 
we hunted boar near Taghit Sidi Belkheir. 

As we came to the summit of the slopes overhanging 
Batna we obtained some glorious views of the level 
plateau to the north of the Aures massif, in which that 
French settlement lies, and, riding down these wooded 
slopes, we passed through the great gates in the loop- 
holed walls of this garrison town, finally pulling up at 
an hotel. Having paid off our men, and arranged for 
the return of Belayed to his headquarters, I took my 
ribs to a doctor, and my wife began to arrange our baggage 
with a view to returning to El Kantara by train on the 
morrow to pick up various cases of specimens for the 
museum, which, as occasion offered, I had sent there to 
await my arrival, thus relieving our baggage of much 
weight as we moved about the hills. 








HAVING explored the valleys of the western portion 
of the Aures massif we turned our attention to 
those of the central part of the range, namely the great 
canon of the Rassira, a stream which enters the Sahara 
through the gorge of Mechounech some twenty miles 
to the east of Biskra, and the higher valley of this same 
stream, known in the northern portion of its course 
as the Wed el Abiod, that is to say the " White 

To my mind the scenery of the canon of the Rassira 
in its beauty and its grandeur, is not excelled by any 
of the other valleys of the Aures, even if its equal can be 
found in any other part of Algeria with which I am ac- 
quainted, and the very heart of this great gorge lies no 
more than thirty or forty miles in a direct line from the 
crowded hotels of Biskra. 

It may seem almost incredible therefore, that in 1914 
my wife was said by the Shawia to be the first European 
woman to be seen in some of its hamlets in which we 
stayed, a statement amply corroborated by the eagerness 



of the women, and of those who had not wandered as 
far as the railway, to obtain a glimpse of her. 

The reason of the tourist's neglect of the area is, however, 
by no means far to seek. 

Roads have hitherto been non-existent through the 
Rassira valley, and some of its mule tracks are difficult ; 
the Kai'ds of this region appear to hold authority over 
wider stretches of territory than in the valleys we have 
hitherto visited and, accordingly, the hospitality of their 
homes is less frequently to be found, the traveller often 
being obliged to hire some dingy Shawia hovel in which 
to live; while the "guides" of the tourist centres, as 
a rule, appear almost to be ignorant of the very existence 
of this great ravine and its interesting Berber settlements, 
their ignorance doubtless being increased by the lack of 
creature comforts to be found therein and the admitted 
dislike of the Shawia to these " hangers on " to Western 
civilization and wealth. 

Nevertheless the day may not be so far distant when 
the rocks of the Rassira will resound to the blast of the 
motor horn and its canon become one of the great 
spectacles of Algeria ; indeed, as we shall find later on, 
a bordj similar to those at Djemora and Menaa has already 
been erected in the centre of the valley ; so that the 
wanderer in search of a glance at primitive native life 
and at villages unspoiled by the introduction of European 
ideas will be well advised to pack his blankets on a mule 
and betake him to the central Aures in the van of the 
influx of visitors which, I think, must immediately follow 
upon the construction of a road passable to wheeled 
traffic, especially to cars. 

Obviously, with Mechounech, the southern entrance 
to the Rassira, at so short a distance from Biskra and 
the track between the two lying over level desert devoid 


of sand, Biskra would seem to be the ideal centre from 
which to approach the central part of the Aures massif; 
but for two reasons we again selected El Kantara as our 
base for our journey into this country. 

Firstly, by proceeding from the Mouth of the Desert 
and leaving Biskra to the south-west of our road, we 
should find an opportunity of visiting the oasis of Branis, 
another settlement of the Ouled Ziane nomad Arabs, 
somewhat similar to Djemora, which we had not previously 
seen, and, secondly, the small demand by tourists for 
riding and baggage animals at El Kantara would, 
we thought, lead to our being able to secure them at 
prices lower than those demanded at Biskra, prices which, 
though the animals were to be hired for one stage of the 
journey only, would be likely to increase those asked for 
each subsequent hiring, with the result that prices in 
general would be enhanced throughout our wanderings 
in the hills. 

Upon leaving El Kantara for Mechounech we marched 
direct to Djemora, and there spent a week or so as the 
guests of our old friend Basha Bashir, subsequently 
moving on the ten or a dozen miles to the south to meet 
the Administrator of the region at the oasis of Branis. 
This gentleman, who has since fallen in the service of 
his country by the hand of an assassin, had arranged 
to leave his headquarters at Ain Touta by train and, 
quitting the railway at El Outaya, to ride into Branis 
from the west while we approached the oasis from the 
north accompanied by the Kai'd of Djemora, attired in 
the scarlet burnous which denotes his office and mounted 
upon his best horse saddled with the most ornate harness 
he possessed. 

Evidently the chief of Branis had decided that the 
simultaneous visit of his Administrator and of two British 


travellers was an occasion to be marked by as much 
ceremonial as he could arrange for ; as we came in sight 
of the hillock upon which the village stands, therefore, 
a musket was fired from a house-top (a complimentary 
salute, we were carefully informed) and, as we rode through 
its tortuous lanes we noticed a display of the " tricouleur " 
and a number of arches made of palm-leaves such as 
we had not previously met with in the Aures. I am 
afraid we rather spoiled the dramatic effect intended to 
be produced by a meeting with the Administrator in 
the village itself beneath the folds of the French flag, 
by arriving an hour too early, but we made the best 
of this hour by comfortably settling into the room pro- 
vided for us, partaking of a lunch which, if we could have 
foreseen what lay before us, we should have left untouched, 
and finally walking a little way along the track towards 
El Outaya to meet the French officer who was to arrive 
accompanied by the Kai'd and his " goum." 

Soon the plaintive notes of the oboe and the beating 
of drums heralded the approach of the Administrator 
and his escort. Headed by a couple of mules each 
carrying an oboe player and a drummer, the little column 
came into sight round a corner of the palm groves of 
the oasis ; the Administrator immediately followed by 
the Kaid, clad in his scarlet robe and riding with drawn 
sword, who in his turn was closely attended by a mounted 
man bearing the brightly coloured standard of the 
" goum," behind whom rode a score or so of the 
" goumiers " themselves attired, as their personal fancies 
dictated, in cloaks of many brilliant hues. 

As the French officer dismounted to greet us the horse- 
men lined up and discharged their smooth-bore guns 
into the air while their chief gravely saluted with his 
sword, after which formal greeting we walked slowly 


back to the village accompanied by the Kai'd, the 
musicians and the " goum." 

The " goumier," or irregular armed follower of an 
Algerian chieftain, can, perhaps, best be likened to the 
" special constable " recruited in England to meet the 
requirements of a national emergency. 

Certain natives of good character and undoubted loyalty 
are voluntarily enrolled in the area of each chief upon 
the understanding that they shall be called upon to serve 
the French in times of internal commotion under the 
leadership of their Kai'd. These men are provided with 
arms varying in character according to the locality or 
the services they will be required to render. 

In the higher country of the Aures the " goumier " 
usually serves on foot, in the northern portion of the 
Sahara and upon the plateau he responds to a summons 
to arms mounted upon his own horse, while far down 
in the great desert he rides the " mehari," or trotting 
camel, so well suited to the vast stretches of barren waste 
he will be obliged to cover in the execution of his duty. 

Should outlaws appear in a district, terrorizing its 
usually peaceful inhabitants, the Kai'd will summon his 
" goum " to effect their capture ; should one tribe in the 
Sahara attempt a predatory excursion into the pastures 
of its neighbours' flocks the " goumicrs " will assist the 
authorities to bring the freebooters to book ; and, in 
the extreme south, the " goums " of friendly Arab tribes 
have long served the useful purpose of keeping open the 
caravan routes despite the marauding proclivities of 
the Tawarek Berber nomads and have rendered signal 
service to the French in providing mobile columns by 
means of which these bandits have been driven discom- 
forted to their far-off desert homes and peaceful traffic 
has been restored to the great highways of the Sahara. 


But the " goumier " has not served the cause of civiliza- 
tion in his own land alone. Many a troop of irregular 
horse has accompanied the French in their various cam- 
paigns in Morocco, and in the early days of the great 
war many of the gaudy flags of the desert irregular horse- 
men fluttered in the breeze over the plains of Flanders 
when the manhood of all warrior nations combined to 
face the Hun. Although, of course, the " goumiers " 
who served in Flanders were fully equipped with modern 
weapons and with uniforms, in their own country these 
horsemen turn out upon mobilization attired as pleases 
them best, a fact which makes a ceremonial parade of 
the " goums " a very brilliant spectacle indeed, for every 
Arab cavalier loves finery and outward show as much 
as anything this world can offer him. 

In the dazzling Algerian sunshine, beneath which no 
colours seem to clash, the many hues displayed by a group 
of desert horsemen, their gorgeous burnouses tossed from 
side to side by the prancing of their spirited little horses, 
usually kept tied up to increase their natural restiveness 
before any important assembly, lend a wonderful tinge 
of colour to the throng, their gold embroidered harness 
adding many a twinkling point of light to the barbaric 
splendour of the scene. 

It is scarcely to be wondered at, therefore, that a dis- 
play of horsemanship by a number of gaily cloaked 
warriors mounted upon horses thus brilliantly capar- 
isoned in the wide desert beneath a burning sun should 
constitute one of the most gorgeous spectacles that can 
be found the world over. 

A " fantasia," as such a display is termed, upon a very 
small scale it is true, was organized by the Ka'id of Branis 
to celebrate the arrival in his territory of the Adminis- 
trator and ourselves. Upon returning to the village with 


our host, having partaken of the usual cups of coffee, 
we ascended to the roof of a house overlooking the stream, 
which flows down to Branis from Djemora, whence a good 
view was obtainable of the level country beyond the 
river, the place selected for the display. 

Having forded the stream the horsemen, numbering 
but a score or so, for the local " goum " was by no means 
large, lined up on our left and proceeded to gallop past 
us one by one, their wiry little horses urged to their utmost 
speed, each rider uttering a long drawn cry as he rode 
and, standing in his stirrups, firing blank charges from 
the double barrelled shot-gun with which he was armed, 
one shot usually being fired over the horse's head, as 
if at an enemy in flight, and the second over the cantle 
of the saddle at some imaginary pursuer behind. 

When each " goumier " had thus given his individual 
display the whole party galloped past in line headed by 
the standard-bearer, his gaily coloured banner streaming 
in the breeze. 

This concluded an exhibition which was more remarkable 
for the brilliance of its general effect than for any special 
skill displayed by the riders who took part in it. 

The Arab is by no means so accustomed to the practice 
of tricks of horsemanship as are the cow-boys of America 
and other world-famed horsemen, but he sets up a high 
standard of efficiency for those who desire to pride them- 
selves upon their riding. 

For example, it is said that no man can call himself a 
horseman who cannot perform the " fantasia," with its 
shooting and turning in the saddle, holding the while 
a coin between the sole of each shoe and the stirrup, 
the downward curve of the stirrup at both ends rendering 
this test by no means easy ; while a couple of really 
accomplished horsemen will occasionally give the display 



To face p 122. 


side by side, one with his right foot in his neighbours' 
" near " stirrup and the other with his left in the " off " 
stirrup of his companion. 

The little impromptu " fantasia " at Branis having 
been brought to a close, we wandered around the village 
of mud brick, exactly resembling the desert villages we 
have already described, which forms the base of the 
southern portion of the Ouled Ziane nomads as Djemora 
constitutes the headquarters of their kinsmen immediately 
in the north, and at sundown we returned to the house 
of the Kai'd to be regaled with a feast which caused us to 
regret having partaken of any food for several days past. 
I will not weary the reader with a description of the 
first nine courses, consisting of various well -cooked stews 
and kuskus, our attacks upon which were encouraged 
by such exclamations as " Eat, eat," " You are eating 
nothing," " Perhaps you do not like Arab food " from 
our host, the Kai'd, who waited upon us in person ; but 
I will pass on to the national " plat d'honneur " of Algeria 
with which the very sumptuous repast was terminated, 
namely the " mechwi," or lamb roasted whole. This 
dish, which every wealthy Arab loves to place before 
an honoured guest, would certainly be the most appetizing 
form of sustenance the traveller can meet with in his 
wanderings in the desert and the hills, were it not for the 
fact that it is almost always preceded by a number of 
other courses of which he has been practically forced to 
consume an immoderate amount and that he is expected 
to attack it in no half-hearted manner, despite his previous 
efforts to do justice to the hospitality of his host. 

The lamb is cooked in the following manner. A fire 
of logs is made, the glowing embers of which are placed 
upon the ground at some distance from the fire itself. 
A pole having been thrust through the lamb from head 


to tail, the carcase is held horizontally over the glowing 
embers by two men who slowly and continuously turn 
it upon the spit formed by the pole, one of them basting 
it the while by means of a tuft of wool upon the end of 
a stick which he dips into a bowl containing melted butter 
and salt. The cooking being accomplished over the 
embers all risk of charring the meat in the flames of a 
fire is obviated, while the fact that the guests have to 
wait upon the convenience of the cook instead of the 
cook upon that of the diner ensures that the lamb is 
eaten exactly when " done to a turn." When ready 
for eating the carcase is removed from the pole and 
placed, often standing upon the stumps of its legs, upon 
a large brass tray which is set in the centre of the group 
of guests, upon the floor in the more primitive families 
or upon the table in the case of most Kai'ds. 

No vegetables or condiments are served with the 
" mechwi." When the dish is served each guest, murmur- 
ing the customary " Bismillah," " In the name of God," 
proceeds to tear off with his fingers some of the crisp and 
delicious outer skin from the back and ribs, after which 
he tears or cuts away some of the meat from the same 
part of the animal, endeavouring the while, if he be a 
European, to convey to his host the impression that he 
is helping himself more liberally than is actually the 
case, for the Arabs expect very full justice indeed to be 
done to their favourite dish. It is remarkable that the 
flesh of the back and the ribs and the animal's kidneys 
are considered to be the best portions of the carcase, the 
hind legs and the shoulders being usually left to be finished 
by the servants outside, a task which they accomplish 
in no uncertain manner, leaving not one scrap of meat 
upon the bones. At the conclusion of the almost inter- 
minable feast offered to us by the Ka'id wc turned in to 


spend a comfortable night upon a pile of carpets spread 
for us in a vacant room in the chiefs house, the Adminis- 
trator being accommodated in the apartment used by him 
as an office during his tours of duty in the area, preparatory 
to an early start for Mechounech on the morrow. 

The French officer who had met us at Branis had never 
before visited Mechounech, an oasis which lay outside 
his jurisdiction ; he had arranged, therefore, to ride with 
us to that village where we were to meet another French 
official of our acquaintance who would at that time be 
returning to his post in the hills after a visit to Biskra. 

We were quite a considerable party, therefore, when 
we rode out of Branis in the soft light of dawn, heading 
towards the level desert of the Sahara. 

The greater part of this long day's journey over a stony 
plain with a distant panorama of the great oasis of Biskra, 
lying like a shadow upon the desert to south-west, almost 
constantly in view, was uneventful for, until we reached 
the lower level of the actual Sahara at the village and small 
oasis of Droh in the early afternoon, we came upon no 
sign of human life other than an occasional group of tents 
of the Ouled Ziane. 

The natives of Droh were remarkable in that they 
afforded us a passing glimpse of the third human type 
to be found in south-eastern Algeria, namely the negroid 
type which occupies the long since dried up bed of the 
Wed Rhir between Biskra and the great desert centre 
of Touggourt some one hundred and fifty miles to the 

Continuing our journey we turned to the north-east 
and, following more or less closely the line of the stream 
which flows down the central valley of the Aur&s, we 
rode through the broken country between the Sahara 
proper and the foothills of the massif towards the 


oasis of Mechounech at the southern end of the gorge 
which bears its name. Shortly before reaching the oasis 
a cloud of dust overtaking us from the direction from 
which we had come and distant cries of " Ee-oop-ee," 
by means of which native carriage drivers urge on their 
beasts, heralded the arrival of the Administrator who 
was to meet us at Mechounech and who, having left his 
horse at that village, had hired a vehicle in Biskra to 
convey him to rejoin it. 

Upon arrival at the stream, however, which flows 
through the oasis and must be crossed before the traveller 
can enter the village of Mechounech the superiority of 
the humble mule over the swifter moving carriage for 
up-country journeys in Algeria was made manifest, for 
the fiacre became wedged against a boulder amid the 
swirling waters of the river and had to be abandoned by 
its passenger for, although the greater part of the track 
from Biskra to Mechounech, lying over the dry soil of 
a desert, can be easily and fairly comfortably traversed 
in a carriage, even the bed of the stream presenting in 
normal times but an inconsiderable obstacle to wheeled 
traffic, upon the occasion of our visit rain in the north 
had swollen the river to unusual proportions and thereby 
rendered the ford almost impassable to a fiacre. 

Doubtless the track will very shortly be improved, if 
indeed the work has not already been carried out by the 
time these lines are in print, for, as we have noted, Mech- 
ounech stands at the southern gateway to one of the most 
remarkable districts in the whole of eastern Algeria, 
an area which must sooner or later become a favourite 
with those travellers who delight in grand scenery and 
strange scenes. 

The oasis itself, with its many thousands of stately 
palms, lying at the foot of the precipitous wall of rock 


which separates the Sahara from the central Aures valleys, 
is one of the most beautiful to be found on the edge of 
the desert. 

The narrow winding lanes between its date gardens, the 
minaret of its principal mosque gleaming white in the 
glorious sunshine over the tumble of mud brick huts 
which forms the main village combine, with its mountain 
background, to make up a picture of rare beauty at this 
point where hills and desert meet, while its wonderful 
gorge — the merest cleft in a great grey wall of rock through 
which the stream of the Rassira finds its way to the 
Sahara, a gorge so narrow as to offer no bridle path beside 
the river to the traveller who would pass through it — 
may well rank in its almost forbidding grandeur with 
any of the great defiles of the Algerian hills. But for 
all its natural beauty, which may soon make it the resort 
of the motorists of Biskra, Mechounech is not a place 
to appeal very strongly to the student of Shawia life. 

The natives of the place, as a rule, claim to belong 
to the Berber race and, indeed, fair complexions and 
the Shawia dialect are common enough in the village, 
but the negroid Rhouara and Arabs from the neighbouring 
Zab Chergui area of the Sahara are also to be found 
mingled with the population, a fact which caused me to 
undertake few, if any, researches in the place, for I have 
always preferred to study the habits of the Berbers in 
localities as far removed as possible from the outside 
influence of adjacent peoples. We accordingly spent 
but a few days in this beauty spot of the fringe of the 
Sahara, in the course of which, however, we made some 
most interesting acquaintances, among them members 
of one of the great aristocratic families of Algeria, for 
the Kaid of the district came of very ancient lineage 


The Kai'd himself, Bou Hafs ben Chenouf, who has 
succumbed to a lingering illness since our last meeting 
with him, had his residence at the northern end of the 
Rassira valley, over the whole of which he held sway, 
but he happened to be at Mechounech at the time of our 
arrival, on a visit to his younger brother, its headman 
or sheikh, in whose house we were lodged, for the rest- 
house or bordj which has recently been built at 
Mechounech was not then in existence, and the Kai'd 
himself owned but a small dwelling in the oasis. 

The family of ben Chenouf is one of the most respected 
in Algeria, and has been one of the most powerful in the 
days when individual chiefs held absolute sway over 
the land. 

Of Arab descent, an ancestor having held important 
office under the Caliphs of Baghdad in the early Middle 
Ages, the ben Chenouf were a ruling family in the country 
they now inhabit as long ago as the fifteenth century, 
when the authority of the Bey of Constantine over them 
was probably far more nominal than real. 

Upon the arrival of the French a number of influences 
combined to induce the family to espouse the cause of 
the European, a cause which its members have ever since 
most loyally served, so that position and honour have 
continued to fall to their lot up to the present day. 

The head of the clan, Si Ali Bey, held the office of Bash- 
Agha, or overlord, near Khcnchela to the north of the 
Aures massif until, a year or two ago, he fell a victim to 
a miscreant's treacherous ball ; Bou Hafs held the 
position of Kai'd of the Rassira and the Amar Khraddou, 
a very large " Kai'dat " indeed ; various other members 
of the family of ben Chenouf hold or have held other 
responsible offices in the administration ; and, upon our 
visit to Mechounech, we were invited to return later in the 


year to be present at a military parade and " fantasia " 
at which three brothers of the family were to be decorated 
by the French with different ranks of the Legion of Honour 
for services rendered, not only at home but when in 
command of their " goumiers " in various campaigns in 

Thus it will be seen that the French in this instance, 
as in many others, have found some of their most valu- 
able and influential supporters among the aristocracy 
of Algeria, among families whose word was law in the 
land before the advent of settled conditions and the 
approach of the civilization of the West, for among no 
people in the world is pride of lineage held in greater 
esteem than among the Arabs of Algeria who, I am 
convinced, would even prefer to be thoroughly mis- 
governed and taxed beyond endurance by a despot of 
undisputed pedigree than to be administered faithfully 
and well by a chief whom they could regard as an upstart 
or a person of inglorious ancestry. 

Bou Hafs ben Chenouf entertained us royally during our 
stay at Mechounech. Speaking perfect French, having 
travelled extensively in France as well as in his own 
country, he was typical of the progressive Arab Kaid of 
to-day, yet he never laid aside the customs of his people, 
dressing always in the costume of the desert and leading 
a life of stern simplicity in his home, when not engaged in 
the occupation he loved so well of entertaining an official 
or a guest. Anxious to resume our researches among 
the Berbers of the Aures in villages in which the risks 
of an infusion of foreign customs into their life could be 
regarded as reduced to a minimum, we moved on from 
Mechounech to the oasis of Baniane higher up the valley 
of the Rassira stream, riding up the steep hillside through 
which runs the gorge, leaving that defile to the west for, 



as I have pointed out before, the bed of a mountain 
torrent in a chasm of the Aures is often dangerous in the 
autumn or the spring, owing to its liability to sudden 

Having surmounted the rocky ridge which overlooks 
Mechounech, with its glorious view of the Sahara stretched 
like a carpet at our feet, we descended to the course of 
the river, now flowing through a less restricted channel, 
and followed it till we came, after but an hour or two's 
slow riding, to the date gardens of Baniane and the first 
of the hamlets which lie scattered amidst its groves. 
A mere glimpse at this hamlet with its houses of stone 
showed us that we had returned to the land of the Shawia, 
while a feature of the place, unknown in the western 
portions of the Aures through which we had wandered, 
at once arrested our attention and brought to our notice 
one of the outstanding differences between the villages 
of the Rassira and those of other parts of the massif. 
Upon the brink of a sheer wall of rock overlooking a 
bend in the river, its walls built flush with the edge of 
the cliff some fifty feet above the water, stood a large 
four-storied stone building, each story provided with 
a rickety balcony from which a small doorway led into 
the house, the whole edifice so much larger than any 
Shawia structure we had yet seen that we at once in- 
quired of Belayed, the orderly who accompanied us, 
what its purpose might be. 

It was, he replied, the " guelaa " or defensible granary 
of Baniane, a building which we soon discovered to be 
characteristic of most, if not all, of the Shawia settle- 
ments in the Rassira valley. These buildings have 
been called into existence by the exigencies of the 
troublous times before the French occupation of 
Algeria. Obviously rain falls more plentifully upon the 


hills than in the Sahara and, just as obviously, in the 
bad old times of inter-tribal strife, when a man's lawful 
possessions were those which he could acquire by means 
of his own right arm (or, more probably, by means of a 
musket-shot fired from behind a rock at the back of an 
unsuspecting member of some neighbouring community), 
the dwellers in the hills would be only too glad to turn 
to the fullest advantage the streams resulting from this 
rainfall by tapping them with the " seggias " we have 
already described to an extent which would allow the 
minimum quantity of their precious water to reach the 
burning plains of the south ; and this despite any agreement 
such as, I believe, was entered into between the inhabitants 
of the hills and of the desert with regard to the quantity 
of water which should be allowed to pass out of the 

Superior, then, as are the crops of the Shawia to those 
of their Arab neighbours of the Sahara to-day, in the 
troublous times gone by they were probably very much 
more abundant still ; small wonder, therefore, that the 
nomads of the desert may often have been driven by 
sheer want to undertake those predatory raids the smallest 
occasion for which would be eagerly embraced by the 
warrior herdsmen to whose " goums," now under the 
orders of the French, we have referred in this chapter. 
Defensive measures to meet such raids were thus rendered 
necessary to the Shawia, who constructed these granaries 
for the purpose of storing their grain in a place in which 
its capture would be a task of extreme difficulty to an ill- 
armed foe. 

To judge by the appearance of the " guelaa " at Baniane, 
and of others which we subsequently examined, the 
buildings were eminently suitable for their purpose. 
Its outer walls rising flush with the edge of the cliff offer 


no possibility for assault to an attacking force approaching 
it from the river, whose flint-lock muskets would make 
little or no impression upon its masonry, while the 
balconies, used for the drying of fruit in the piping times 
of peace, would afford excellent accommodation to the 
sharp-shooters of the garrison who could obtain shelter 
in the doorways leading out on to them should the 
enemy's fire become unpleasantly hot. The interior of the 
" guelaa," a veritable labyrinth of narrow lanes in many 
cases bridged by ladders of palm trunk giving access to 
the upper floors, provides shelter in its dingy store- 
rooms for the families of the beleaguered village, and the 
entrance to the defensible granary is usually so narrow 
as to enable the merest handful of determined men to 
withstand the attacks of the largest party of raiders 
which a desert chieftain would be likely to bring against 

In considering the impregnability or otherwise of 
Shawia villages it is, of course, necessary to bear in mind 
that the long-barrelled flint-lock musket, still frequently 
to be found in the Aures and the desert, was the weapon 
upon which its assailants had perforce to rely, the arme 
blanche of the horseman being practically useless in 
an assault upon a mountain stronghold whence rocks 
and other missiles, in addition to bullets, may be showered 
down by the garrison from their eerie-like position to 
the discomfiture of any storming party which might 
attempt to scale the rocks to come to grips with the 

The flint-lock muskets, and pistols of the same descrip- 
tion, arc so commonly used to this day by the Shawia, 
although many of them are retained unmarked and un- 
authorized by the government, that we have found a 
native in the fastnesses of the hills who made his liveli- 


hood by chipping flints for use in them, a survival, in a 
more or less modern form, of a prehistoric art now well- 
nigh passed away before the advance of civilization, 
with its cartridges and percussion caps for fire-arms 
and its matches to replace the now rarely noticed flint- 

Close to the " guelaa " of Baniane may be seen a relic 
of antiquity in the form of a " seggia," still in use, hewn 
in the solid rock by, it is said, the hands of the Romans 
whose irrigation works carried out, perhaps, upon the 
same system which obtains to-day in the Aures were 
evidently constructed with a view to the welfare of 
posterity rather than to economy of labour on the part 
of the ancient engineer ; other traces of archaeological 
interest, however, we did not discover, for our study of 
existing native life, necessitating a constant readiness 
to listen to discourses by any chance acquaintance, many 
of which discourses were as valueless as some others have 
proved fruitful, and to investigate any art or craft, super- 
stition or rite which might present itself to our notice, 
occupied too much of our time to admit of our embarking 
upon any inquiries into matters relating to centuries 
long since passed which are properly the study of arch- 
aeologists equipped with the training necessary to their 

At Baniane we were received by a very well-known 
marabout, Sidi Lakhdar, to whom I have briefly referred 
in a previous chapter and who welcomed us most 
cordially to his " zawia," which forms a little hamlet of 
its own amid the palm groves on the western side of the 
oasis. He at once provided us with a couple of rooms 
in which to work and to sleep, or rather to spend the 
night, for the carpets placed in our " bedroom " were so 
well populated as to render sleep impossible upon the 


night of our arrival, so that it was only after tactfully- 
explaining that we always preferred to spread our blankets 
upon the bare floor, and thus causing the removal of 
the carpets, that we were able to settle down in com- 
parative comfort and commence our work among the 

The family of the marabout were most eager to see my 
wife, indeed I was asked if anything had been done to 
offend us because she had not expressed a wish to visit 
his wives immediately upon our arrival at the " zawia," 
so that she was able to spend much time among his 
womenfolk, securing as a result quite a number of silver 
trinkets which our host and his hospitable wives and 
daughters pressed upon her at the numerous " receptions " 
given in her honour, entertainments at which the female 
members of the family and their lady friends danced 
to the rhythmic beat of a tambourine in a manner more 
suggestive of the professional danseuses of the Wed 
Abdi than of the relatives of a great and, I believe, really 
worthy saint. 

Old Sidi Lakhdar has remained a staunch friend to us 
since we first visited him in his mountain home ; indeed, 
as I have already pointed out, his friendship has more 
than once secured us a welcome in villages far removed 
from Baniane, for his influence is very wide, and this 
friendship we find all the more valuable in that it was 
quite spontaneous and has not been called into being by 
anything we may have been able to do for the old man 
nor by gratitude for presents offered him, which latter 
are responsible for so many so-called friendships between 
natives and Europeans in North Africa. Having made 
a fair number of acquaintances among the Shawia of 
Baniane, and having become the recipients of much 
hospitality, wc decided to attempt to return a little of 


the latter by means of a " mechwi," such as we had 
partaken of at Branis. We, therefore, purchased a 
lamb for the absurdly low price asked before the war, 
and invited our friends to dinner. 

This little feast was an unqualified success, indeed it 
is discussed even now, after the lapse of a number of 
years, whenever we meet an acquaintance from Baniane, 
and did much to enable me to carry on inquiries into 
various phases of native life in the hills of a character 
too technical or, it must be confessed, too indelicate to 
be described in any work other than a strictly ethno- 
graphical report. 

Apart from our interest in our work, which kept us 
busy from morning until night, our stay at Baniane 
was distinctly enjoyable, for the place is beautiful as well 
as interesting. Lying at the foot of the western slopes 
of Ahmar Khraddou, the " Red Cheeked " mountain 
whose glorious shades of pink, deepening to purple at 
sunset, delight the eye of the hotel dwellers of distant 
Biskra as they gaze upon the panorama of the Aures to 
the east, the great date forest of Baniane amidst and 
around a number of small hillocks combines some of 
the beauties of a desert oasis with those of a settlement 
of the mountain valleys. 

As I have remarked, the houses of Baniane are of the 
Shawia type, their inhabitants also displaying, in the 
vast majority of cases, the physical characteristics of 
the Berber race, an indication that a study of the customs 
of the natives of the central valleys of the Aures can be 
conveniently commenced there before the traveller finds 
his way to the remoter hamlets of the Rassira canon 




THE bridle path from Baniane to the northward, 
a path which may well be transformed into a 
road accessible to cars, led us along a wide stony valley 
bounded upon the east by the great ridge of the Red 
Cheeked mountain and on the west by the peaks which 
separate the Wed Abdi near Menaa from the central 
valley of the Aures, a valley which for a few miles beyond 
Baniane, though beautiful enough for its mountain 
panoramas, betrayed to our gaze no sign of the wondrous 
scenery it contains until, turning off the main track to 
the eastward, we headed for our destination, the remote 
hamlet of Ouled Mansour. 

As we rode slowly forward across the apparently level 
country of the centre of this valley we suddenly halted 
to find ourselves upon the lip of a hitherto unseen ravine, 
the vast chasm of the Rassira gorge yawning at our feet. 

The totally unexpected arrival at the edge of a canon 
some four hundred yards, as I should guess it, from lip 
to lip, so deep as to reduce the stately date-palms which 
border the stream below to the dimensions of mere 
oleander bushes in the eyes of the beholder on the cliff 


> v 


*5 • s *! 


To face p. 130. 


edge, its sides sheer and in places overhanging, its barren 
rocks glowing bright in the glare of an afternoon sun, 
produced an impression which would require a far abler 
pen than mine to describe, a closer examination of the 
canon revealing features as interesting as its first sudden 
appearance had been grand. This marvellous gorge, 
the merest cleft wrought by the action of its swiftly- 
flowing stream throughout untold centuries, in which 
a greater rainfall had made of the river a more powerful 
instrument than it is to-day, runs unseen until closely 
approached through the central portion of the wide 
desert valley, to which I have already alluded, from the 
higher portion of that valley near the village of Tifelfel 
in the north to the broken ground around Baniane which 
we had just left behind us, numerous small water-courses, 
most of them now dry, from the slopes of Ahmar Khraddou 
forming tributary ravines which enter the main canon 
from the east. 

As we gazed from the cliff edge numerous tiny hamlets 
of stone huts were to be seen clinging to the very brink 
of the precipice upon the eastern or left side of the great 
gorge, while upon the angle formed by the gorge and a 
deep tributary valley, a site such as we have already 
noticed as a first favourite with the Shawia for the build- 
ing of their settlements, the village of Ouled Mansour 
could be descried in the distance, perched like an eagle's 
nest upon the towering rock, the deep green of its date 
groves and more emerald patches of cultivated land 
beside the stream hundreds of feet beneath it affording 
a welcome relief to eyes strained by the contemplation 
of the shining grandeur of the barren rocks around. 

Although but a comparatively short distance in a 
direct line lay between us and our destination when we 
first came suddenly upon the brink of the Rassira gorge, 


it was necessary to wander many a weary step before 
we could reach it, for Ouled Mansour lay upon the farther 
side of the canon, a descent into which could be made 
by very few and precipitous paths ; accordingly we rode 
for some time along the very edge of the overhanging 
cliff, a track on which the nervous traveller, or one whose 
head is not thoroughly to be trusted in such localities, 
will do well to close his eyes and rely upon the sagacity 
of his mountain-bred mule to bring him in perfect safety 
to the point at which a narrow boulder-strewn path 
zigzags from the cliff edge down to the stream beneath. 
Arrived at this point we dismounted, for the track was 
one of the few mule paths I have seen in the Aures upon 
which I have more confidence in my own feet than in 
those of even the surest beast, and scrambled down to 
the gardens and the river ; our approach, which had been 
noticed long since in the village, causing a small crowd 
to assemble on the housetops high above us on the 
opposite cliff, while two or three men hastened down from 
the hamlet to meet us. 

Arrived beneath the grateful shade of the palm trees 
we mounted to ford the river, some fifteen yards in width, 
whose swiftly flowing waters almost washed the bellies 
of our mules, and on its eastern bank we were greeted 
by the headman. The Kaid, Bou Hafs, as we have 
seen, had his residence farther to the north, so that at 
Ouled Mansour there was to be found no chief to offer 
us shelter, but a message from Bou Hafs had directed 
the headman to find us a hut in which to sleep ; after 
bidding us welcome to his village, therefore, this official 
informed us that he had selected a couple of apartments 
cither of which wc could occupy upon payment of a very 
small " rent " to its owner and, he stated, we should 
experience no difficulty in securing the services of a 


Shawia woman to cook for us such simple meals as we 
could expect in so remote a hamlet. 

Sending Belayed with the mules by a circuitous route 
through the tributary ravine, the only track by which 
beasts can approach the village from the river, we followed 
the headman slowly up a path resembling a flight of 
rough hewn steps up the very knife-edge of the rocky 
angle upon the summit of which the village lies and at 
last, entering a narrow tunnel in the rock, we scrambled 
upward to emerge into the sunlight upon a rocky platform 
in the hamlet of Ouled Mansour itself. 

We proceeded immediately to the selection of a tempor- 
ary home and, having declined the offer of one house 
on account of a filthy condition to which our, by this 
time considerable, experience of life in native hovels 
could scarcely reconcile us, we decided upon a single 
apartment which, though occupied by its owner's family 
up to the moment of our arrival, was clean by com- 
parison with some lodgings we had endured in the 

Forbidding any attempt to sweep out the house, a 
proceeding which, advantageous if thoroughly carried 
out, only serves to disturb and enrage the unseen though 
by no means unnoticeable inhabitants of the place to the 
detriment of the traveller's repose if performed in the 
usual half-hearted native fashion, we caused some 
freshly pulled halfa grass to be placed upon the floor 
beneath our blankets and installed ourselves as best 
we could in our dingy and restricted surroundings. A 
small room, situated above a similar one which was 
entered by a door upon a lower level in the village street 
than our own, our new home was typical of all the poorer 
Shawia dwellings of the Aures. 

Built of untrimmed stones, like the huts of Tijdad, 


our house was filled to overflowing with the usual medley 
of articles to be found in a Shawia hut, and it was so 
dark that only after we had opened another small door 
in the wall opposite to the entrance, could we obtain 
sufficient light to take stock of our new surroundings. 

The opening of this door gave us a surprise for, having 
approached the house by means of a narrow tortuous 
lane between similar buildings, we had not realized ex- 
actly its position in the village ; I withdrew my head 
somewhat quickly, therefore, when, having peered through 
the newly open door, I discovered that it led out to a 
very narrow and insecure looking platform of sticks 
beyond and beneath which was — space. The house, 
indeed, like all its neighbours on the outer sides of the 
village, was built upon the very brink of the precipice 
upon which Ouled Mansour is situated ; in this case, 
upon the cliff overlooking the tributary ravine to which 
I have referred, its outer wall rising so straight from the 
edge of the rock as to be quite indistinguishable from 
it when seen from a distance, the balcony, intended as 
a small platform for the drying of fruit and provided 
with no rail or other protection for those who might care 
to trust their weight upon it, overhanging the abyss 

Although not normally addicted to sleep-walking, we 
at once made a mental note of the necessity of keeping 
that door shut at night, however stuffy our small apart- 
ment might become ! 

The house we were to live in, then, was primitive 
enough to promise great opportunities in the village for 
the study of Shawia life undisturbed by the progress 
of modern civilization, a promise amply fulfilled when 
We explored the hamlet and became acquainted with 
its inhabitants. The outer dwellings of Ouled Mansour 


are built, as we have seen, flush with the edges of the 
cliffs, the apex of the angle formed by the junction of 
the tributary ravine with the main valley being occupied 
by the " guelaa " tenanted by many families in addition 
to providing store room for the crops, its narrow lanes 
often mere tunnels beneath one or more stories of apart- 
ments built over them for the purpose of economy of 

This " guelaa," approached by a narrow flight of 
steps culminating in a tunnel or shaft up the angle of 
rock from the main Rassira valley, can be entered by 
but one gateway upon the " land " side, so that it must 
have formed a splendid position for defence in the old 
days of turmoil and strife. Nowadays, however, pre- 
sumably since the French have introduced order into 
the land, a number of houses, including our own, have 
been erected outside the " guelaa " but adjacent to it, 
while a few scattered dwellings are to be found among 
the gardens in the valley beneath, some occupied all 
the year round, others intended only to accommodate 
their owners in the seasons when their crops of dates, 
fruit or corn require to be protected from the nocturnal 
attentions of thieves. 

Just outside the gate of the " guelaa '.' a flat rocky 
platform, commanding a magnificent view up the great 
Rassira canon, affords a place of meeting to the village 
council, or " djemaa," and provides a convenient spot 
in which the male inhabitants of the hamlet can indulge 
in their favourite occupation of dozing idly in the sun 
after such labour as they undertake in the cultivation 
of the narrow strip of useful soil beside the river at the 
bottom of the gorge. 

But, if the men can find ample time for dozing or sleepy 
contemplation of the remarkable landscape overlooked 


from Ouled Mansour, their women folk are scarcely so 
fortunate. Every drop of water used in the village has 
to be carried in goatskins up the long steep track and 
through the tunnel from the bed of the stream below, the 
women and girls staggering beneath its weight as they 
toil, morning and evening, at this necessary but literally 
heavy task ; indeed the traveller may well expect to 
find at Ouled Mansour a state of filth such as he encountered 
at Djemora though, in fact, the people of Ouled Mansour 
are clean by comparison with the Ouled Ziane, plenti- 
fully supplied though the latter are with warm water 
from a natural spring at a stone's throw from their doors. 

Thus the women of the nest-like villages among the 
Rassira crags have a severe task to perform before they 
commence their day's work and another towards its close ; 
the rest of the hours of daylight being spent in the usual 
occupations of spinning, weaving, pottery making, dye- 
ing, dressing skins for bottles, the washing of clothes 
at the brook, cooking and grinding the corn for kuskus 
with the aid of a twin-stone quern. This latter occupa- 
tion they commence at an unholy hour of the morning, 
as we have good reason to know, for the activities in this 
respect of the family occupying the room beneath us quite 
precluded any chance of sleep after the first streak of 
dawn, and often caused us to wish that we could have 
chosen for our visit to Ouled Mansour a period in which 
the sound of the grinding was low. 

Our arrival in the village, I am afraid, rather interrupted 
the routine of household duties of the Shawia women 
and girls. It was very noticeable, from the moment we 
first set out to explore the village, that my wife aroused 
an unusual amount of interest among its female 
inhabitants, who came scuttling out of their houses to 
stare at her, and even struggled in their efforts to obtain 


a closer view ; indeed, so pressing did their attentions 
become that I inquired the reason of them, learning that, 
in the memory of the oldest inhabitant (who claimed 
to recall quite clearly incidents of the arrival of the 
French in Algeria some eighty or ninety years ago ! ), 
no European woman had set foot in Ouled Mansour 
and the neighbouring hamlets, so that the local Shawia 
women, who never leave their mountain homes, had not 
previously seen a " Roumiya," or female Roman, though 
most of the grown-up men had had opportunities of 
seeing them during periodical visits to a town. 

The ladies of Ouled Mansour, therefore, never tired 
of inviting my wife into their houses or to join them in 
their outdoor pursuits, invitations which were gladly 
accepted owing to the opportunities they offered of 
observing domestic life in the hills, but which resulted 
in the consumption of too many meals for the personal 
comfort of the visitor. Of course, the absence from her 
person and attire of masses of jewellery struck the Shawia 
as very remarkable, only a fictitious description of the 
quantity of earrings, anklets, etc., she usually wore in 
England, left for safe keeping at home, convincing them 
that she was not cursed with the meanest of husbands, 
indeed I am not infrequently taken seriously to task 
by Shawia women with regard to my wife's lack of 
ornaments, attacks which I usually parry by endeavouring 
to buy those worn by my critic, upon which the subject 
is invariably changed at once. 

The men of the village were just as delighted to show 
us around their native place as were the women to enter- 
tain and examine my wife, so that we were able to explore 
every inch of the village under the guidance of various 
newly made friends who were careful that we should 
miss nothing which they considered to be of interest, 


showing us upon more than one occasion a spur of rock 
projecting over the valley hundreds of feet below from 
which a woman had fallen to her death in the course 
of the previous year. 

It is remarkable how few of the sure-footed Shawia, 
to whom the dizziness produced by heights appears to 
be quite unknown, are killed as a result of falls from 
their villages into the depths beneath, and it is also 
noteworthy that the majority of those who do so fall 
are women, a fact which might seem to suggest that simpler 
means even than the divorce, so very easily obtained 
under Mohammedan law, have been discovered by 
husbands of the Aures who may wish to rid themselves 
of wives whom the old age which overtakes them in early 
middle life has rendered unattractive and so no longer 
to be desired. 

The population of the hamlets of the Rassira valley 
is very nearly self-supporting, the great majority of 
its simple requirements being manufactured in the 
villages themselves, the few articles in daily use 
which cannot be so supplied, for example the cotton 
stuffs used for the shirts and turbans of the men and 
the dress material of the women, soap, antimony, tobacco, 
matches and similar odds and ends, being purchasable 
at the tiny native shops to be found in every settlement 
or from Kabyle pedlars, enterprising traders from the 
Berber tribes of the hills near the coast, who wander 
over the Aures, their wares carried upon the backs of 
sturdy little donkeys, spreading as they go some items 
of news from the outside world among the Shawia, the 
only news, other than that brought back by some native 
who may wander to Biskra in the desert or Batna to the 
north of the Aures, which reaches the dwellers in the 
remote fastnesses of the hills. 


In the course of our stay at Ouled Mansour we became 
acquainted with a number of interesting natives. 

Among them we discovered a veritable mine of informa- 
tion in the person of an elderly man who combined the 
trade of a leather worker with the more scholarly vocation 
of a scribe, so that, in the former capacity, he turned an 
honest penny by the manufacture of neat little red leather 
cases to contain the written charms from which he 
derived a perhaps less irreproachable income in the 

Now a remote village such as Ouled Mansour, as out 
of touch with the desert and the great towns as any 
settlement of the Aures, offers an excellent field of research 
to anyone desirous of studying Shawia superstitions 
and other folk-lore; we accordingly passed many an 
hour in the tiny workshop of our friend the scribe, seated 
upon a mat and consuming cup after cup of coffee as 
the old man, encouraged by our evident interest and 
apparent credulity, described in ever-increasing detail 
some of the mysteries of his magic art. The great majority 
of Algerian magical rites and the various charms worn 
by men, women and children, as well as by certain 
domestic animals both in the desert and the hills, are 
designed to defeat the machinations of some " jinn," 
or demon, to the native's belief in which I have several 
times alluded in the course of these pages, especially 
when describing the cause and effect of the " evil-eye " 
and the protective measures taken against it in the wearing 
of certain silver ornaments, among them the " hand," 
such as are made by the jewellers of Menaa, and to which 
I shall have to refer again when dealing in a later chapter 
with the main object of my researches in the hills, the 
healing art of modern native doctors. 

These " jenoun," the plural of the word " jinn," would 



be an intolerable curse to the existence of the superstitious 
dwellers in the desert and the hills were it not for the 
numerous charms which they believe to be efficacious 
in dealing with them, for, although some of them are 
considered to be harmless, the great majority appear to 
devote their whole existence to working mischief in the 
affairs of man. Writers of charms to be worn around 
the neck, therefore, like the marabouts we have already 
discussed and scribes such as our leather worker of Ouled 
Mansour, are daily in request to provide protective 
amulets for those who go in dread of supernatural attacks. 
The millions of " jenoun " which infest this earth choose 
such varied places as rivers, manure heaps, empty houses 
or pools of blood as their abode ; indeed it was ludicrous 
upon one occasion, when I severely cut my thumb, to 
notice the concern of the owner of the house I was in as 
he saw the blood spurt upon the floor, where he covered 
it with dust as quickly as it fell lest it should attract 
some demon into his home. 

These unpleasant enemies of mankind are invisible 
as a rule, but are capable of assuming the guise of animals, 
human beings, or, indeed, of anything when engaged 
upon their nefarious practices but, in the opinion of 
most natives I have met with, they cannot readily be 
destroyed by earthly weapons. 

In the opinion of those who write charms for a fee, 
the only really effective amulet for protection against 
" jenoun " consists in the slip of paper covered with 
scrawling Arabic characters and often including some 
mystic diagrams in the shape of triangles or squares 
which, encased in leather or cotton material for a man 
or in a neat rectangular silver box for the use of a woman, 
is to be found suspended from a cord around the neck 
or from a brooch upon the person of every native in Algeria 


whom a veneer of civilization has not led to despise his 
old beliefs. The writing on the paper is popularly 
supposed by tourists to consist of a verse or verses from 
the Koran, indeed many an Arab or Shawia will assure 
the traveller in all good faith that this is the case but, 
as a matter of fact, it is by no means true. 

Most of the amulets contain words from the writings 
of some early medijeval author of books upon magical 
subjects, and bear no resemblance to texts from the 
Koran of the Arabian prophet, but it must be remembered 
that the vast majority of Algerian natives are unable 
to read the Koran or anything else, so that they are very 
ready to attribute any mystic or semi-sacred writings to 
Mohammed himself, into whose mouth have been forced 
many sayings, invented long after his death, to which 
in all probability he would never have given utterance. 

Some scribes, indeed, attribute the origin of written 
charms to a supposed incident in the life of Mohammed. 

One night, while wandering in meditation in the desert 
of Arabia, the prophet became aware of the presence 
of a very large, ugly and generally fearsome looking 
dame, who informed him that she was known as the 
" Mother of the Night " and that, assisted by the whole 
body of " jenoun," of whom she claimed to be the sovereign, 
she was in the habit of spreading ruin and death among 
mortals and destroying the possessions of the dwellers 
upon earth. Upon hearing this startling announcement 
the prophet, not unnaturally perhaps, invoked the aid 
of Allah, at the mention of whose name the chieftainess 
of the demons displayed signs of fear and promised 
protection to Mohammed and his followers who, however, 
she said must wear some written words to act as a pass- 
port by means of which her unseen minions could 
recognize them and so allow them to go their ways unhin- 


dered and unharmed. Such is the origin, as given to me 
by certain scribes, of the wearing of written amulets in 

Many scribes, as well as marabouts, in addition to 
the writing of charms make a considerable addition to 
their incomes by foretelling the future to those who 
are about to undertake some enterprise or journey, some- 
times with an accuracy which is really remarkable. An 
instance of this occurred to us at Ouled Mansour. 

In order to make clear to my readers the knowledge, 
or rather lack of knowledge, in the light of which the 
prophecy was made, I should observe that Ouled Mansour 
is so remote and of so small consequence in the affairs 
of the outside world as to be quite beyond reach of foreign 
propaganda or intrigue and that, in the opinion of the 
scribe, England was situated somewhere in Cairo, for 
he had apparently never heard of the little island in 
the North Sea whose sons, with those of France, were 
so soon to stand between him and the yoke of 
Teuton rule. 

On March 6, 1914, my wife and I asked the old man 
to foretell our future. After putting one or two questions 
to us as to our parents' names, the days of the week on 
which we were born, etc., he proceeded to consult a book, 
a cheap reprint obtained from Tunis of an old magical 
work, and finally announced that before the year was 
out I should be serving my " sultan " and that my wife 
should have a son. 

In six months I held a commission in the Army (in 
which I had had no previous service), and on December 
21, 1914, our son was born ! Coincidence, no doubt ; 
but these are the cold hard facts. 

The practice of foretelling the future is by no means 
confined to the scribes and marabouts, for sorceresses 


or " wise women," such as the hag whom we have 
mentioned in an earlier chapter as being capable of bringing 
down the moon, are to be found all over the hills quite 
prepared to forecast the issue of events upon receipt of 
a small fee. This they perform in various ways, the most 
usual method at Ouled Mansour and some other villages 
of the Aures being as follows. The sorceress places a 
large flat wooden dish bottom upwards upon the ground 
and draws across the bottom of it, so that they intersect 
at right angles in the centre, two lines, one white, 
having been made with chalk, and the other black, of 

She then hangs a necklet of beads upon the hook of 
a spindle- whorl, to the other end of which is tied a small 
piece of string. Placing the necklet in the centre of 
the dish at the point of intersection of the two lines, 
she gently raises the spindle-whorl by means of the string, 
at the same time asking the question to which an answer 
is desired, until the necklet is lifted from the dish and 
can swing to and fro above it. 

Should it sway along the white line a favourable or 
affirmative answer is held to have been given, while 
movement along the black line indicates an unfavourable 
or negative reply. 

Very obviously the sorceress can control the motions 
of the necklet and thus return what answer she chooses 
to her client but the native is incredibly stupid in his 
superstitious beliefs and seems quite unable to detect 
the possibility of fraud. 

Not only do the sorceresses of the Aures practise divina- 
tion of the course of future events, and, as we have seen 
in an earlier chapter, provide magical philtres to enable 
wives to retain the waning affections of their husbands, 
but they are also ready to set evil influences to work to 


injure those who are unlucky enough to incur their wrath 
or whose personal enemies enlist the help of a magician 
to wreak vengeance upon them. 

For example, a woman who has failed to secure the 
affections of some man upon whom she has cast an 
amorous eye will, with the aid of a sorceress, take the 
fresh liver of a goat or sheep and, having inserted a 
number of pins or thorns in it, hang it up in some secret 
place, such as a chimney in the victim's house, in the 
belief that as it dries and shrivels up so will the object 
of her jealous anger gradually waste away and die, a 
practice which finds many a parallel in the customs of 
primitive peoples in widely separated parts of the earth 
and which must be a survival of the magic of ages long 
since gone by, before the faith of Islam had spread over 
the Barbary States. The victim of these machinations, 
as soon as failing health warns him that some secret spell 
has been cast upon him, betakes himself to a scribe who 
will pretend to diagnose his case and prepare for him 
amulets the wearing of which is intended to counteract 
the evil influences which have been set to work, the 
resulting magical duel between the scribe and the unknown 
caster of the spell terminating, of course, according to 
the real nature of the complaint from which the victim 
happens by chance to be suffering, although, no doubt, 
persons who have reason to believe that they are 
being magically assailed may often work themselves 
into a state of nervous depression from which their blind 
faith in their amulets may well bring real relief. A 
great part of the trade, for so it may accurately be des- 
cribed, of the sorceresses of the Aures consists in the 
preparation of charms usually supplied to women and 
children, for the menfolk more often place their trust in 
the scribes who, as we have seen, consider written amulets 

*. i 


to be the only reliable means of defeating the machina- 
tions of " jenoun." 

But the semi-human character of these demons renders 
them susceptible to influence by such an enormous number 
of various charms that the sorceresses are well able to 
thrive upon the credulity of their clients. 

A mere list of even a small proportion of the substances 
used in magic with which we have come into contact 
in such remote hamlets as Ouled Mansour would occupy 
considerable space and would involve much technical 
discussion, out of place in any but a strictly ethnographical 
work, I will therefore describe in some detail the uses 
of a few of the commonest among them. 

We have already noted in describing the magical uses 
of jewellery that "jenoun" are liable to fear, the wearing, 
therefore, of a charm which suggests the presence of 
some savage or dangerous creature is considered to be 
very efficacious against them, so that dogs' teeth, the 
heads of vipers, or the whole bodies of scorpions enclosed 
in a reed are commonly to be found in use for this purpose, 
as are models of weapons, old bullets, or packets of gun- 
powder which threaten the " jenoun " with the death 
to which they can succumb, and demons are supposed, 
for some reason which at present seems obscure, to dread 
iron or anything made of it, a fact which accounts for 
the wearing, especially by children, of any scrap of iron 
they can lay hands on, very frequently an old European 
key, suspended by a string from their necks, a practice 
which the traveller will notice at once in any village 
of the desert or the hills should he keep his eye open 
for trivial signs of native superstitions and beliefs. 

Substances with a powerful or unpleasant smell, such 
as asafcetida, or a strong taste, such as red pepper, are 
considered to be useful in keeping away " jenoun " if 


worn in little packets of rag attached to the costume, 
while a vast selection of dried plants, one of the commonest 
of which is rue, can be similarly employed owing to the 
demons' supposed aversion to them. 

With all this medley of charms to choose from, a Shawia 
mother takes no risks in the precautionary measures 
she adopts for her son and, to a less extent, for her daughter ; 
obtaining one magical substance from one sorceress and 
another from another and amulets from various scribes, 
she attaches these objects to a string worn as a bandolier 
over one shoulder beneath his cloak by her little boy, 
some of these strings containing upwards of a dozen 
charms to combat the attacks of demons and the ravages 
of disease or to ensure for the infant success in whatever 
career may lie before him. 

Magic, then, plays a most important part in the daily 
lives of the Shawia and their nomad neighbours of the 
great desert and, even in the great centres of modern 
civilization, its hold upon the natives has by no means 
ceased to exist as a result of contact with the European 
and his ways ; it is, however, a subject which is notori- 
ously difficult to study. 

Firstly, the natives are extremely reticent about their 
superstitions until the traveller has gained their con- 
fidence, itself a difficult task ; and, secondly, although 
they know well the uses of their various charms, very 
few of them are able to offer any reason for their employ- 
ment which would afford the student some clue to their 
origin or insight into the principles underlying their 
use, a fact which is scarcely to be wondered at if we 
consider for a moment how many of our English friends, 
who will not walk under a ladder, could explain the 
reason of their reluctance to do so, the custom persisting 
long after its origin has been generally forgotten. 


Life at Ouled Mansour, in the very heart of the land of 
the Shawia, proved interesting enough, and the days passed 
quickly for us, busy as we were, from morning until night, 
investigating the customs of its inhabitants, an occupa- 
tion by the way, which must not be indulged in too 
obviously for fear of arousing the suspicions of the people, 
who cannot be expected to understand the real object 
of the wanderer's inquiries, and are accordingly apt to 
regard the inquisitive observer as a spy who may report 
their various little infractions of the letter of the French 
law to authorities who, in the normal course of events, 
know well the wisdom of occasionally shutting their eyes. 

Residing in the cottage we had hired, and partaking 
of stews of chicken or goat prepared for us by a Shawia 
woman, whose services as cook we had enlisted, supple- 
mented by a few European stores we had brought with us, 
we were by no means so uncomfortable as our first glance 
at our surroundings had led us to anticipate that we 
should be, but, nevertheless, a stay in such a hamlet 
is not to be recommended to any one unprepared to 
dispense with all the creature comforts he can enjoy at 
an inn and to take life in the hills as he finds it. 

Although the climate of the Rassira valley is delightfully 
sunny and dry, the elevated position of the villages upon 
the brink of its mighty cliffs renders warm clothing a 
necessity even so late in the year as March, for sometimes 
the north wind blows keenly from the snow-clad peaks 
of the higher Aures and the nights are often remarkably 
cold, though, should the wanderer chance to be lodged 
in a hut among the date groves which fringe the stream 
at the bottom of the great ravine sheltered from the 
mountain winds, he would probably find the temperature 
several degrees higher than in the lofty villages themselves. 

Indeed, warm clothing and a good supply of blankets 


are always necessary in the Aures since fires, except 
perhaps a few glowing embers in an earthen bowl, can 
rarely be indulged in Shawia houses for, in the absence 
of any fireplace, other than three stones upon which 
to stand the stew-pot beneath a minute opening in the 
roof, the building soon becomes filled with the heavy 
smoke of burning juniper which, pleasant enough to 
the nostrils when smelled from afar, would soon make 
the place unbearable to a European. 

We were able at Ouled Mansour to collect a fair number 
of objects for the museum at Oxford, some of which we 
had not noticed in other parts of the hills, such as a type 
of powder-flask which provides one of the few examples 
of wood-carving of any merit whatsoever that we have 
met with in our rambles in the mountains, for decorative 
art, other than the ornamentation of rugs, mats, and 
cushions, the barbaric patterns of the Shawia silver 
trinkets and the very rudimentary designs upon some 
of their pottery, is conspicuous by its absence in the 
homes of the ancient Berber race upon the edge of the 
desert, though their Kabyle cousins of the north display 
a rather more artistic spirit in this respect. 

A comparative study of the patterns used in art in the 
hills, when a sufficient number of them are available 
for the purpose, should prove extremely interesting, 
for those of the silver ornaments appear, at first glance, 
to bear no relation to the patterns on the rugs and cushions 
which latter differ from the designs displayed upon the 
powder flasks, while the more primitive ornamentation 
of the pottery seems to fall into a different category to 
all three. 

No doubt this is attributable to the different periods 
at which the designs have crept into the Aures from 
without, but a systematic examination of many patterns 


must be undertaken before any opinion of value can 
be hazarded as to when these periods were and whence 
the decorative art of the Shawia in its various stages 
has originated. 

The usual arts and crafts of the Aures, the spinning, 
weaving, pottery making and other occupations, such 
as we have noted in preceding chapters from other parts 
of the massif, are to be found carried on at Ouled Mansour 
in the same manner as in the villages of the Wed Abdi 
and those of the other valleys we have visited, and they 
can readily enough be studied owing to the friendly char- 
acter of the native. 

We found, therefore, that we had increased our ac- 
quaintance with many phases of Shawia life when the 
time arrived for us to leave the little hamlet overlooking 
the great Rassira canon and turn our steps towards the 
higher lying valley of the Wed el Abiod to the north. 

Scrambling through the shaft and down the precipi- 
tous rocky knife-edge by which we had first reached the 
village, we joined our mules beside the stream and, having 
gained the opposite lip of the canon overhanging the 
date groves and the river, we rode slowly along the cliff 
edge enjoying magnificent views of the wide valley through 
which, as we have seen, the canon runs, the great gorge 
itself lying at our feet as we wended our way towards 
the village of Ghoufi upon the opposite side of the canon 
to that upon which stands the hamlet of Ouled Mansour. 
All the time numerous small settlements of the Shawia, 
built upon the very brink of the chasm, were in sight 
as we moved, their gardens and date groves forming 
a continuous belt of green beside the river some hundreds 
of feet below us, for the villages of the Rassira appear 
to be as numerous as those of the Wed Abdi though 
somewhat smaller in size. 


After passing a small mosque, lying by itself in the 
open country beside the track and boasting no minaret 
from which the faithful could be called to prayer, we 
came upon a lonely terebinth tree believed by the natives 
to be possessed of " baraka " or holiness, its branches 
covered with the rags with which passers-by had adorned 
it in the hope that some of this holiness might safe- 
guard them upon their journey, a typical example of 
the " marabout trees " to which we have alluded before, 
and, continuing our way, pulled up at Ghoufi to partake 
of a meal and wander round the village before riding 
on to Tifefel, our destination, to the north of the 
Rassira canon. 

Since our visit to the central valleys of the Aures a 
bordj, similar to those at Djemora and Menaa, has been 
erected by the French at Ghoufi to accommodate officials 
and those who care to wander through this part of the 
massif, so that the traveller can stay in comfort in the 
Rassira valley without being compelled to hire a native 
hut such as we had inhabited at Ouled Man sour, and 
he will find Ghoufi itself extremely interesting as a typical 
Berber settlement of the district. 

Built like the neighbouring hamlets upon the edge 
of the ravine, its " guelaa " entered by but one gateway, 
consisting of a mass of tiny dwellings and store-houses 
for the protection of its crops, their upper floors reached 
as at Baniane by the most insecure looking ladders, 
bridges and balconies of untrimmed logs, the village 
will afford the traveller who stays at its " bordj " an 
excellent example of the villages of the Rassira and, 
no doubt, its natives will be found to be as primitive 
and as hospitable as their neighbours with whom we 
stayed ; in addition to which its proximity to numerous 
other hamlets, which can readily be examined in the 


course of a day's ramble, would seem to render Ghoufi 
a remarkably convenient centre from which to explore 
the country round so that, when a roadway suitable to 
cars runs down beside the edge of the great canon from 
the northern part of the Aures to the Sahara at Mechounech, 
it will probably become a halting-place for the tourist, 
and the Shawia women of the area will soon cease to 
gaze with wonder upon one of their European sisters, as 
they were so eager to do at the time of our visit to their 
country in the spring of 1914. 

As we had moved up to Ghoufi from Ouled Mansour, 
the canon had gradually decreased in depth so that, 
beautiful as were its glowing cliffs and its gardens, the 
deep green of which was now increasingly relieved by 
the admixture of numerous fruit trees in their spring 
dress of blossom, it was scarcely so impressive in its wild 
almost forbidding grandeur as at the village we had just 
left behind us, and, continuing our journey along its 
western edge, we found that this decrease in depth became 
more and more noticeable and the number of fruit trees 
greater and greater until, after we had descended into 
the bed of the stream itself and ridden some distance 
along its course in the water, the canon became nothing 
more remarkable than a shallow though beautiful gorge, 
upon emerging from which we entered a wide basin at 
its northern end, through which the Rassira River mean- 
dered after passing through a narrow cleft in the 
mountains from the Wed el Abiod some miles to the 

This, then, was the end of the great canon of the Rassira 
beneath the shadow of the glowing rocks of the Red 
Cheeked mountain, a gorge more extraordinary in its 
grandeur and wild beauty throughout its fifteen miles 
of length than any ravine to be found in those parts 


of the French North African dependencies with which 
I have become acquainted in my wanderings, and yet 
a district of which so few European visitors to Algeria 
have so much as heard the name ; a land in which the 
tourist is unknown. 






WHEN we emerged from the Rassira canon in our 
leisurely journey northward through the Aures we 
had by no means reached the higher central portion of the 
massif, for the wide basin, to which I have referred, lying 
at the foot of an amphitheatre of rocky hills, had to be 
crossed before we could enter the one cleft in the sheer 
wall of the Djebel Zellatou, known as the gorge of Tighani- 
mine, through which the stream of the Wed el Abiod, 
or White River, flows down from the valley which bears 
its name to become the Rassira River whose course we 
had ascended, which valley of the Wed el Abiod we must 
traverse for the greater part of its length before arriving 
at the snow-capped mountain Ichemoul, one of the 
highest peaks of the massif, whence we could proceed 
to the real highlands of the Aures overlooking the plateau 
to the north. The journey from the Rassira gorge across 
the basin to the Wed el Abiod resembles in some degree 
the remarkable passage from Djemora to Menaa, the 
rapid transition from Africa to Europe which we noted 
in a previous chapter ; for, leaving behind him typical 



North African scenery and foliage as he emerges from 
the date groves of the mighty canon, the traveller finds 
himself in the corn fields of the basin mentioned above, 
where a mixture of scattered palms and fruit trees causes 
the country to resemble a sort of hinterland between 
the Africa he has just left behind him and the southern 
European scenery, grey rocks and stunted evergreen 
trees, which he will discover to be characteristic of the 
valley of the Wed el Abiod so very few miles to the north. 

In the midst of this basin — this connecting link, as 
it were, between the scenery of two continents — lies the 
little village of Tifelfel, our destination in our journey 
from Ouled Mansour, surrounded when we approached 
it by numerous fruit trees clothed in blossom and wide 
green fields of rising corn. 

Dismounting at the residence of a sheikh, who adminis- 
tered the district under the great Kai'd Bou Hafs, a 
building situated amid a number of scattered huts a 
hundred yards or more from the massive " guelaa " of 
the village which, with the gleaming white minaret of 
a mosque, had been visible for some time as we neared 
the place, we were made very welcome by our new host 
and provided with a large apartment, a dais at one end 
of which was to serve us as a sleeping place, while a 
European table and some chairs at the opposite end 
showed us that we were not to lack opportunity of eating 
and writing in a state of comparative comfort such as 
we had not enjoyed for some time past. 

While the village of Tifelfel is by no means so picturesque 
in its construction and surrounding scenery as the nest- 
like hamlets upon the Rassira crags it, nevertheless, 
afforded us, during the days we stayed with its hospitable 
sheikh, an opportunity of seeing something of the methods 
of Shawia agriculture in the carefully tilled land around. 


These methods may be taken as typical of those em- 
ployed throughout the whole of the massif. In a land 
such as Algeria, in which superstition is so rife and so 
great importance is attached to mystic ceremony and 
rite, it is scarcely surprising that the ploughing of the 
soil to receive the seed, upon the fruitfulness of which 
the very life of the community depends, should be made 
the occasion of some magical formality, the object of 
which is to ensure a plenteous harvest such as may banish 
the ever threatening spectre of famine for a season from 
a country in which drought, and its attendant misery 
and want, all too frequently afflict the dwellers in its 
arid wastes and sun-scorched barren hills. When the 
season for ploughing approaches, a season naturally 
varying according to the district but which in the greater 
part of the area we are considering may be taken as 
October, the inhabitants of the Shawia village have to 
decide which member of the community shall first put 
his hand to the plough, for it is necessary that the first 
person to commence the work should be a member of 
some old, well-known and respected family who may 
be considered likely to bring luck to the operations of 
the community as a whole. 

Such a person having been chosen, his family proceeds 
to prepare a toothsome dish of semolina, butter, honey 
and sugar, known in the Shawia dialect as " ademine," 
such as is usually offered to guests at wedding ceremonies 
both in the desert and the hills, and fills a bag with a 
number of assorted fruits, including a melon or pumpkin, 
and bread. 

Upon the day appointed for the commencement of 
the work the iron " share " which is fitted to the primitive 
plough of the Aures, is solemnly dipped in butter, after 
which the sacks of seed are placed upon a mule, the 



plough and harness upon another, and the menfolk of 
the family start forth to their field, in very barren districts 
nothing but a patch of dry soil indistinguishable from 
the desert around it and marked out by no visible boun- 
daries, though its position and proportions are equally 
well known to the natives. 

The little party is followed by a female member of 
the family, attired in her very best garments and bedecked 
with all the glittering mass of silver ornaments she can 
lay her hands on, bearing with her the dish of " ademine '* 
and the bag of fruits and bread. 

Arrived at the field the mules are relieved of their 
burden and harnessed to the plough, after which 
the pumpkin or melon carried in the bag is solemnly 
transfixed upon the ploughshares, from which it 
is immediately removed again, " in order," as my 
Berber friends informed me, " that the harvest may 
be good." 

This done, all members of the family present, and all 
passers-by who happen to be within call, partake of a 
spoonful of the sweet dish of " ademine," after which, 
preceded by a brief prayer to Allah for the blessing of 
a fruitful year, the work of ploughing and sowing is 
commenced. The gaily dressed woman of the party then 
returns home, carrying with her the dish of " ademine," 
of which she oilers a spoonful to any one whom she may 
meet upon the way. 

Such in brief is the ceremony which marks the com- 
mencement of ploughing in the hills. 

The plough itself, a primitive locally made implement, 
will be found on examination to be very little advanced 
from the adze-like hoe from which it has been evolved, 
for it consists merely of a forked branch of a tree to the 
lower, and shorter, arm of which the share is socketed, 


mules harnessed to the end of the longer arm drawing 
the implement which is steered by means of a flimsy 
vertical handle at the junction of the two arms. 

At the time of the harvest the young and old of both 
sexes in the mountains turn out to reap and carry. 

The corn, cut by means of small sickle hooks of 
native make, is conveyed from the field to the threshing- 
floor in nets slung across the backs of mules if the inter- 
vening distance be considerable, or by that scarcely less 
enduring beast of burden, woman, if the way be short, 
the willing carrier of the season's crop uttering the 
while the long-drawn quivering cry which we have already 
found to be so freely uttered as a sign of rejoicing by 
the women at weddings in the hills. 

Threshing is carried out by means of a line of mules 
which tread the corn beneath their feet as they wend 
their way round and round a vertical post set up in 
the centre of the threshing-floor ; the floor itself consisting 
either of a level slab of natural rock or of an artificially 
prepared surface of trimmed or untrimmed stone. 

The conclusion of the harvest is marked by a feast 
in the village to which the inhabitants subscribe according 
to their means, the natives partaking of kuskus and 
meat, and witnessing the usual ungraceful dances per- 
formed by unmarried girls or, in areas in which their 
services can be obtained, of professional dancers whose 
antics we have already described, the women of the 
community attending the festival attired in their best 
to greet with cries of joy the dancing of each performer 
as she moves to and fro to the strains of the oboe and 
the drum. 

The fruits of the apricot trees, so common in the hills, 
are dried and preserved for use during the following 
unfruitful period of the year, being often consumed 


cooked in stews of meat — a dish by no means to be 
despised if cleanly and carefully prepared — while in regions 
too high above sea-level, and so too cold for the cultiva- 
tion of dates, the place of this staple food of the desert 
is taken to some extent by the produce of the very 
numerous fig trees to be found in the gardens of the 
higher villages of the hills, though the Shawia who cannot 
grow dates for themselves usually obtain a supply of 
them by purchase or by barter, travelling to the northern 
oases of the desert to exchange a given weight of some 
such garden produce as, let us say, turnips against an 
agreed quantity of dates. The scales used in these 
transactions are very primitive. 

Two halfa-grass baskets of equal weight are suspended 
by cords one from each end of a straight bar of wood, 
itself suspended by a joint at its centre from a wooden 
handle so that, when the scales are held up by means 
of this handle, either basket can dip down as weight 
is thrown into it, the Arab date owner and the 
itinerant Berber purveyor of turnips, suspicious enough 
of each other as representative of more or less antagon- 
istic races, watching one another meantime with eagle 
eye, as turnip by turnip or handful by handful the pro- 
duce is placed upon the scales. 

Among peoples of avaricious character, whose tempers 
arc short and whose love of sharp practice over a bargain 
can be likened only to that of the proverbial " horse 
coper," it is not to be wondered at that these deals 
occasionally lead to disputes, in the course of which a 
knife, drawn in the heat of the argument, inflicts a fatal 
wound and so inaugurates one of those vendettas which 
modern law and order have not yet succeeded in 
suppressing in Algeria. 

The village of Tifelfel, its scattered huts lying in the 


vicinity of its " guelaa," appears to be typical of the 
Shawfa settlements of the neighbourhood, of which we 
visited a number during our stay with its hospitable 

The " guelaa " itself resembled those already described, 
but its outlying dwellings were curious for, built half 
embedded in little hillocks, we often found ourselves, 
when descending such a hillock, standing upon the roof 
of a house the existence of which we had not noticed, 
the dry mud covering its flat roof being exactly the same 
colour as the surrounding soil from which, indeed, it 
had been obtained. 

The houses, too, not huddled together in the confined 
space of the surface of a rocky spur, were larger than 
those of the Rassira hamlets and frequently boasted a 

Such time as was not spent in wandering about the 
village and its fields we occupied in watching the sheikh's 
family at their daily tasks ; for he, a Berber, allowed us 
free access to his home and the quarters of his women 

Upon one occasion we found them engaged in dyeing 
a pair of knitted woollen leggings, much worn by the 
mountaineers of many nations and made by the Shawia 

A mixture of a certain earth, black goats' hair, butter, 
mutton fat and dripping was set on fire in a bowl, the 
smoke arising therefrom nearly suffocating us as we 
stood by, after which it was extinguished and, some 
water containing pomegranate skin having been mixed 
with it, it was set upon the hearth to boil, when the white 
woollen leggings were placed in it and boiled for a few 
minutes, after which they were removed, dyed black as 
soot, to be hung up to dry in the sun. 


As I have already pointed out, imported dyes are very 
rapidly rinding their way into the Aures to the detriment 
of the native-made carpets, pillows etc., and to the 
destruction of an ancient Shawia art, but the ladies of the 
sheikh's household at Tifelfel preferred the use of the 
old-fashioned home-made article for the red, black, 
green or yellow colouring of their wool, dyes which, 
with the exception of the black, they obtained from 
local herbs, to the less laborious task of dyeing their wool, 
by means of imported European powders ; my wife 
was able, therefore, to glean quite a fund of information 
relating to an art which is fast vanishing from even the 
remoter villages of the Aures. 

When we moved on from Tifelfel our destination 
was of a very different character from the squalid 
hamlets we had recently been examining, for we were 
to pay a visit to the government station of Tkout, a 
few miles to the north, in which a single European 
family, that of the Assistant Administrator who had 
met us at Mechounech, endured banishment from all 
the amenities of modern culture in the cause of law, 
order and civilization, leading a life of absolute isolation 
amid a people still in a state of barbarity which must 
have rendered the existence of a French family mono- 
tonous in the extreme. 

Here, enjoying the boundless hospitality of our genial 
hosts, we soon began to realize that circumstances of 
which we had tried to make the best in the hills had 
been none too comfortable for us in the past months ; 
but the fleas of Baniane, the cold and draughty nights 
spent upon the floor at Ouled Mansour, the hundred 
and one little inconveniences of mountain travel merely 
served to increase our enjoyment of the luxury which 
surrounded us in the defensible " bordj " of Tkout. 


We attempted no serious study of native life during 
our stay at Tkout, partly because we were only too glad 
to enjoy a brief period of rest in the society of our 
European friends and partly, too, because I do not con- 
sider a centre of the French Administration, however 
small, to be a suitable spot in which to carry on researches 
into the manners and customs of the Arab or Shawia. 
The secretive side of the native's character becomes very 
much accentuated when he is afraid that tales of his 
habits may be carried to and fro, and many of his 
customs cannot be expected to find favour with the 
officers who rule over him ; it is hopeless, therefore, 
for the traveller to endeavour to obtain reliable informa- 
tion while living as the guest of an official. In addition 
to this a detachment of cavalry, recruited from all over 
the country, which had recently been removed from the 
" bordj " had doubtless left its mark upon the customs of 
the natives of Tkout who, from our point of view, could 
scarcely be considered fair specimens of the Berber race 
to which in reality they belong. One interesting custom 
we noted, however, during our stay at the " bordj," 
namely a system of measuring time. 

It has scarcely been necessary to state that the more 
or less fertile basin in which Tifelfel and Tkout are 
situated owes its fertility to the same system of irriga- 
tion which is to be found all over the Aures, namely the 
canal or " seggia " system formed by placing barrages 
in the stream which flows through the district, a system 
employed in the days of the Roman empire. 

We have noted at Beni Ferah that the flow of water 
into the various " seggias " is regulated by means of 
a " water clock," or sinking bowl, but at Tkout another 
method obtains of apportioning to the various " seggias " 
the hours of water supply to which each is entitled. 


A post set up in a little open space in the village is 
carefully watched over by a native specially appointed 
for the purpose who, as the shadow of this post, beneath 
an almost always cloudless sky, moves slowly round 
from one known point to another upon a neighbouring 
building or rock, cries out to those who are waiting to 
stem the flow of water into one " seggia " and turn it 
into the next when the shadow indicates that the moment 
has arrived for the stream to be deflected. 

This very primitive sun-dial appears to satisfy the 
native's requirements as completely as the " water clock " 
we have already described. 

The Kaid, Bou Hafs, was absent during our stay at 
Tkout, but we visited his house in the company of the 
Administrator and were received there by his son. 

The house itself, the residence of so progressive a chief, 
contained rooms furnished in a European fashion for 
the reception of honoured guests and equipped with 
every regard to luxury which had occurred to its 
wealthy owner, while upon its walls were displayed 
some of the finest specimens of native firearms I have 
ever seen, their barrels a mass of silver inlay and their 
stocks encrusted with ivory, coral, and mother o' pearl. 

Bou Hafs' son invited us to a meal which, it was 
decided, should take the form of a farewell lunch to 
be given near the gorge of Tighanimine upon the day 
of our departure for the north. 

When that day arrived, therefore, the day upon which 
we were to exchange the comforts of Tkout for the 
squalor of the hamlets of the Wed el Abiod, we rode 
out from the " bordj " accompanied by the Administrator, 
his wife, and one of his two small daughters, escorted 
by three or four mounted orderlies, in their uniform 
burnouses of blue trimmed with scarlet braid, and, after 


retracing our steps nearly half-way to Tifelfel, turned 
westwards to meet our host at the southern entrance 
to the cleft in the great rocky wall of Zellatou, through 
which, as we have seen, the White River flows from 
the upper Aures to become the Rassira where it enters 
the great canon to the south. 

Here we found a most sumptuous repast prepared 
for us by a small army of the Kai'd's followers. 

Tents had been pitched, a " mechwi " was being 
slowly turned upon its spit, and every indication was 
apparent that a royal send-off into the mountains was 
to fall to our lot. 

Such, indeed, turned out to be the case, so that it 
was after a very sumptuous banquet indeed that we 
turned our steps towards the gorge in which our hosts 
were to leave us to pursue our journey to the hamlet 
at which we were to continue our work among the 

The gorge of Tighanimine, deeper and more forbidding 
in appearance than that of El Kantara, may in some 
respects be compared to the latter in that it forms a 
gateway between the European scenery of the higher 
Aures valleys and the African country of the Rassira 
canon, though the impression of a sudden passage from 
one continent to another is scarcely so vivid as at the 
" Mouth of the Desert," owing to the existence of the 
hinterland formed by the fertile basin around Tkout 
and Tifelfel. The rugged and precipitous rocks of 
Tighanimine are grey rather than ruddy in appearance, 
suggestive of the hillsides which lie immediately to the 
north of them, so that, grand though it undoubtedly is, 
the short defile between Tkout and the Wed el Abiod 
can scarcely be held to rank with El Kantara in the 
splendours of its scenery nor with the great canon of 


the Rassira whose wild magnificence we have, albeit 
feebly, attempted to describe. But there is an interest- 
ing story told about the gorge of Tighanimine which 
may well be repeated here. 

In the early days of the French occupation of Algeria, 
to be exact, I think, in the summer of 1850, a column of 
French troops was carrying out a series of marches 
through the heart of the Aures with a view, presumably, 
to showing its then turbulent inhabitants that Pax 
Gallica was not unsupported by might ; which might, 
as a matter of fact, has been frequently challenged at 
one time or another by the warlike descendants of those 
Berbers who stemmed the tide of the Arab invasion some 
twelve hundred years ago. In the course of one of these 
marches the column came upon the gorge by way of the 
Wed el Abiod, the first French troops to reach the almost 
impassable defile. 

In those days the track, passable to wheeled traffic 
when we saw it and soon, I suppose, to be converted into 
a highroad, by which we passed northward overlooking 
the right bank of the stream, did not exist, the only 
passage through the gorge consisting of the narrowest 
of ways, so encumbered by boulders as to be practically 
impassable by the laden mules which carried the im- 
pedimenta of the troops. 

The Frenchmen, therefore, set to work to clear the 
way, and laboriously struggled through the chasm 
beneath its frowning cliffs to the open country beyond, 
improving the track as they progressed. 

Regarding themselves as the first trained soldiers 
to work their way through the pass, considered at the 
time to be one of the most inaccessible in all the rugged 
valleys of the Aures massif, the units engaged were 
somewhat naturally proud of their achievement and 


requested the officer commanding the force to allow 
them to commemorate it by carving the names of their 
regiments and the date upon some suitable rock in the 

To this he readily assented, and a search was made 
for a rock flat enough to take the inscription. 

Such a boulder at once arrested their attention, 
ideally placed for their purpose and flat as if trimmed 
to receive their chisels. 

Climbing up to this well-chosen rock the soldiers began 
to clean it, preparatory to immortalizing their exploit 
by means of graven stone. The rock, however, upon 
closer examination did not present so smooth a surface 
as had been imagined, and a preliminary rubbing revealed 
the fact that human hands had worked upon it in the 

Judge of the amazement of the soldiers of France when 
some one among them, accustomed to the deciphering 
of inscriptions, announced that the rock already bore 
the name of a unit of a great disciplined army, an army 
whose traditions had been as glorious as their own, for 
the time-worn letters discovered upon the stone informed 
the column that the gorge of Tighanimine had been 
traversed and a track laid through it by the Sixth Legion 
of the Roman Army in the reign of Antoninus Pius more 
than sixteen centuries before ! 

The French, naturally, left the honour of the passage 
to those to whom it was justly due, and the rock with 
its simple announcement of a military achievement, 
greater in the days of equality of arms between the dis- 
ciplined soldier and his determined Berber foe than any 
such exploit can be in modern times, still reminds the 
traveller through the gorge of the days when Rome 
held sway over Numidia, when her cohorts stationed at 


Lambese to the north of the Aures were called upon 
to hold in check the warlike activities of the forefathers 
of the Shawia in the hills. 

Taking leave of our kindly French hosts and the 
Kaid's son beneath the shadow of the towering cliffs 
of Tighanimine, we continued our way through the defile 
to emerge into the valley of the White River and halt a 
few miles higher up at a tiny hamlet upon the slope 
overlooking the right or north-western bank of the 

Here we were received by the local headman, for Tag- 
hout, with its score and a half of tiny huts, was not 
important enough to require the residence of a sheikh, 
and we found that a very small and dark room, containing 
a platform of sticks covered with a mat upon which 
to spread our blankets, had been placed at our disposal. 

Softened, no doubt, by the luxury of a European's 
home at Tkout, we passed a more or less uncomfortable 
night wakefully listening to the animated conversations, 
carried on by very powerful voices, in the houses round 
which went on far into the night and commenced again 
even before the first streak of dawn in the morning, 
the few hours in which the human voices were still being 
disturbed by the short sharp barking of the native dogs. 

We had arrived at Taghout after dark ; it was only 
next morning, therefore, that we learned the reason of 
the loud-voiced discussions which had disturbed our 
night's repose. 

Caf6s, those crowded clubs of the larger villages in 
which the male population spends so much of its time 
and money, arc conspicuous by their absence at Taghout 
and the nights, even in spring-time, are far too cold at 
this altitude to encourage the gossips of the place to 
foregather at the draughty corners of its narrow lanes, 



' •> *■*:■;.! 

Tl ■'S*,-\: n 11 


the people, therefore, simply retire to their own houses 
and carry on their conversations from them, for the 
hamlet is so small that the human voice, if the strident 
tones of an excited Shawia may be called human, can 
easily be heard from one end of it to another. 

Thus, just as the tired wanderer rolls himself in his 
blankets and closes his eyes in the hope of a refreshing 
sleep he will be started to wakefulness by a shout of 
" Oh, Ali ben Mohammed ! " from the next-door apart- 
ment, answered, a moment later, by " Here am I ; Oh, 
Salah ! " from the opposite end of the village, a prelude 
to conversation lasting an hour or more which, loud as 
it must necessarily be in any case, will soon cause him 
to marvel at the wondrous capacity of the human lungs 
should the discussion develop into a dispute. 

The houses at Taghout were such as might be expected 
in so small a hamlet, mere hovels of grey stone resembling 
the dwellings of Tijdad and similar villages of the higher 
districts of the Aures, but in all of them we were hospit- 
ably received and pressed to partake of the usual honey 
and walnuts which are always offered to a guest in the 
poorest households of the hills. 

In olden days the site of the village had lain higher 
up the slopes of the north-western wall of the Wed el 
Abiod but, in the troublous times before the arrival 
of the French, it had been destroyed in the course of a 
conflict between some Arabs from the south and the 
Ouled Daoud Shawia tribe, which inhabits the district, 
and had been re-erected lower down a quarter of a mile 
or so from the bank of the oleander-bordered stream 
beside which the inhabitants of Taghout cultivate their 
tiny fields of corn, their apricots, walnuts and their 

The grey rocky valley in which the village lies, its 


sides dotted with the stunted juniper trees which we 
have found to be the characteristic of the valleys farther 
to the west, can scarcely be considered beautiful, especially 
when visited after a stay in the Rassira canon, and 
northerly winds sweeping down it from the snow-capped 
mountain, Ichemoul, which stands at its head, render 
the district unpleasantly cold, especially at night, even 
when spring is well advanced, but the valley and its 
villages are interesting in that they afford opportunities 
of studying the Berber people as much uninfluenced by 
the outside world as in any part of the Aures. 

We found plenty of occupation, therefore, during 
our stay at Taghout of becoming further acquainted 
with Shawia crafts and customs, an examination of 
which we had commenced elsewhere, and many of which 
I have already described, so that it was with no regret 
at having endured for a spell its unavoidable discomforts 
that we eventually continued our journey up the Wed 
el Abiod towards the northern plateau, the railway and 
home. Wending our way up the vale of the White 
River, along a track which might well be described as 
a fairly good road even just before the war, we soon 
came upon the village of Arris, then a station of the 
White Fathers, the great missionaries of North Africa, 
followers of Cardinal Lavigerie whose statue at Biskra 
overlooks the desert in which he and his subordinates 
have worked so bravely and so hard, but now the head- 
quarters of the administration of the Commune Mixte 
of the Aures, an administrative area which may be 
taken to comprise the whole of the central portion of the 
massif from the northern plateau to the desert. 

From Arris we continued our way up the Wed el Abiod 
to the point beneath the great mountain of Ichemoul 
at which it receives upon its right bank the waters of 


the insignificant brook known as the Wed Basha, 
following the course of which the road led us to the 
small village of Basha in which we were to pass the 

Here, as at Taghout, no chief existed who could offer 
us a lodging ; we were obliged, therefore, to sleep in a 
disused store-room, the numerous cracks and crevices 
in which compelled us to light a fire, for the night was 
extremely cold, and to submit to the state of semi-suffo- 
cation which is the only alternative to freezing in the 
higher villages of the Aures during a great part of the 
year. Next morning, after making a few small purchases 
for the museum at Oxford, we again took the road for 
an hour or so, before turning off to the north-west to 
follow a bridle-path to the village of Bou Hamar, situated 
in the valley of the Wed Taga on the northern slopes 
of the massif. As we gradually ascended the high 
ridge which forms the backbone of the Aures overlooking 
the level plains to the north we encountered a bitterly 
cold wind and found much snow still lying around us, 
indeed we partook of our midday meal among deep 
snow-drifts in a spot sheltered from the wind in which 
the sun, already powerful, soon made us realize that 
a move of but a yard or two may make all the difference 
between spring and winter on the summits of the 
Algerian hills. 

Having basked for an hour in the genial warmth of 
the sun we again faced the icy blast and surmounted 
the ridge, whence glorious views of the plateau unfolded 
themselves to our gaze, and commenced our descent 
of the northern slopes of the Aures, passing through a 
rocky gorge in which it was necessary to ford the Wed 
Taga upon several occasions, and so eventually arriving 
at Bou Hamar situated in a comparatively fertile valley 


from which we obtained many fine glimpses of snow-capped 
hills, now left behind us to the south. 

At Bou Hamar our host, the sheikh, provided us 
with warm accommodation, for the place lies high, in a 
well-built room attached to his own house containing a 
fireplace, built upon the European plan with a sufficient 
outlet for its smoke, which enabled us to spend our even- 
ings in comfort untempered with suffocation, a blessing 
for which we were duly thankful after some of our recent 
experiences in less pretentious dwellings. The sheikh, 
upon whose burnous the scarlet ribbon of the Legion 
of Honour recalled a very gallant action in the service 
of the French performed in years gone by, expressed 
every willingness to help us in our work, and used to 
spend much time discussing with us the various subjects 
we were attempting to study. 

Not only this, but, being a man of very considerable 
learning in Islamic lore, he insisted upon entering into 
long discussions on comparative religion, which means 
that he was anxious to get my views upon the birth 
of our Lord in order, as I thought, to refute them by 
his own. 

Now this placed me in a very awkward position, for 
if there is one subject which I have found, as a student 
of Mohammedan customs, it is wiser to avoid than to 
discuss, that subject is my own religion. Let the student 
and the Shawia agree to differ upon this subject and 
no ill feeling will result on cither side, but a chance remark 
falling from even the most careful tongue in the course 
of such a discussion may well have the effect of putting 
an end to the traveller's researches over a wide extent 
of country. 

At Bou Hamar, however, I found that the sheikh 
was merely questioning me with the object of advancing 


his own knowledge of the religion of France, so that I 
was able to retire from the discussion on the score of 
ignorance of the Roman Catholic faith and so extricate 
myself from a somewhat difficult position, for our talks 
took place in the presence of other natives who might 
reasonably be expected to take hold of my words and 
use them to our disadvantage. 

The village of Bou Hamar is similar to the hamlets 
of the Wed el Abiod, but larger and rather more scattered, 
and its houses are distinctly well built, though con- 
structed upon the usual plan of dwellings in the northern 
parts of the Aures, indeed its little minaretless mosque 
of modern construction is the best example I have seen 
of pure Shawia building for, as my readers will have 
observed, the Berbers of the hills are not famous for 
their architectural skill. 

Leaving Bou Hamar after a few days spent in the 
revision of our notes and the addition to them of a certain 
amount of material not already obtained, we rode through 
a wooded country to descend into the plateau at the 
great Roman ruins of Timgad, one of the most remarkable 
sites to be visited in the whole of the ancient world, the 
fair city which was called into being by a vast military 
camp at Lambese a few miles to the west whence, 
presumably, the soldiers of the Sixth Legion sallied 
forth to the passage of the gorge of Tighanimine. 

Even to those who can boast of no knowledge 
of archaeology and the history of Rome, these ruins, 
many acres in extent, with their theatre, their public 
buildings and baths, their lines of graceful columns and 
streets in the pavements of which are still to be found 
the ruts worn by the wheels of Roman chariots, must 
not only convey a very lasting impression, but provide 
food for reflection upon the state of the country in the 



days when it enjoyed a greater rainfall than at present, 
before the destroyers from Arabia had laid their hands 
upon the land and the ordered peace of Rome had given 
place to the centuries of chaos and misrule which 
intervened before the French assumed responsibility 
for the reconstruction of Algeria ; and, as he passes on 
by road to Batna, now the largest and most important 
European settlement of the plateau, the traveller may 
well be excused if he falls to comparing in his mind the 
luxury and splendour of the past, traces of which he 
has left behind him at Timgad, with the unlovely modern 
garrison town he is approaching. 

At Batna our rambles through the central portion 
of the Aures massif had come to an end. 

Having wandered from the Saharan oasis of 
Mechounech to the Berber settlement of Baniane, to 
the wild remote villages of the Rassira canon and the 
civilization of the government post at Tkout, we had 
passed to the upper valleys of the Aures and to a road 
which, it is to be hoped, will some day be continued 
southward until the motorist may follow in the foot- 
steps of our patient and sure-footed mules to explore 
for himself one of the most remarkable districts in 





DURING the whole of our wanderings in the western 
and central valleys of the Aures, and to rather 
a less extent in our final journey up the region dominated 
by the heights of the Djebel Cherchar, we had in view 
a special object in addition to the general survey of life 
among the Shawia which we were attempting to compile, 
an object which we were fortunate enough to attain, 
namely a study of the healing art which had been known 
for many years to be secretly practised in the mountains. 
This healing art has seemed to us so interesting, and the 
new light we have been lucky enough to throw upon it 
has revealed such remarkable facts connected with it, 
that I have thought some description of the surgery and 
medicine of the Aures should find a place in the pages 
of a book in which an attempt is made to lay before the 
general reader an account of native life in the hills ; and 
as our information on the subject was gleaned here and 
there, little by little, as we wandered over the country, 
I have considered it best to devote a brief chapter to 



it instead of giving in the sequence in which they were 
obtained such notes as we collected in the various hamlets 
as we moved. 

My readers who, in their imagination, have followed 
in our footsteps and have noted the numerous quaint 
superstitions and magical rites to which we have had 
so frequently to refer may well learn with surprise that 
medicine and surgery, worthy of any consideration at 
all, are to be found in such a land of sorceresses and 
magicians as the demon-haunted hills on the edge of 
the Sahara ; they may reasonably suppose that, in case 
of illness or injury, the Shawia have recourse only to 
the use of charms or magical observances such as are, 
indeed, largely employed by these sorceresses and 
magicians, for even a fairly close acquaintance with the 
natives formed in their mountain homes will not reveal 
the fact that men trained in the healing art of the Middle 
Ages practise this art to-day in remote hamlets of the 
hills and in the tents of the desert nomads beneath them. 

Many years ago, however, the existence of such 
practitioners became known to the French authorities, 
for persons bearing scars indicative of surgical operations 
were observed by officials in the neighbourhood of the 
Aures, persons who could never have undergone such 
operations save in their own homes, and at the hands 
of native surgeons, one particular scar being observed 
with startling frequency, that left by the removal of 
bone from the skull, the scar of the trepan. 

But although these scars were found almost daily, 
all efforts to investigate at all closely the methods of 
the Shawia surgeons proved more or less unavailing, for 
these men, suspicious enough by nature, became so 
secretive when their occupation became known to the 
authorities that they not only refused to discuss their 


art but even pretended that it had ceased to exist in 
the hills ; for, after French law had been established 
in Algeria, the man who performed an operation re- 
sulting in the death of his patient was, of course, liable 
to be held responsible for the death, with consequences 
very unpleasant to himself, if he were not in possession 
of the recognized French qualifications to carry on a 
doctor's work, qualifications to which none of the primi- 
tive Shawia could pretend. The doctor, then, became 
technically an outlaw and, in consequence, he considered 
it necessary to practise his art with the utmost secrecy 
and cunning, distrusting every attempt to pry into his 
concerns and regarding with jealousy and well simulated 
contempt the French medical officers attached to the 
various government stations, for he realized that if his 
patients became acquainted with modern European 
medicine and surgery his livelihood would be gone. 

The Shawia surgeon, therefore, in addition to conceal- 
ing his own methods, loses no opportunity of belittling 
those of European practitioners, whom he accuses of 
ignorance of all operations save the one to which the 
Mohammedan would rather die than submit, namely 
the amputation of a limb. 

In the circumstances it is scarcely surprising that the 
traveller in the Aures sees nothing of the work of the 
surgeons nor even learns of their existence in the course 
of a hurried journey, and that collections of the very 
primitive instruments with which they produce some 
really remarkable results have up to now been extremely 
rare in museums if, indeed, anything approaching a 
representative collection had ever been brought out of 
the hills before 1914. 

It was, therefore, with scant hope of realizing our 
ambition that upon commencing our general work among 


the Shawia we decided to endeavour to learn something 
of their surgery and to acquire such of their instruments 
as we could find. 

Now I am not a doctor and, except for the little know- 
ledge of medicine — sometimes a dangerous possession — 
which comes to those who spend much of their lives 
beyond the reach of skilled medical aid, I can claim 
no acquaintance with the healing art, nevertheless I 
decided that the most likely road to success in my search 
for native practitioners would be found in the distribu- 
tion of medicines to all and sundry who might ask for 
them in the mountains. 

We accordingly provided ourselves liberally with 
dressings, bandages, and such simple drugs as we knew 
to be harmless, and commenced our work in Algeria 
in an almost officious readiness to benefit, or at any rate 
to practise on, our neighbours. The natural love of 
both the Arab and the Shawia for anything which can 
be obtained for nothing soon brought us plenty of 
opportunities of getting rid of our drugs. No sooner 
did we become at all well known in a village than our 
residence would be besieged from morning until night 
by the halt and the maimed, some of them brought upon 
mules from many miles around, to try the effect of our 
pills, our tincture of iodine, our Elliman's, our salts, or, 
especially, our quinine, the use of which had become 
known throughout the hills, but for the purchase of which 
during a visit to a town the natives begrudged the money. 

But not only the sick and injured demanded our 
assistance ; many perfectly healthy spectators at our 
outdoor consultations considered that they, too, might 
benefit by a dose for some complaint to which they were 
liable, while some, more crafty than their neighbours, 
tried their best to secure a small stock of pills for various 


ailments to be sold to their friends as occasion offered, 
probably with no regard at all to the suitability of the 
drug for the complaint. It was necessary, therefore, 
to keep a sharp eye on our patients and to administer 
medicine only to those who would swallow it in our 

Needless to say, very many sufferers were brought 
to us for whom we could do absolutely nothing, but 
if a " practice " which constantly increases in size can 
be taken as a criterion of the doctor's skill then, were 
it not for the fact that our aid was rendered gratis, and 
so to be eagerly sought, we should by this time have 
begun to regard ourselves as no mean practitioners of 
the healing art ! 

Any attempt at surgery, of course, we carefully avoided 
unless the syringing of ears can be dignified with the 
name of a minor operation. It seems that when once 
the traveller has commenced to syringe ears in the Aures 
he can continue that unpleasant occupation all day with- 
out interruption. 

No sooner will he have sent one patient away than 
some one among the spectators will insist upon under- 
going the treatment, apparently in the belief that it will 
benefit him should he ever really require it in the future 
rather than with a view to removing any existing incon- 
venience ; indeed upon one occasion, when a syringing 
had relieved a girl who was reputed to be deaf, we were 
absolutely besieged by applicants for the treatment, 
some of whom even accompanied us during a whole 
day's march when our medicine chest had already been 
packed on a mule preparatory to a move. 

Lotions for the eyes, too, were in very great request, 
for diseases of the eye are extremely common in the 
desert and the hills, while all day long there came to us 


parents bringing with them children suffering from skin 
complaints caused, no doubt, by the dirty surroundings 
in which the natives live. 

Although we very soon found that free medicine can 
rapidly build up a practice in the hills and the desert, 
for a long time our carefully cloaked inquiries as to the 
existence of native doctors met with no response. When- 
ever we suggested to a surgical case that he should seek 
the aid of one of the skilful Shawia practitioners, the 
fame of whose reputation had reached us even in far- 
off England, we were assured that no such surgeons 
existed in the community, whereas we had heard from 
a French official that trepanning was frequently practised 
in the neighbourhood though, he said, we could hope for 
no such luck as to find the operator or see his instruments. 

The only reply to our inquiries which we at first received 
was that all the sick and injured of the mountains 
immediately called in the assistance of the French official 
doctor at the nearest government post, many miles 
distant over the hills, a statement which we knew to 
be a lie ; we began to despair, therefore, of ever finding 
a native surgeon, and to believe that all our distribution 
of pills and syringing of ears would turn out to be labour 
expended in vain. Suddenly, however, and quite un- 
expectedly, our luck changed. 

Having long since given up asking the direct question 
as to whether or not a surgeon existed in the locality, 
we were chatting on general topics to a chief and a small 
group of natives in a village in which we had recently 
arrived, when I suddenly inquired of the headman if 
he thought the doctor of his community would care to 
receive one or two English scalpels such as I produced 
from my pocket for his inspection. 

Apparently taken by surprise at my question the chief 


replied, " No doubt he would ; but here he is, let us 
ask him," and there, at last, stood before us a native 
surgeon, the nature of his calling revealed. Quick as 
thought we pressed home our advantage. Explaining 
to the somewhat disconcerted doctor that the fame of 
the practitioners of the Aures had induced us to travel 
so far from our native land to learn something of their 
methods, that no one need fear that his name would 
be disclosed to the authorities if he should supply us 
with details of his art and that, even if (as the doctor 
doubtless believed) the surgery of Europe was in a 
deplorable condition, English cutlery, in the form of 
such instruments as we had brought with us, was of a 
quality unobtainable in the hills, we persuaded our 
newly found friend to accept a few presents from our 
medical stores, and to give us our first glimpse of the 
work of the surgeons of the Aures. Delighted at the 
good fortune which seemed at last to be smiling upon 
our efforts, we spared no trouble to ingratiate ourselves 
with this the first practitioner we met, so that when the 
time arrived for us to leave his village in the spring of 
1913, we had already seen something of his work, 
we had obtained from him all the instruments necessary 
for performing the operation of the trepan and, most 
important of all, we had persuaded him not only to 
continue the instruction he had given us during the 
following winter but also to promise us introductions 
to some of his colleagues in the hills. Thus, from a 
lucky and unexpected beginning, we were able to inau- 
gurate our researches into Shawia medicine and surgery 
with a very fair prospect of success, for subsequent ex- 
peditions were to bring us into contact with most, if not 
all, of the leading practitioners of the Aures, from whom 
we obtained later on a fund of information as to their 


methods and a collection of instruments, numbering 
more than one hundred and fifty in all, of which some 
sixty representative examples may be found in the Pitt- 
Rivers Museum at Oxford to-day. 

Those who practise the healing art in the fastnesses 
of the Aures, while lacking all modern instruction in 
medicine and surgery, can scarcely be termed untrained, 
for the budding practitioner undergoes a long period 
of apprenticeship to some established doctor, almost 
invariably a relative of his own, before he commences 
to make a livelihood by his art. 

Thus for generations sons have learned from their fathers 
the craft which the family has followed for years uncounted, 
to pass on their knowledge to their children and so keep 
alive the mediaeval surgery and medicine which we shall 
find is practised in parts of Algeria to this day. Working 
with the most primitive of tools, saws, drills, scalpers, 
probes, cauteries, etc., cast from the roughest iron by 
the silversmiths of the mountains, the Shawia surgeon 
employs no anaesthetic to diminish the sufferings of 
his patients, to whose natural toughness he must owe 
much of the success which he undoubtedly achieves. 
The patient — we might well say the victim — is held down 
by a number of assistants, his groans notwithstanding, 
and the surgeon wreaks his will upon him, relying, as he 
claims, upon the delicacy of his touch to reduce to a 
minimum the suffering his operations must necessarily 

But for all the crudity of his methods and the rough 
nature of his tools the Shawia surgeon can certainly 
point to some very remarkable results of his work. 

The cases of trepanning, already referred to as having 
first drawn attention to the existence of real surgery 
in the hills, furnish excellent examples of what has been 


and is being done. The frequency with which they 
have been noted is extraordinary. 

In a stony country, among quick-tempered and vin- 
dictive natives, blows on the head requiring the removal 
of a piece of damaged bone from the skull are certain 
to be far from uncommon, but the Shawia surgeons 
appear to delight in this operation more than in such 
others as they can perform and, therefore, it is probably 
resorted to more frequently than is really necessary, 
while two French writers, Doctors Malbot and Verneau, 
many years ago recorded a case which had come before 
them of a living woman who had actually allowed a 
piece of bone to be removed from her skull in order to 
substantiate a fictitious charge of assault which she wished 
to prefer against her husband ! 

This oft-performed operation of the trepan may be 
chosen for description as providing an excellent example 
of the methods employed by the Shawia surgeons of 
the Aures. 

Let the reader imagine the interior of an ordinary dark 
and dirty stone hut, such as we have already described. 
In a corner of it, upon a heap of mats, rugs or old 
sacks, lies the patient, surrounded by friends who have 
come in to help the surgeon, awaiting in his own home 
the arrival of the practitioner who has been summoned 
from some neighbouring village to attend him, for by 
no means every hamlet can boast of a doctor among 
its inhabitants. A fire glows upon the hearth tended 
by some of the women of the family, others of whom are 
busy tearing up strips of cotton dress material to serve 
as bandages, preparing bowls of water or, if they be 
skilled in the requirements of a Shawia sick-room, melting 
the butter and honey which the doctor will almost certainly 
require for his dressings. 


Presently the great man arrives accompanied by one 
or more of his pupils. 

A preliminary examination having shown him that 
an immediate operation should be performed, the doctor 
produces from a leathern wallet provided with several 
pockets, which he is wearing slung over his shoulder 
beneath his cloak, the few simple instruments he will 
require and, selecting the one with which he will com- 
mence his task, a scalping iron with a circular cutting 
edge some two inches in diameter very much resembling 
a large wad-punch such as is used by gunsmiths in England, 
he proceeds to heat it in the fire until it glows red-hot 
when, his assistants holding the patient in position, 
he applies it firmly to the scalp over the seat of the 
injury, the iron searing its way down to the bone, after 
which he removes by means of its red-hot edge the piece 
of scalp thus burnt round, the hot iron preventing the 
flow of blood which the use of a cold instrument would 
have caused. 

This done he takes a drill, on the blade of which a 
couple of " shoulders " or projections are designed to 
guard against excessive penetration, and proceeds at once 
to bore a hole in the skull which may completely pierce 
it, should the surgeon consider it necessary to provide 
an outlet for any haemorrhage which may have taken 
place beneath the bone, or which, in some cases, is drilled 
only partly through the skull in order to afford a starting- 
point for the saw. The European spectator will note 
when the surgeon commences to use his drill that not 
only does he seem to disregard even the most elementary 
principles of surgical cleanliness as understood in Europe, 
but that he does not even attempt to wash his instruments 
before use. 

I have frequently questioned Shawia doctors upon this 


1. Scalper. 2. Drill. 3. Saws. 

4. Elevator. 5. Retractor. 6. Dental forceps. 


To face p. 188. 


point, and have always received the reply that they 
clean their instruments after use only, and then merely 
by washing them in any water, cold or hot, which may 
be available. 

The hole having been drilled into his skull, the patient 
will often be left to recover from the treatment he has 
undergone until the following day, when the doctor will 
return to continue the operation. During the next 
stage of the proceedings the surgeon applies to the hole 
he has made a small and often very coarse iron saw, the 
blade of which is usually flattened and turned down 
at right angles to the handle at its farther end, the end 
thus turned down being serrated with a number of roughly 
filed teeth. But the saw is used with great care, and 
only a very little work is done with it by most practi- 
tioners upon the first occasion of its use, the operation 
being recommenced daily until all of the bone to be 
removed has been sawn round, when it is raised by means 
of a small iron instrument resembling a screw-driver 
(I have found a European tool of this description in use 
by a Shawia for the purpose) and subsequently removed 
with the aid of iron retractors or hooks. 

Upon some occasions so little use is made of the saw 
upon each daily visit of the doctor that one of the most 
successful practitioners I have met with frequently takes 
a fortnight or more to cut round a piece of bone as large 
as a halfpenny, his object being to reduce to a minimum 
the strain to which he must necessarily cause the sufferer 
to submit. 

An operation having been completed, a dressing of 
honey, butter, and certain powdered herbs is applied 
to the part, which is then covered with a pad of sheep's 
wool held in place by dirty strips of dress material 
provided by the patient's household. 


Such is the operation of the trepan as performed by 
one of my native surgeon friends and indeed, with very 
slight modifications, by all the practitioners I have met 
with in the Aures. 

Without attempting the wellnigh impossible task 
of deciding what percentage of success attends the Shawia 
surgeon or discussing further the various cases of head 
operations, and they are many, which came to my 
notice in the hills, I will merely give one definite example 
of recovery, that of the first such case I met with. 

The patient was a youth who had received a violent 
blow from some such implement as a stone, or a club, 
or whose injury may have resulted from a fall upon a 
hillside ; when I saw him in 1913, the portion of his skull 
to be removed had been but half sawn away, and he was 
suffering, in addition, from a fractured bone in the leg. 

When I returned to the Aures a year later I found 
the lad in an apparently excellent state of health, I saw 
the scar of the operation, and I procured from the 
surgeon the fragment of bone removed from his head, 
which fragment, together with others I have collected, 
may now be seen in the Pitt-Rivers Museum with the 
instruments used in its removal. While the operation 
of the trepan is one which is performed with remarkable 
frequency in the fastnesses of the Aures, it is by no means 
the only one which the Shawia surgeons are capable 
of undertaking with success. 

Not only do most of them carefully remove bone that 
has been injured by, let us say, gunshot wounds from the 
limbs, but some of them have succeeded in replacing 
such bone by pieces cut fresh from the limbs of animals 
although, curiously enough, no attempt is made to replace 
bone removed by trepanning, the skin of the scalp, re- 
forming over the aperture, being the only covering deemed 


necessary for the hole in the skull. There can be no 
doubt that the wiry constitutions of the Shawia do much 
to help their surgeons to success. 

To any one unused to a life of hardship it may well 
seem incredible that the human frame can stand the 
appalling suffering which the operations of the Shawia 
surgeons must inflict ; at the risk of harrowing my 
reader's feelings, therefore, I will describe a scene I 
witnessed in 1920 as an example of the treatment the 
native can and does endure. 

I was invited by a surgeon well known and much 
respected over a wide area of country, who had come 
to regard me in the light of a pupil, to accompany him 
to a neighbouring village to see a case which was causing 
him much anxiety. 

We found the patient lying upon the usual bundle 
of rugs, etc., in a large room in a patch of sunlight stream- 
ing through an open door. He was suffering from a 
lateral fracture of the knee-cap, the result of a fall in 
the mountains, the upper half of the knee-cap having 
been drawn upward, and so away from the lower half, 
by contraction of the muscles. The problem before 
the surgeon was how best to restore the upper fragment 
of bone to a position in which it could reunite with 
the lower one. 

Causing four of the patient's friends who were present 
to hold the man still, the doctor attempted without 
success to force the bone downwards with his hands, 
wringing groans from the sufferer whom he and his 
assistants endeavoured to calm by means of rough chaff 
which, brutal though it would doubtless be considered 
in a European sick-room, certainly produced the desired 
effect of causing the patient to forget his agony as soon 
as the pressure on his injured limb was removed. 


Finding himself unable to move the bone sufficiently 
by hand, the surgeon determined to resort to sterner 

Placing the round wooden handle of one of his instru- 
ments above the knee-cap, he proceeded to beat the bone 
downwards by means of heavy blows of an iron hammer 
applied to the wooden handle above it ! The patient, 
his face like death, redoubled his previous groans. 

At last, after nearly a dozen blows had been struck, 
the surgeon found that he had beaten the bone as far 
as he wished ; he accordingly smeared some hot pitch 
over the surrounding skin, applied (by means of a red- 
hot iron) the cautery to which the natives resort upon 
every possible occasion and, finally, bandaged the knee 
in such a manner as he hoped would retain the two portions 
of the broken knee-cap in contact with one another. 

This done, he murmured the usual " In the name of 
God," and the operation was at an end. 

And now I come to the point of my story. Within 
five minutes of the application of the cautery (itself, 
I should imagine, a most unpleasant experience), after 
all the terrible agony he had endured during the slow 
pressing and the hammering of his injured knee, the 
patient calmly proceeded to join the doctor in a meal 
of meat and kuskus, ordering coffee for me, and directing 
his women-folk to explain to me the working of a loom 
which he had noticed I was looking at, laughing good- 
humouredly when I complimented him upon the forti- 
tude he displayed ! 

In very truth a life of hardship has made the Shawfa 
hard ! 

The native practitioner who carried out the treatment 
I have just described was very doubtful if it would prove 
successful for, although the Shawfa are skilful enough 


in the setting of ordinary fractures, for which purpose 
they often employ wooden splints shaped with an adze 
to fit the limb, they are ignorant of any means of wiring 
together the ends of a broken bone when these tend 
to separate as in the knee-cap which my friend was 

He was of opinion, therefore, that his hammering 
would prove to be useless, and that his patient would 
always be lame. 

The great majority of the operations performed by 
the surgeons of the Aures seem to be those necessitated 
by injuries to bones, for the Shawia appear to be very 
reluctant to interfere with the internal organs of the body, 
with the anatomy of which I believe most of them to 
be but ill acquainted. 

Such small operations, however, as the application 
of cautery, a treatment that is used for almost every 
imaginable complaint, the introduction of " setons," 
and " cupping," or blood-letting, they daily perform 
in addition to the more serious ones to which I have 

The last-named operation, if the term can be applied 
to so simple a performance, is carried out by barbers 
and other laymen as well as by surgeons, so that the 
traveller, who can witness it in almost any village he 
visits, must not jump to the conclusion that he has 
caught a Shawia practitioner in the act of pursuing his 
calling, a mistake which I made in the beginning of 
my researches, and so undergo the disappointment which 
will follow when he discovers that the operation is 
performed everywhere by laymen, often in the street, 
with no attempt at secrecy whatever. 

" Cupping " is usually carried out by making a 
number of small incisions in the back of the patient's 



neck, a small tin cup being then pressed over these 
incisions from which the blood is induced to flow freely 
into it by means of suction, applied by the mouth of 
the doctor to a tube attached to the cup for this purpose, 
the tube being stopped up when the flow has started in 
order to maintain something approaching a vacuum 
in the cup. The extraction of teeth seems to be carried 
out as much or more by the jewellers and smiths of the 
mountains as by the doctors themselves, the forceps 
employed, not at all unlike in principle the modern 
instrument with which many of us are only too familiar, 
being furnished with handles bent up at the end to afford 
a firmer grip. 

In a country in which chairs of any sort are unknown 
in native dwellings, the dentist, amateur or professional, 
often carries out his work in the street, the patient sitting 
upon the ground, his head between the knees of the 
torturer whose shoulders sway to and fro in the exertion 
of loosening and removing some particularly obstinate 

On the whole the teeth of the Shawia are good, but 
almost any jeweller, if asked whether he can wield the 
forceps with success, will produce for inspection a box 
full of ghastly trophies of his prowess as a dentist, and 
a large number of natives have applied to us for a cure 
for toothache in their very natural reluctance to place 
themselves at the mercy of the local doctor, jeweller 
or smith. 

As regards the fees asked by Shawia surgeons for their 
operations, these appear to vary considerably according 
to the patient's capacity to pay ; I have known a man 
who has received as much as a couple of hundred francs 
for an operation on the head, and who has asked another 
patient to put two francs in the mosque box to mark 


his gratitude for a cure, refusing for himself all remunera- 
tion for a similar operation to the one for which he had 
received the sum, so large in his estimation, mentioned 
above from a richer sufferer ; indeed it would seem that 
the doctors of the Aures, while ready enough to accept 
high fees from the wealthy, are extremely generous in 
their treatment of the poor. 

It must not be imagined that surgery alone is practised 
in the Aures. On the contrary, all the doctors I have met 
with have been general practitioners, carrying on the 
medical as well as the surgical side of their profession. 

Possessing a very remarkable knowledge of the plant 
life of their mountain land, they prepare the majority 
of their medicines from wild herbs which they seek among 
the rocks or in the gardens beside the streams, drying 
them in the shade and reducing them to powder, obtain- 
ing extract from them by pounding them when fresh in 
a large wooden mortar with a heavy pestle of wood, or 
even, in some rare cases, distilling them by means of 
a primitive " still," of which I was fortunate enough 
to secure a specimen. 

Indeed the natives are of opinion that every plant 
which grows has its medicinal value if only its correct 
uses can be ascertained ; the list, therefore, of local herbs 
used by the doctors must be very long indeed, while 
such herbs as are not to be found in the mountains, 
together with various other material, of which acetate 
of copper, sulphur, asafcetida and myrrh are examples, 
can be secretly purchased in the tiny native shops of 
the larger towns or from dealers in dried medicinal 
herbs who can be seen seated upon the ground, with 
their wares spread out around them, in the market 
place of many a centre of commerce in the neighbourhood 
of the hills. 


It is not my purpose here to deal in any detail with 
all the various operations and forms of treatment 
carried out by the Shawia practitioners of the Aures ; 
I have attempted to describe some of the surgery I have 
observed among them to the History Section of the 
Royal Society of Medicine in London, and I hope some 
day to publish in full the results of my work among the 
doctors in the hills, the now very numerous notes upon the 
practice of medicine and drugs, as well as upon surgery, 
which we have been lucky enough to acquire ; but the 
reader may well ask one question to which I will 
endeavour to supply an answer, " Whence is derived 
the healing art as practised in the Aures to-day ? " 

By the instruments used by the Shawia surgeons, by 
the drugs employed in their treatment of disease and, 
especially, by the Arabic books to which the natives from 
time to time refer in cases which perplex them, we are 
driven to the conclusion that the healing art of eastern 
Algeria entered that country in the wake of the Moham- 
medan religion ; that is to say that Shawia, who embraced 
that religion and undertook the pilgrimage to Mecca, 
which it prescribes for all the faithful to whom the task 
is possible, in days gone by spent some time in the study 
of medicine and surgery in such centres of mediaeval 
learning as Tunis or Cairo or even more distant cities 
of the Moslem world, and that they there acquired a 
knowledge of thirteenth-century Arab medicine and 
surgery which they have passed on by oral tradition from 
father to son in their families until it has been found in 
existence, little modified by the lapse of time, in the heart 
of the Aures to-day. These families whose ancestors 
introduced the healing art into the hills and whose members 
still follow the medical profession are, curiously perhaps, 
not regarded as holy or maraboutic, nor arc they in any 



To face p. 196. 


way to be confused with the charlatans, the writers of 
charms and the sorceresses, whom we have already found 
to exist in comfort upon the credulity of a naturally 
superstitious race. 

Nevertheless, with medicine in a state similar to that 
existing in parts of Europe seven centuries ago, it is not 
surprising to find that professional doctors employ certain 
forms of treatment which are obviously magical in origin, 
and that magicians recommend others which may even 
reasonably be expected to produce the desired results. 
Thus a well-known Shawia surgeon has informed me that 
one eye of the owl is permanently wakeful while the other 
eye is sleepy. 

In order to ascertain which is the wakeful eye the two 
are placed in a bowl of water, whereupon the sleepy 
one sinks to the bottom, leaving the wakeful eye afloat 
upon the surface. 

The latter, my Shawia friend asserts, is a valuable 
charm to be worn around the neck by persons of a sleepy 
disposition, while the sleepy eye should be so worn by 
those who suffer from insomnia. 

Further examples of the magical value of sundry 
materials employed by professional doctors are to be 
found in the use of earth as a dressing because " as 
we are sprung from the earth it must, of necessity, be 
good for us," and the wearing of the paw of a porcupine 
by young mothers as a preventative against soreness 
of the breast, a practice which is recommended even 
by doctors who enjoy a wide reputation for their surgical 
and medical skill. 

On the other hand a magician, possessed of no know- 
ledge of practical medicine whatever, once explained 
to me as follows, the cause of epidemics of disease and 
the measures he recommends to combat them. 


The epidemics are caused by whole armies of invisible 
" jenoun," or demons, who, invading a village in their 
thousands, strike down the inhabitants, spreading whole- 
sale slaughter as they go. 

The only wise course for the people to follow, according 
to the magician, is to abandon the unequal struggle 
against their supernatural foes and to flee to the pine 
woods of the higher slopes of the Aures, whither the 
" jenoun " will not dare to pursue them owing to their 
supposed dread of the smell of the pine tree, small pieces 
of which are often worn as charms against illness by 
the Shawia. 

It would seem from these instances that the magician 
is sometimes as scientific in the remedies he recommends 
as the real doctors are occasionally the reverse, indeed 
among a people still in a primitive state of culture the 
exact border line between medicine and magic is almost 
impossible to define, for who, bearing in mind that faith- 
healing has a powerful hold upon many people in com- 
munities such as our own, will care to deny that even 
the wearing of written amulets, so implicitly believed 
in by the natives, may produce a beneficial effect in 
some cases among the Shawia ? 




NOW that we had traversed the western and central 
valleys of the Aures, in order to complete, as far as 
possible, our survey of the land of the Shawia the necessity 
arose to undertake a journey from south to north up the 
valleys beneath the great ridge of the Djebel Cherchar, 
which, as we have seen, forms the eastern bastion of the 
massif, so that we might compare the arts and crafts, 
manners and customs of their inhabitants with those we 
had already attempted to examine further to the west. 

In order to reach a suitable starting-point at the foot 
of the hills for such an expedition, we found ourselves 
obliged to travel some fifty miles or more over the desert 
to the east of Biskra, to which centre, therefore, we 
descended by train to prepare for the journey which lay 
before us. 

During our stay at Biskra to rest after our wanderings 
amid the luxuries of its civilization in the glorious climate 
of the spring, so delightful after the rapid changes of 
temperature we had experienced in the Aures, we found 
plenty to occupy our time. 



" The Queen of the Zibans," as the place is called, 
while scarcely a spot in which to attempt a study of 
native life owing to the mixture of races to be found in 
it, is a centre to which so many natives, Shawia from the 
Aures as well as nomads from the great desert, come 
in to make purchases, that we were continually encoun- 
tering old friends from remote camps and hamlets who 
were always glad to see us and to supply us with the 
latest gossip of the little world in which they moved. 

Indeed, we could scarcely walk a yard from our hotel 
without being carried off to consume coffee by some one 
whom we had met in the desert or the hills, so that our 
holiday from research work among the natives really 
resembled that of the oft-quoted " busman," but, never- 
theless, our surroundings in a centre of civilization proved 
restful enough. 

After our usual practice of turning in almost at dusk 
in order to save our stock of candles, we took a childish 
delight in sitting up late at the Casino listening to the 
strains of an orchestra, whose music appeared divine to 
ears accustomed to the wailing of the oboe and the 
monotonous beating of the drum ; while to sit in the 
warmth of the early evening outside a well-appointed cafe 
and consume an apiritif to the strains of a band seemed 
to us the very height of luxury ; and, even though we 
may prefer the glories of nature unrestrained to the finest 
efforts of the gardener, we experienced an extraordinary 
feeling of delight in roaming beneath the palms in the 
scrupulously tidy and well-ordered garden of the Chateau 
Landon, the neatness of which afforded such a contrast 
to the surroundings we had left behind us in the hills. 

It is not my intention to attempt any description of 
Biskra. This has been attempted, and, as far as pen 
can achieve it, accomplished by so many writers of guide- 


books and travellers, not to mention a well-known author 
of fiction, that my halting pen can add nothing to their 
word-pictures of the great oasis and its surroundings, 
indeed, an account of life in a modern tourist resort 
scarcely falls within the scope of a work that aims at 
nothing more than to bring remoter regions to the notice 
of the traveller and to throw some light upon the daily 
lives and customs of natives unspoiled by contact with 
the outer world. I will pass over, therefore, the incidents 
of our various visits to Biskra and invite the reader to 
accompany us upon our journey in the desert to Zeribet 
el Wed, the headquarters of the nomad Arabs of the 
Zab Chergui district of the Sahara, whence we were to 
turn northward to the hills. 

During our previous travels we had become acquainted 
with the Kai'd of this area, a descendant of the great 
family from Barika to which, as we have seen, the people 
of Menaa still pay tribute in their gratitude for the 
foundation of their village, and he, upon our meeting 
him in Biskra just before our departure for his country, 
kindly asked us to stay with him at Zeribet before going 
up into the mountains, and offered to send us from his 
own oasis the couple of camels we should require for 
our baggage, thus relieving us of the necessity for 
searching for a comparatively reasonable camel owner 
within reach of the hotels of Biskra, a search to which 
that for a needle in a haystack would seem simple by 
comparison. Upon the morning fixed for our departure, 
therefore, the camels duly arrived at the time appointed 
(a fact which is not so common as to pass unnoticed by 
the traveller, and which showed that animals ordered 
by a chief are more to be relied upon than some others), 
and, having superintended their loading, we sent them 
on to the oasis of Sidi Okba in the charge of a mounted 


orderly, whose services the French officer in command 
of the military district in which Biskra lies had courteously 
placed at our disposal, with orders to await our arrival 
by diligence in the evening. 

For Sidi Okba lies but a dozen miles to the south-east 
of Biskra, and, as we were to spend the first night of our 
journey there, we had succumbed to the temptations of 
the fleshpots of our hotel, and had decided to commence 
our travels by carriage in the afternoon in preference 
to riding beside slow-moving camels — a monotonous 
experience, as many hundreds of miles of desert travelling 
had long since taught me, and one to be avoided when 

An hour or two before sundown, therefore, we drew up 
outside a gateway in one of Sidi Okba's narrow sandy 
lanes, after rattling over the road from Biskra in the 
ramshackle coach which carries the mail, and alighted 
at the house of the sheikh, himself absent at Biskra, 
who had been requested by the French authorities to 
provide us with accommodation for the night. 

Finding that a room equipped with European furniture 
had been got ready for us, and that supper was in course 
of preparation, we had nothing to do for ourselves. We 
accordingly set off in company of one of the elders of the 
village council to renew our acquaintance with the place 
formed many years ago, and to pay a visit, together with 
my customary mite, to the tomb of the warrior saint of 
Islam, Sidi Okba ben Nan, the first Arab invader of the 
Barbary States, who, slain by the warlike Berbers of the 
Aures, sleeps his last sleep beneath a " kouba " attached 
to the mosque which bears his name, a mosque more 
visited by Europeans, perhaps, than any other in Algeria, 
for few tourists are allowed to stay for any time at 
Biskra without being taken to inspect it. The mosque 


itself, though larger and better built than is usually 
the case in Saharan places of worship, has little of real 
interest, other than its historical associations, to offer 
to any one who has already visited a number of such 
buildings, though the view from its minaret over vast 
stretches of the desert with a magnificent panorama of 
the Aur£s to the north glowing beneath the rays of the 
setting sun, kept us engrossed in the occupation of picking 
out many familiar peaks and landmarks until the 
approach of the short twilight warned us that the time 
had arrived to return to our room in the sheikh's house 
to rest, in view of an early start upon the morrow. 

Leaving Sidi Okba behind us we rode eastward over 
a level desert of dry earth, in which sand was practically 
non-existent, to the small oasis of Ai'n Naga, ten or twelve 
miles distant, the glorious views of the Aures always 
visible to the north, while the flat landscape of the 
desert around shimmered in the glare of a powerful sun 
before us and to the south. The weather now, at the 
end of March, was distinctly warm for travelling in the 
open plains, where no shade of any sort is obtainable 
between the oases ; we were glad enough, therefore, of 
the protection afforded by a couple of cheap topees, 
bought in Biskra, as we moved over the arid wastes of 
the Sahara towards the few palms of Ai'n Naga, a mere 
cluster of huts amid some extremely unfertile looking 
gardens, above which but an insignificant number of 
date-palms reared their heads skyward, their long 
branch-like leaves motionless in the quiet of the early 
afternoon as we rode up to the " bordj " which had been 
built among them for the convenience of passing officers. 

Here, although there is no resident guardian who can 
prepare a meal for the wayfarer, we found that ample 
provision had been made for us by the Kaid of Zeribet, 


who had arrived before us to spend a few days in the 
oasis which lay within his borders, and had arranged for 
a meal to be sent in from some hut or tent close by, so 
that we had only to wander about Ain Naga for an hour 
or two, ample time in which to become thoroughly familiar 
with all the attractions of the place, and then turn into 
our blankets spread upon the floor of an upper room 
in a solid well-constructed building. 

The third and last stage of our march to Zeribet el 
Wed was considerably longer than either of the preceding 
days' journeys, but the heat of the day was tempered 
by a cool breeze and we rode a couple of willing mules, 
who got over the ground at a sufficient pace to bring us 
to our destination well before darkness set in, so that 
we suffered no discomforts whatever on the way. Indeed, 
this desert journey compared most favourably with 
many of the long days of marching, with nothing in 
view save the dreary level of the horizon, which I had 
endured in the far south in years gone by, for here, but 
a few miles south of the Aures, a fine panorama of moun- 
tain scenery, of barren ruddy rocks reflecting in many 
wonderful shades the rays of the scorching sun, was 
always in view as we travelled, and a mirage, invisible 
scarcely for a moment, produced the effect of sheets of 
glassy water a few hundreds of yards before us, which, 
ever receding as we advanced, kept up their illusion 
until, coming to the top of some imperceptibly rising 
ground, we descried the mud huts of Zeribet el Wed 
and the summits of its palm trees just showing above the 
banks of the stream which waters its oasis. Of native 
life we had seen practically nothing by the way. 

A few nomad women drawing water at a well a little 
distance from the track, whom we had asked to supply 
our animals with a drink, rewarding them with a handful 


of matches and such information as they demanded as 
to our names, ages, number of children, their sexes, ages, 
etc., in short, the usual " particulars " required by- 
native women of a European stranger, and sundry 
nomad families, passing with their worldly possessions 
carried upon their slow-moving camels, were the only 
human beings we encountered between the oases at which 
we had halted for the night. 

At Zeribet, however, we were to see and, in turn, be 
inspected by a host of the Arabs of the plains. 

Hospitably entertained by the Raid's cousin in the 
absence of our host himself, we were lodged in apart- 
ments in the chief's house, which might well have been 
removed in their entirety from a neatly furnished hotel, 
and so long as we remained beneath the roof of the 
great man his official uniformed orderlies, of whom he 
employed about half a dozen, would allow no intrusion 
upon our privacy, but the moment we proceeded to 
wander about the village unattended by an orderly we 
were almost literally mobbed. It appears that travellers, 
other than passing officials, do not frequent Zeribet, and 
that the vast majority of its women-folk, the greater 
number of whom pass their lives in the tents of the 
Sahara, and pay but an occasional visit to the oasis, had 
never previously beheld a white woman ; their curiosity, 
therefore, quite got the better of them, and, being nomads 
and so freer from restraint than their sisters of the towns, 
of Arab race though they were, they crowded round us 
directly we appeared to catch a glimpse of my wife. 

Young and old, they rushed to look at her, even 
elderly matrons literally fighting their way through the 
throng, hurling aside boys and girls who impeded their 
way in their eagerness to obtain a closer view, and ques- 
tioning those who had already inspected her as they 


passed, the motley crowd, in which a number of men 
was added to the women and the children, arousing such 
a commotion in the lanes inches deep in sand that we 
momentarily expected suffocation. 

Eventually one of the women would contrive to get 
my wife into her house, whither I usually accompanied 
her, for I was allowed into an extraordinary number of 
dwellings, considering that Zeribet is an Arab village, 
whereupon all her relations and friends as well, I should 
imagine, as even her most distant " bowing acquain- 
tances " would troop in after us to watch our hostess 
proudly doing the honours of her home to a " Roumiya," 
a European woman, who had been so unexpectedly 
called upon to play a very good imitation of the part of 
the freak in a circus procession. 

This sort of reception, which was accorded to us every 
time we wandered around the village, was by no means 
such as we had expected in an oasis like Zeribet, which 
lies not more than fifty miles from Biskra, and could 
even be reached in a car, for the track leading to it lies, 
as we have seen, over desert devoid of sand, though the 
innumerable little mounds, but a few inches high, with 
which the ground is covered would necessitate careful 
driving, and render the journey by no means luxurious. 
Cars, however, have certainly sometimes reached the oasis 
conveying military officers upon their tours of duty. 

Zeribet el Wed, or " The enclosure of the river," lies 
a few hundred yards to the north-west of the junction 
of two streams which flow into the desert from the hills ; 
the Wed Guechtan from the eastern side of Amar 
Khraddou, and the Wed el Arab, which, flowing through 
the valley upon the western side of the Djcbel Cherchar, 
emerges from the hills through the defile of Khanga Sidi 
Nadji, a dozen miles to the north. 


In the depression formed by these streams are situated 
the date-groves of Zeribet, their heads scarcely appearing 
above the level of the surrounding desert to the traveller 
approaching from the west. While a certain amount of 
irrigation is carried out in the gardens by means of the 
system of " seggias " employed in the hills, the presence 
of a large number of shallow wells among them enables 
another method to be used, namely watering by means 
of the " shadoof," a method extremely common in the 
Sahara, but not to be found in the mountain districts 
I have already described. The "shadoof" consists in 
a pillar of brick or palm-trunk, standing upright beside 
the well, to the top of which a long pole is so attached 
that its upper end can be pulled down to the mouth of 
the well and, by means of a weight consisting of a large 
stone attached to its shorter lower end, raised automatic- 
ally to its vertical position again when the pressure which 
has so pulled it down is relaxed. 

The bucket of goatskin is attached by a cord to the 
top of the pole, and is pulled down to lower it into the 
well, the weight of the stone raising the pole, and so 
drawing the bucket to the surface, when the native who 
is using the contrivance allows it to do so by relaxing 
his hold on the cord. 

If the water so drawn up is intended for the irrigation 
of the garden it is at once poured from the bucket into 
a small trough, whence miniature canals, or " seggias," 
convey it to the part it is desired to flood. The village 
of Zeribet el Wed requires no careful description here. 

Its houses of mud brick, its narrow winding lanes, its 
cafes, and its tiny native shops, to which the nomads of 
the neighbouring camps send in for their simple require- 
ments, are all such as can be found in any oasis of the 
northern desert, for example, El Kantara, Djemora, or 


Branis, and, indeed, its inhabitants should not properly 
be studied at Zeribet, but rather in their real homes, 
the tents of the Sahara ; for Zeribet, like Djemora, is 
the headquarters of a wandering people, and not the 
residence of any considerable number of Arabs. 

The district of the Zab Chergui, of which Zeribet is 
the chief oasis, is noted for its horses, large numbers of 
the best animals in the northern desert having been 
bred in the camps around. 

The French, therefore, are in the habit of sending two 
or three valuable stallions there for a part of the year 
to encourage the Arabs in their taste for horse-breeding, 
with the result that some very fine animals indeed are 
sometimes to be seen in the hands of the natives, the 
pedigrees of which the owners hold in writing and proudly 
display to any one who delights them by taking an 
interest in their horses. 

Our stay at Zeribet el Wed beneath the hospitable 
roof of its Kaid, who, with the help of his " Khalifa," 
or second-in-command, his cousin, entertained us most 
royally, was thoroughly enjoyable, but we were already 
nearing the end of March, and we had a considerable 
journey to perform through the region of the Djebel 
Cherchar before the weather should become unbearable 
in the lower country, and unpleasantly hot even on the 
plateau to the north of the Aures, we therefore moved 
on after several days at Zeribet to begin once more our 
work among the Berbers. 

We rode out from Zeribet upon our short journey to 
Khanga Sidi Nadji, a large oasis at the foot of the moun- 
tains, in the early afternoon, beneath a sun which made 
us rejoice more than ever in our newly-acquired topees, 
and following, more or less closely, the course of the 
Wed cl Arab wc headed for the small oasis of Liana, 



just before reaching which we passed upon our right 
the tiny hamlet of Bades, built upon a little mound in 
the level desert, a mound said to consist of the ruins of 
a former town, for, according to El Bekri, the mediaeval 
Arab geographer, in the eleventh century Bades was a 
place of considerable importance and boasted of two 

At Liana we halted for a few minutes to partake of 
coffee in the house of its sheikh, and we were joined by 
a uniformed orderly from the Kai'd of Khanga Sidi Nadji, 
into whose area we had now passed, who was to escort 
us to the home of his master. 

After leaving Liana we forded the Wed el Arab, and 
continued along its left or eastern bank until we joined 
an excellent track, quite passable at this point by wheeled 
traffic, leading us to the oasis of Khanga at the point 
at which it turned to the north-east towards the eastern 
valley beneath the Djebel Cherchar ; a track to which 
I shall have to refer at end of this chapter. 

Before reaching Khanga we entered a valley at the 
foot of the hills in which the oasis lies, and finally emerged 
from its palm groves to obtain a beautiful view of the 
village itself, lying at the foot of a steep hillside on the 
eastern bank of the Wed el Arab, its cluster of houses 
overlooked by the tall well-built minaret of a mosque. 
Even as we rode for the first time through its winding 
streets towards the residence of its chief we could not 
fail to notice an air of cleanliness and absence of decay, 
which seemed to mark it as a place apart from any Algerian 
village we had seen, and, as we pulled up in a large open 
square near the Ka'id's house and were received by the 
chief himself, surrounded by well-dressed members of 
his family, we realized that here at Khanga we had found 
no ordinary settlement of the desert and the hills. 



The Ka'id received us with the quiet hospitality of 
manner and a dignity belonging to a bygone age, such 
as we had come to expect from a member of one of the 
ancient families of Algeria, and conducted us to a delightful 
three-roomed dwelling, furnished in the European style 
with everything we could wish for, even for the longest 
of visits, a house used by the Administrator of the 
district in the cool weather, which we approached through 
a small but charming garden, beneath whose palms we 
at once noticed the rare luxury of flowers, and around 
which a high wall of mud brick safeguarded our privacy 
from the well-meant but sometimes wearisome attentions 
of inquisitive natives. Here, indeed, we were in luxury ! 

A delightful climate, not yet too hot to be pleasant, a 
charming residence, and a beautiful garden in which the 
sound of running water from a " seggia " almost banished 
from our recollection the very existence of a desert, the 
quiet peace of the whole atmosphere of the place caused 
us first to wonder whether or not we were in the land 
of dreams, and then, as we thought of the cold of the 
high passes, the glare of the Sahara, the draughts and 
the fleas of remote Shawia hamlets, to ask one another 
if we could ever bring ourselves to leave the place and 
wander again in the mountains ! 

The whole of our stay at Khanga Sidi Nadji consisted 
of one great round of entertainment, for not only the 
Ka'id of the place, but also his cousin, the Kai'd of Ouldja, 
whose territory we were soon to visit, inhabited the 
village, as did a number of their grown-up sons and 
nephews, members of the great and respected Arab family 
of Bel Hacine, each of whom vied with his relations in 
the task of entertaining us and showing us everything 
of interest they could think of. 

Although the village of Khanga Sidi Nadji consists 


only of a number of mud-brick houses amid its groves 
of twenty thousand palms, it seems well deserving of 
more than passing notice, for it is a fine example of a 
prosperous settlement, founded, enlarged, and almost 
entirely maintained by the great family which has held 
sway over it for centuries gone by, a member of which 
is its Kai'd to-day. 

Surrounded by a wall, in reality consisting mainly of 
the continuous outer walls of some of its houses and 
gardens, the village can be entered by four gateways, 
situated one at each point of the compass, of which the 
great wooden doors are closed by night. The streets, 
narrow and tortuous, but cleaner than those of any other 
native village I am acquainted with, lie between rows of 
dwellings, most of them built of mud brick, among which 
a certain amount of stone work is to be found, especially 
in the lower floors of the houses, most of which boast 
an upper story, the stones being as a rule very neatly 

The general impression produced by the houses is that 
such care had been expended upon their upkeep that the 
old are scarcely distinguishable from the new, a state of 
things which could not exist for a moment in an Algerian 
community in which some influential chief was not 
constantly in residence, taking a personal pride in the 
maintenance of his village, and insisting upon, or sub- 
scribing to, its necessary repairs. 

In the heart of the village are to be found the residences 
of the Kaids of Khanga and of Ouldja, with those of 
their relations, large well-built structures of mud brick, 
the house of the former chief lying next door to the 
mosque, with which it is connected by cloisters, the arches 
of which are of a solidity rarely to be found in the desert, 
and quite unknown in the hills. The history of this 


mosque and, indeed, that of the whole village for its 
three centuries of existence is simply that of the Bel 
Hacine family, which history the existing Kai'd never 
tired of discussing with us, for, proud as he is of his ancient 
lineage, he was most anxious that we should learn and 
appreciate all that his ancestors, whose " tree " he wrote 
out for us, had done for the worldly as well as for the 
spiritual welfare of the place. 

The village having been founded some three hundred 
years ago by the Bel Hacines, and named after Sidi Nadji, 
one of their ancestors (the word " Khanga " signifying 
" gorge "), its existing mosque was erected at a later 
date by craftsmen from Tunis, with which city the family 
had some connection, being friendly with its Bey. The 
employment of Tunisian architects and builders has 
resulted in the construction of a mosque which is superior 
in beauty and solidity to any other I have seen in south- 
eastern Algeria. Its arches are evenly and truly built, 
its doors are neatly carved, and its cloisters, already re- 
ferred to, built of small bricks, though of no great size, 
appeared to be representative of an architecture much 
in advance of that usually to be found in the Sahara. 

The family mausoleum is situated beneath a dome 
in a building opening out from the main hall or chapel 
of the mosque, and in it repose all members of the Bel 
Hacine clan, women as well as men, who have passed away 
since its construction. 

Texts or mural tablets, their characters executed in 
relief, are to be seen over each of the main doorways, 
a similar tablet containing a message from a former Bey 
of Tunis, who had visited Khanga, being displayed upon 
the wall inside the mosque. In addition to maintaining 
the usual officials of a Mohammedan place of worship, 
the Bel Hacines employ a teacher of religion and law for 


the instruction of those who would study there, and have 
provided a library of works for use in this " zawia," for 
the family is maraboutic as well as old, and accordingly 
keeps up one of those establishments which, as we have 
seen, are commonly the residences of the saintly families 
of Algeria. But, besides looking after the spiritual 
well-being of their neighbours less plentifully supplied 
with this world's goods than themselves, the succeeding 
chieftains of the Bel Hacine line have made it a point 
of honour each to add something to the temporal pros- 
perity of the village or its oasis ; thus some have con- 
structed new " seggias " to bring more land under culti- 
vation by means of the waters of the Wed el Arab, one 
of the most considerable rivers of the hills, others have 
planted extensive gardens, while all appear to have carried 
on the family tradition of philanthropy, not perhaps 
quite untempered with profit to themselves, from genera- 
tion to generation in the past. As the oasis grew larger 
and the wealth of the village increased, it was found 
necessary, in the days before the arrival of the French, 
to provide some means of defence against any jealous 
rivals of its ruling family, or the " goums " of the maraud- 
ing nomad tribes of the Sahara. A fort was, therefore, 
erected on the crest of the ridge overlooking the oasis 
from the east, its ruins clearly indicating that Tunisian 
builders, such as had constructed the mosque, had been 
employed upon the task. This stronghold of very solid 
brick, entered by one arched gateway from the south, 
offered shelter in its courtyard to the ordinary inhabitants 
of the village, while it afforded accommodation, in the 
shape of rooms in an inner building, to the members of 
the saintly family which had caused its construction. 
So progressive were the Bel Hacines at this period of 
their history that they even armed their fortress with 


cannon, weapons which, I believe, eventually caused the 
destruction of the place, for a Bey of Constantine, 
under whom the Ka'ids of the country nominally held 
sway, when upon a visit to Khanga was so impressed by 
the strength and armament of its defences that by political 
persuasion, rather than by force, he contrived to bring 
about their demolition, fearful, no doubt, of the conse- 
quences to his own authority should he permit his 
subordinates to indulge in the possession of fortresses 
equipped with guns. It was a genuine pleasure to us 
to wander around the oases of Khanga, its village, and 
its mosque, accompanied by the Kai'd, listening to his 
description of the constructive policy of his ancestors, 
observing the various improvements he himself had carried 
out or intended to undertake, or standing by while the 
chief inquired into the welfare of some individual among 
his people for all the world like some old-time British 
squire passing the time of day with a villager, whose small 
affairs would appear to interest him as much as all the 
broad acres which he owned. 

Until but a few years since the head of the Bel Hacine 
family held sway over the very extensive area known as 
the Djebel Cherchar, the great ridge of which mountain 
was included in his dominions, but during some recent 
changes in the administration of the district the authori- 
ties decided to divide the large " kaidat " into four smaller 
ones, two of which were allotted to members of its former 
ruler's clan, the Bel Hacincs to-day holding the posts 
of Ka'ids of Khanga Sidi Nadji and of Ouldja, a village 
but a few miles up the course of the Wed el Arab to the 
north, whose chief, as we have seen, has his residence 
at Khanga, the headquarters of his cousin. 

When the time approached for us to move on* from 
Khanga Sidi Nadji, the mixed Arab and Berber population 

" Mk® 


r% -.** 

>f * 



of which rendered it by no means so ideal for our studies 
as its comforts, its scenery, and its genial chief had made 
it as a resting-place, we were confronted with the choice 
of two routes by which we could reach some of the 
higher Berber hamlets upon the slopes of the Djebel 

One, the excellent track by which we had entered 
Khanga, leading beneath the easlern side of the great 
ridge to the Shawfa villages of Djellal and Taberdga, 
which we desired to visit, though by far the easier path 
to follow, had little else to offer us by the way ; the other, 
following the rocky valley of the Wed el Arab to Ouldja, 
Chebla, and Kheirane in the north, though by no means 
so easy, would enable us to see these three Berber hamlets 
before turning to the east, climbing the ridge of the 
Djebel Cherchar itself, and descending upon Djellal and 
Taberdga from the west. Naturally we selected the 
latter as affording us better opportunities of seeing more 
of native life, and, as for the difficulty or otherwise of 
a mountain path, so long as a mule can traverse it so 
can the traveller upon its back ; while if the way, as is 
very rarely the case, is quite impossible for a mule, then 
the wanderer must avoid it altogether, or leave behind 
him his baggage, his blankets, and his stores, for these 
must be transported upon mule-back in any case, without 
which he cannot well stay in the remote hamlets of the 

The Kaid of Ouldja, learning of our decision, at once 
sent a message to his village directing that a house be 
prepared for us, and, an attack of rheumatism preventing 
him from accompanying us in person, he handed us over 
to his son, Si Abdelhamed, who was to escort us to 
Ouldja and do the honours of the place in his father's 
stead. Leaving our delightful house and garden, and 


the families of our hosts, with whose women-folk my wife 
had become friendly, we rode out of Khanga to descend 
at once into the bed of the Wed el Arab, accompanied 
by the Ka'id of Khanga, mounted upon a magnificent 
black mare, and Si Abdelhamed, bestriding an equally 
magnificent chestnut stallion. The northern limit of 
his dominions lying at no great distance up the river, 
the chief escorted us towards this point and then, after 
cordially inviting us to visit his area again, turned back, 
leaving us to continue our way to the gorge, from which 
Khanga Sidi Nadji derives the first part of its name, 
accompanied by the son of the chief of Ouldja and a 
native mounted orderly, who had been sent by the 
Administrator of the region to meet us. 

At the beginning of our journey we found it necessary 
frequently to ford the Wed el Arab, a stream which held 
a good deal of water, but whose bed was sufficiently wide 
at this point to enable it to be used as a path without 
danger of sudden flood. 

The country between Khanga Sidi Nadji and Ouldja 
is rocky and extremely barren, the gorge, by no means 
so deep or imposing as the others which we had traversed 
farther to the west, lying between hills of a pale yellow 
tint upon which plant life was reduced to a minimum ; 
it was, therefore, with a feeling of some relief, after passing 
through such a country in the glare of a powerful sun, 
that we entered the oasis beside the Wed el Arab of the 
little stone-built Shawia village of Tebouia Hamed to 
rest for a few minutes on our way. 

We were conducted by the headman to a room in which 
to partake of coffee and dessert, where we noticed a small 
point connected with superstitions that we had never 
observed in the other parts of the Aures we had yet 
visited. Over the doors and all the windows of the 


apartment were affixed little written charms, unprotected 
by any covering of cloth or leather, the object of which 
was to prevent the entry of scorpions into the room. 

Scorpions are said to be very plentiful in the area of 
the Djebel Cherchar during the summer months, 
accordingly we found similar charms in every native 
house as we progressed, but the pests must be at least 
as common farther to the west, where the usual method 
of guarding against their bite consists merely in the 
wearing of a charm upon the person, certain scribes of 
the Aures being belieyed to be capable of writing words 
and signs upon a certain kind of bone which, if worn, 
will enable the wearer to pick up by hand any scorpion 

After but a brief halt at Tebouia we rode on to Ouldja, 
our destination, where we found that a hut had been 
prepared for us, carpets laid down, and a table provided, 
the two latter having been sent on by the Ka'id from 
Khanga in the charge of one of his servants, who was to 
cook for us during our stay. 

The village of Ouldja, its huts of untrimmed stone 
situated upon a low spur projecting into the valley of 
the Wed el Arab from its eastern side, was obviously of 
true Shawia type, but its oasis, which lies beneath it, was 
somewhat different to any we had previously seen, for 
its trees consisted of about equal numbers of date-palms 
and olive trees, growing in the same gardens, to which 
a number of other fruit trees were added. 

The olive trees were valuable enough to the natives 
as they enabled them to produce the oil which is so 
much used in cooking in the hills, and concerning the 
preparation of which we gleaned some interesting infor- 

In another village, at Beni Ferah to be exact, we had 


noticed a system of bruising the olives in a circular trough 
by means of a heavy stone roller, which, drawn by a mule, 
moves round and round the trough, pivoting upon a 
revolving wooden post in the centre ; after which the 
bruised olives are boiled and placed in baskets beneath 
a massive tree-trunk, one end of which rests upon a ledge 
in the wall of the house, while a heavy stone attached to 
the other end lends additional weight to the tree, so that 
it presses hard upon the baskets beneath it, and thus 
causes the oil to exude from the olives. This system has 
been found by eminent archaeologists to have existed, 
exactly in the state in which we found it, in the time of 
the Roman occupation of Algeria, but here, at Ouldja, 
we discovered another system of obtaining oil which 
must be very much more ancient still, very possibly, it 
would seem, dating back to prehistoric times. 

The bruising of the olives is carried out by the very 
simple process of moving a large stone to and fro upon 
them by hand, while, when boiled and placed in their 
baskets, they are laid upon one large stone, a woman 
then standing upon another slab of rock placed on the 
top of the baskets, her weight, as she transfers it from 
one foot to the other, giving the pressure required to 
cause the oil to flow. Up to the present a pressure of 
other work has prevented our searching for a parallel 
to this system among the industries of other ancient 
peoples, but there can be no doubt that such a simple 
method of obtaining oil must be of very great antiquity 
indeed, so that we may well presume that a prehistoric 
craft, which we noted first at Ouldja, exists to this day 
all over the fastnesses of the Djebcl Cherchar. During 
our short stay at Ouldja we devoted our time, as usual, 
to prying into the native's concerns, an occupation to 
which no one seemed in the least to object, and we found 


an opportunity of witnessing a wedding in one of the 
very poorest cottages, a ceremony which differed in no 
essential detail from others we had seen at Beni Ferah 
and elsewhere. 

In the Djebel Cherchar, as elsewhere in the Aures, the 
sons of wealthy parents frequently marry at an absurdly 
early age, a state of single blessedness being looked upon 
with disfavour by the Shawia, and also by their Arab 
neighbours ; but in poor families, such as the one whose 
guests we were at the wedding at Ouldja, the bridegroom, 
who must be in a position to maintain his wife, is usually 
rather older. After the wedding it is by no means uncom- 
mon for the young couple to take up their abode in the 
house of the bridegroom's father, in which they are 
provided with a separate apartment, the daughter-in-law 
becoming the assistant of her husband's mother, turning 
her hand to any of the hundred and one tasks which are 
the daily lot of the Berber women, her position in the 
bosom of her husband's family being rendered less pre- 
carious than it might be in a more civilized community 
by the fact that her mother-in-law is only too thankful 
for her help in the performance of such domestic duties. 
If, as time goes on, no olive branches appear in the family 
then, indeed, the young wife may well look forward to 
the future with dismay, for she will be considered to 
have failed in her natural duties and may expect her 
husband to divorce her with no more ceremony than if 
he were getting rid of an unsatisfactory mule, leaving her 
to return, unwanted and disgraced, to the home of her 
parents, there to earn her living by her household work, 
the object of the sneers of her more fortunate acquain- 
tances. But the arrival of a child, especially of a son, 
may reasonably be expected to give the girl a new lease 
of life as the wife of the man she has married. The event 


itself, so easy as scarcely ever to require the presence of 
one of those Shawia doctors, some of whose operations 
we have described, is made the occasion of much singing, 
dancing, feasting, and other rejoicing should the child 
be of the male sex, but is passed over in gloomy silence 
on the part of the husband and his relations should a 
daughter be born in the household. 

When old enough many of the boys are sent to school. 
That is to say, they squat in a semi-circle learning, first, 
the Arabic characters from little wooden boards (the last 
vestige, probably, of the tablets of ancient Rome), or 
repeating texts from the Koran in chorus and at such a 
pace that evidently no meaning of the texts is considered 
so long as their form is acquired. 

Education, even in this most elementary form, is not 
required by the girls, whose time is fully occupied about 
the house, their father often paying but little heed to 
them until they reach the age at which suitors may be 
expected to seek their hands with pecuniary advantage 
to their parent. 

The father, however, takes considerably more interest 
in his sons. From the age of six onwards they will, by 
watching him at his various tasks, learn to help him in 
them, for, like the cannibal tribes of Central Africa and 
other primitive peoples, the Shawia are very forward 
and promising when young, often, it must be confessed, 
quite failing as they grow up to fulfil this early promise 
owing, no doubt, to the absence of a good native system 
of education in the remote hamlets of the hills. 

Although we found so ancient a method of olive pressing 
as that which I have described still in use at Ouldja, the 
other arts and crafts of its Berber people were exactly 
similar to those which we have noted in the course of 
our journeys in the western Aurcs ; we had merely amplified 


some of our existing information, therefore, when we 
moved on from the little village, and, leaving our genial 
young host, the Raid's son, to ride back to Khanga, 
started over a hilly country towards the village of Chebla 
in the territory of the Kai'd of Alieness. 

Avoiding the detour which would have been caused by 
following the course of the Wed el Arab beside the banks 
of which Chebla, like Ouldja, lies, we rode over a very 
hilly and barren country in brilliant sunshine, the glare 
of which upon the almost naked rocks and steep crumbling 
hillsides was untempered by the sight of vegetation 
which would have provided a welcome rest to our eyes. 

As we surmounted various hillocks that lay in our 
path we obtained distant views to the northward of the 
wooded slopes of some of the central Aures peaks, but 
all around us lay a country as desolate as any part of 
the great desert, the ridge of the Djebel Cherchar, its 
steep slopes rising wellnigh sheer a few miles distant 
to the south-east, wearing no such mantle of woodland 
as the hills above the Wed Abdi or Menaa. As we came 
in sight of Chebla we noticed beside a brook which had 
to be forded before the village could be reached a group 
of natives, one of whom was wearing the scarlet cloak of 
a Kai'd, and we learned that the chief of the area of 
Alieness, whose residence lay upon the other side of the 
Djebel Cherchar, had decided to meet us at Chebla and 
to make a small tour of his territory in our company. 

Having gone through the formality of greeting our 
new host and the elders of the village council of Chebla, 
who accompanied him, we rode on up the slope on the 
summit of which, overlooking a bend in the Wed el Arab, 
the hamlet of Chebla stands. Here we found that the 
Kai'd had procured a fair-sized house for us to live in, 
the property of an orphan boy named Mohammed the 


Little, a cheery lad some twelve years old, who became 
our companion in our wanderings about the village. 

Owing to the fact that Chebla is built upon the more 
or less level top of a small hill, rather than upon a narrow 
spur from a mountain, there is no lack of space in which 
to build ; its houses, therefore, are larger and more 
rambling than the cottages of the Rassira canon or the 
Wed Abdi, the majority of them boasting a courtyard 
and a separate apartment for such animals as goats, 
etc., which are accustomed to live indoors in the Aures. 

Five rooms, two of them quite large and furnished 
with a dais at one end, as well as a small shed to serve as 
a stable, opened out from our courtyard, one side of the 
yard itself being partly roofed over and separated from 
the rest of it by a wall about three feet high to provide 
a sheltered corner in which cooking could be carried 
on without making a fire in one of the rooms, or in which 
the women could weave in hot weather. 

The houses, built of untrimmed stone, seemed none 
of them to possess an upper floor, and, as they adjoined 
one another, their flat roof, devoid of any sort of parapet, 
formed a platform by means of which one could walk 
all round the village, looking down upon the inhabitants 
in their courtyards below. 

This, indeed, is actually done, and we ourselves wandered 
about the roofs to visit the various friends we made in 
the place in a manner which would have scandalized 
an Arab, could one have seen us, and probably caused 
him to make many totally unjust remarks about the 
virtue of the Shawia women and the, to him, outrageous 
conduct of their husbands in allowing such behaviour. 

The Berbers, as we have seen, are far less strict in their 
treatment of their women than the Arabs, yet I have 
never seen the housetops used as a sort of promenade 


To face p. 223. 


in any of the other districts of the Aures. Upon the 
roof of our house, as upon those of most of its neighbours, 
stood a line of beehives, covered with pieces of halfa-grass 
matting, and protected from the effects of the " evil- 
eye " by a gleaming white jawbone of a mule suspended 
from the roof below them, for the superstitions of the 
Djebel Cherchar appear to be those of the rest of the 

As soon as we arrived in Chebla the assistance of our 
medicine chest was called in for a couple of young men, 
both of whom appeared to be suffering from pneumonia, 
one of them so ill as to be quite beyond any help we could 
give him. In the night following he died, the heart-rending 
wails of the women of his family breaking the stillness 
of the night as he breathed his last, for the women make 
a point of demonstrating their sorrow as much as possible, 
uttering piercing cries, and often drawing blood from 
their cheeks by tearing them with their nails in a real 
or assumed agony of grief. 

Our other patient, however, began slowly to improve, 
and when we left the village he was, I think, on the road 
to recovery, not owing to any medical skill on our part, 
but rather to the various little comforts we were able 
to find for him, and to the fact that we encouraged him 
to make a fight for life, for natives are very apt to resign 
themselves to a death which they consider inevitable 
even when they are not seriously ill at all. 

A good deal of our time at Chebla, when we were not 
partaking of the " mechwis " which our host, the Kaid, 
placed before us with embarrassing regularity, was spent 
in wandering about the gardens in the wide valley on 
the other side of the Wed el Arab overlooked by the 
village, gardens in which the date-palms of the lower 
and more southern villages had given place to fruit, 


olive, and fig trees, and to wider fields of corn and beans, 
for at Chebla there is more space available for cultivation 
than at Ouldja or Tebouia Hamed. Thus we were able 
to learn some details of the methods of farmers in the 
Djebel Cherchar, methods indistinguishable from those 
of the basin to the north of the Rassira valley and other 
parts of the western Aures. We also went over, accom- 
panied by the Ka'id, to visit the " zawia " of two well- 
known marabouts, brothers belonging to the family of 
Abd el Hafed, who resided near the village of Kheirane, 
a few miles to the north. 

Riding over a steep hill to avoid a bend in the stream 
— the Wed el Arab is very tortuous in its course — we 
found the village beside the river, the " zawia " consisting 
of quite a small village of huts, in addition to the resi- 
dence of the holy men themselves, lying some three 
hundred yards lower down the stream, also upon its 
bank. The marabouts received us most cordially, bidding 
us " Welcome, with blessing," and conducted us over 
their settlement in the midst of which a large house, 
designed more or less upon a European plan, was in 
course of construction, our hosts expressing the hope 
that, upon the occasion of our next visit, we should 
occupy it ourselves. Indeed, I think the two brothers 
were a little hurt that we could not stay for a few days 
in the " zawia " then, for they pride themselves very 
much upon their hospitality, but in the circumstances 
this was not possible, in fact we could only spare one day 
to examine the village of Kheirane itself. 

This hamlet, of some sixty huts, is built upon the steep 
slope of a rocky knoll, the opposite side of which consists 
of a sheer cliff, about one hundred and fifty feet high, 
overlooking the left bank of the Wed el Arab and the 
cornfields and gardens beyond the stream, a view that 


is especially beautiful in the spring, when the green of 
the rising corn and the blossom of the fruit trees serve 
to relieve the monotony of the sombre groves of olives. 
In many respects Kheirane may be said to resemble 
Beni Ferah, but I think the distant views obtainable 
from it are superior to those from the rocky knoll of 
the first Shawia village in which we had stayed, for from 
Kheirane is visible a fine panorama of the steep and barren 
slopes of the Djebel Cherchar, forming a most striking 
contrast to the beauty of its oasis. A day or two after 
our visit to Kheirane we left Chebla, and, still accom- 
panied by our friend the Kaid, proceeded eastwards 
towards the summit of the Djebel Cherchar at the southern 
end of its great ridge, on our way to a village of which 
we had heard much, Djellal, upon the eastern side of 
the mountain. The main slope of the mountain is ap- 
proached from Chebla through a dry ravine, descending 
from the mountain to the Wed el Arab, after leaving 
which we found ourselves upon the very steep upper 
slopes of Cherchar, slopes of small stones and crumbling 
soil, from which larger rocks were to be seen projecting 
at all angles. The ascent was long and trying for our 
mules, but, when once we had reached the crest of the 
ridge, whence we obtained wonderful views of Chelia and 
other high peaks of the Aures to the north-west and of the 
boundless desert to the south, we entered a more level 
country, a high-lying plateau sloping towards the south, 
leaving to the north of our path the highest portion of 
the great white ridge of the Djebel Cherchar, some six 
thousand feet above the sea. At the time of our passage 
the spring had called into being upon this high plateau 
numberless wild flowers, yellow, mauve, pink, white, 
and purple, while poppies glowed red in the fields of 
corn, which, to our surprise, we found in considerable 



numbers upon the hill protected by a number of scattered 
stone huts, the majority of which were untenanted as 
we passed, being only inhabited at the time of the harvest, 
or when the heat of summer renders the low-lying villages, 
such as Chebla, almost unendurable even to the natives. 
We encountered quite a number of flocks of sheep and 
goats grazing upon the summit of the ridge, a country 
rather less barren than its western slopes, and we learned 
that these belonged to members of the Raid's tribe who, 
though belonging to the fair-haired Berber race, lived 
the life of nomads beneath their tents of goats' hair. 

These Shawia, however, merely move up and down 
their own mountain, the Djebel Cherchar, according to 
the season, their country sufficing to keep life in their 
flocks without necessitating their removal to the northern 
plateau in the summer, so that the area over which they 
are obliged to wander is far less extensive than that of 
their Arab neighbours to the south. 

Indeed, a very large proportion of our host's people 
reside in tents, a fact which accounts for the small number 
of villages to be found in the region we were traversing. 

When we arrived at the Government " bordj " of 
Djellal, a building erected for the convenience of officials 
in the days of the military administration, and not a 
miniature hotel, such as those we had stayed in at 
Dj^mora and Menaa, we found ourselves upon the western 
slope of a fairly wide valley, running from the slopes of 
the Djebel Cherchar southwards towards the desert, 
great stretches of which were visible from the " bordj," 
but, although we looked out upon the back of the village, 
we could not realize until we had examined it from the 
east its truly remarkable situation, of which the Kai'd 
had told us so much. 

Two spurs of rock project into the valley to which I 


have referred from its western side, just below the point 
at which the valley opens out from the narrow gorge, 
through which its torrent flows down from the mountain. 

Upon the larger of these spurs, a mighty mass of rock 
literally overhanging the fertile valley two hundred feet 
below it, stands the greater part of the village of Djellal. 

Its houses built flush with the cliff edge, crevices in 
which are even bridged by logs whereon to rest their 
rough stone walls, unapproachable save along the neck 
of land which joins the spur to the hill on the western 
side of the valley, Djellal is invisible from any distance 
when approached from the north, for its buildings are 
indistinguishable from the rocks on which they stand. 
A certain number of houses, newer ones it seemed to us, 
stand upon the smaller spur to the north of the main 
village, and separated from it by a deep rocky chasm. 

Djellal resembles some of the hamlets of the Rassira 
canon more than those of any other of the Aures valleys, 
and, though beneath the shadow of the Djebel Cherchar 
there lies no such mighty gorge as that to whose brink 
Ouled Mansour clings like an eagle's nest below the glow- 
ing slopes of Amar Khraddou, the scenery of its surround- 
ing country is at least as fine. Standing upon a housetop 
in the main village of Djellal the traveller will find to 
the north a narrow gorge, beautiful enough if mean 
compared with that of the Rassira, while to the south, 
looking down the valley, in which the green of orchards 
and cornfields relieve the barren splendour of the scene, 
he will discover the low foothills on the edge of the 
Sahara, their slopes clothed at evening in the delicate 
shades of grey, pink, and purple, which we have seen 
to be characteristic of desert hills, and beyond them a 
vast panorama of the desert itself will be unfolded to 
his gaze. 


Immediately below the crag upon which the main 
village stands the excellent track, which we have already 
noticed as leading from Khanga Sidi Nadji to the north- 
ward beneath the eastern wall of the Djebel Cherchar, 
winds around the rocky spur, and, crossing the stream 
below the village, ascends the opposite side of the valley 
on its way to the plateau to the north. 

This track, which very little additional labour would 
render accessible to cars, was largely made by German 
prisoners during the war. The treatment accorded to 
these prisoners was of a kind which the Shawia could not 
in the least understand. To them an enemy is an enemy, 
whether a prisoner or not, and an enemy whose aggression 
has raised the price of anything which he himself may 
wish to buy is more of an enemy than any one else could 
possibly become ; the fact that the prisoners were fed, 
therefore, still rankles in the native breast as an instance 
of European imbecility ! 

After spending sufficient time at Djellal to enable me 
to compare certain of its customs and its crafts with those 
of other portions of the Aures massif, we left our hospit- 
able friend the Kaid and continued our way northward 
to the village of Taberdga, formerly the residence of 
the member of the Bel Hacine family who had ruled 
over the whole district of the Djebel Cherchar, and now 
the headquarters of an Assistant Administrator, who is 
in charge of the area we had traversed since arriving at 
Khanga Sidi Nadji. 

The way itself was none too interesting when once 
intervening hills had hidden from our view the desert 
and its foothills to the south, and, though we passed a 
number of groups of tents, we found but one small hamlet 
on our way. The remarkable part of the journey only 
began when, after meeting the French official by the 


"~V *'"~*>» 1 "*»••*" ' *. jf >•> «^ La^ " fife. *«i/^^^BKSs»i^> 


To face p. 223. 


wayside, we turned eastward from the main track and 
approached the village of Taberdga itself. 

Proceeding along the track from this point northward, 
a road quite suitable for carriages equipped with powerful 
springs, we suddenly found ourselves upon a hillside 
overlooking a deep basin, the junction of four ravines, 
in the midst of which a great knoll of rock, overlooking 
a number of gardens and an oleander-bordered stream 
beneath it, projected from the wall of the basin, to which 
it was linked by a rocky isthmus no more than ten yards 

Upon this knoll, huddled together in the small space 
available on its summit, lay the mosque and houses of 
Taberdga, while at a slightly lower level, upon the apex 
of the knoll or spur, stood a large rectangular building, 
somewhat prison-like in appearance owing to the scarcity 
of windows in its walls, the former residence of Bel Hacine. 
Descending into the basin, and passing close to the 
modern French dwelling and office of the Administrator, 
we commenced the ascent to the village itself. 

The path, a good enough mule track upon which to 
ride, led around the rocky wall of the main basin, gradually 
ascending towards the isthmus, the rocks overhanging it 
in some places to such an extent that Ave found ourselves 
riding along a niche or cleft in the cliff, in which we were 
often obliged to lean almost upon the necks of our mules 
in order to keep our heads clear of the rocks above us. 
Beneath us an absolutely sheer drop of three hundred 
feet to the gardens and the stream caused us to bless 
the Providence that had made sureness of foot one of 
the attributes of the mule. 

Upon the neck or isthmus itself we found such a drop 
on either hand, the path commanded by the gateway of 
the village, whose situation must have rendered it quite 


impregnable in the days of old, and passing on through 
the gateway we reached the only narrow lane of this 
part of the hamlet, where the spur is too narrow to allow 
of further expansion. 

Continuing our way through the village, in which many 
of its little stone-built cottages had fallen into disrepair, 
owing to the settled conditions of French rule which had 
enabled the Shawia to move into the valley from their 
homes in a natural fortress, we drew up at the large house 
of the former Kaid, in which we were to be entertained 
by the present chief of the area. 

This house, built under the direction of a European, 
was solid and, in its way, stately, for its rooms were large 
and lofty, its lack of windows, due to Arab requirements 
as to the seclusion of women, however, rendered it 
unsightly from without. Indeed, well built as it was, 
the house appeared singularly out of place in such close 
proximity to a picturesque cluster of Shawia dwellings, 
and, for the sake of the landscape, it had been better 
erected in a less conspicuous position than on the apex 
of the spur. Entertained most hospitably by the Adminis- 
trator and the Kaid, our days passed pleasantly enough, 
spent in wandering around the village, engaged in our 
usual occupation of trying to make friends among its 
inhabitants, or sitting, sheltered from the rays of the 
sun, beside a delightfully cool grotto, where a tiny stream 
fell from a height of a few feet into a pool in a little basin 
of rock with the sound of running water so enchanting 
to the car of a wanderer in a barren land. But our life 
in this, the last, Shawia settlement we were to visit was 
devoid of incident, and we found no outstanding feature 
of native life which differed in any but the smallest detail 
from those we had noted elsewhere, many of which we 
have attempted to lay before the reader in the foregoing 


pages. Indeed, our journey from desert to the plateau 
up the Djebel Cherchar, described in this chapter already 
too long, was more hurried than any of our previous 
wanderings in the hills, and had for its object rather the 
comparison of arts and crafts, manners and customs 
studied in the west with those of the eastern Shawia 
than a detailed examination of the latter. Little, then, 
of interest to the reader resulted from this expedition, 
nor is there any need to weary him with a description of 
a thirty-mile drive from Taberdga to Khenchela on the 
plateau, undertaken in a carriage obtained from the 
latter town, through the dreary scenery of a broad valley, 
the home of a nomad Berber tribe, after which we gained 
the railway at Batna in a commonplace motor 'bus. 

But there is one point about the area described in this 
chapter, at least such of it as lies to the east of the Djebel 
Cherchar, to which we may once more call attention, 
and that is the track, I had almost said the road, which 
runs from Khanga Sidi Nadji to Djellal Taberdga and 
the north. 

I believe that the greater part of this track is even now 
passable to wheels, indeed, as I have pointed out, we 
ourselves covered the northern portion of it in a carriage, 
so that, perhaps, to-day the quiet and delightful oasis 
of Khanga, the eerie-like hamlet on the crags of Djellal, 
and the impregnable village of Taberdga may all be within 
the reach of the tourist without the discomforts of a 
prolonged journey on muleback. 

And, no doubt, in the near future this way will be 
opened to cars. But the traveller who desires to explore 
in a carriage the villages described in this chapter will 
be well advised to ascertain from the French authorities 
whether or no the road is clear before setting out on 
his journey. Here, then, at Taberdga at the moment 


when we cease for the time being our investigations in 
the hills, we will bid the reader farewell in the very faint 
hope that in our efforts to lead him through the valleys of 
the Aures and to point out to him some of the quaint 
old customs of the Shawia, customs which cannot indefi- 
nitely resist the advance of Western civilization and ideas, 
we may have aroused in him a spark of that interest 
which the hill-folk of Algeria long since kindled in our- 
selves, and which successive visits to the mountains 
have fanned into a flame. 



IT is hoped that the following brief hints on outfit, 
etc., suitable for journeys in the Algerian hills will 
enable the traveller to arrive in the country equipped 
with at least the necessities for his expedition. 

1. Seasons. — The Autumn or the Spring, by which 
latter is meant the months of March and April, are the 
most suitable for travelling in the Aures massif, though 
the high-lying villages could be visited as late as the early 
summer, while the lower southern slopes of the range 
and the oases, such as Djemora, Mechounech, and 
Khanga Sidi Nadji, which lie at their feet, should not as 
a rule prove too cold even in mid-winter. 

2. Clothing. — The traveller to the hills or to El Kantara 
and even Biskra should provide himself with garments 
such as he would wear during an English autumn, for 
nights are often cold, and the wind sometimes blows 
chill from the snow-clad peaks in winter. 

A warm overcoat is essential, especially for those who 
proceed up-country from Algiers by car, for snow is to 
be expected upon the high central plateau of Algeria. 

For journeys in the hills, such as those I have attempted 
to describe, a change of warm clothing, in which the 
traveller can ride (ladies will find it wise to ride astride 



along the narrow mountain paths), a good overcoat, and 
a shady hat appear to be the only essentials. 

Those who travel in the Sahara as late as the end of 
March will probably find a topee a comfort, if not an 
absolute necessity. These can be bought cheaply at 

Tinted glasses will be found useful to those whose eyes 
are weak in the glare of the desert and the barren rocky 

We have long since discarded leather footgear, which 
is worn through in no time upon the rocks, in favour of 
canvas boots with rope soles, to which extra soles of motor 
tyre are stitched by a native cobbler at El Kantara. 
These, worn over two pairs of thick socks, will be found 
to lessen the jar to the feet in walking over stony ground, 
to give an excellent grip of the smooth rocks when 
climbing, and to be noiseless (a great advantage to the 
hunter). In addition they are cheap, and with three 
pairs of such boots the traveller should be equipped for 
a whole winter in the hills. 

It is well to remember that, when staying at up-country 
inns, it is often impossible to find a laundress capable of 
starching collars and shirts, though ordinary washing can 
always be done in such places. 

3. Equipment. — Living in the huts of the Shawia, we 
have never required tents in the hills. These, however, 
are necessary for shooting expeditions in uninhabited 
areas, and can be hired at El Kantara or Biskra, together 
with the necessary material for a camp. Should the 
traveller prefer to use his own tent, he will find that a 
double-roof is unnecessary, as rain is infrequent on the 
shooting grounds. Officers' sleeping valises, well pro- 
vided with blankets, a couple of X-pattern chairs, a 


large water-bottle (all purchased in England), and some 
cheap table-ware, a kettle, saucepan and spirit lamp, 
wherewith to prepare a meal in an emergency, complete 
the list of the equipment we have used. 

4. Saddlery. — In preference to taking out European 
saddles from England, which cannot be expected to suit 
every sore back they will encounter, we have used sur- 
cingles fitted with stirrups, which pass over the native 
pad or saddle upon the mule, and so hold it in position, 
as well as affording a rest for the feet. 

Such a surcingle, adjustable from sixty to seventy-five 
inches, from shortest and longest hole to buckle, should 
serve for any Algerian mule. 

5. Stores. — Those who intend to live upon native 
fare should provide themselves with a few stores, such 
as soup-squares, preserved meats, porridge, etc., for use 
if the Shawia cooking becomes intolerable. 

Stores for the hunter in uninhabited areas can be 
arranged for by the hotel from which he starts, should 
he state his requirements in advance. 

6. Maps. — Excellent maps of Algeria, Tunisia, and 
Morocco can be obtained from Messrs. Carbonnel (late 
Adolphe Jourdan), Place du Gouverncment, Algiers, or 
from Messrs. Marcin at Biskra. A single sheet, to a 
scale of 1 : 800,000, is a convenient map of Eastern Algeria, 
while a far more detailed map (1 : 200,000) in seven 
sheets covers the area dealt with in this book. 

7. Expenses. — There is no question connected with 
Algeria upon which it is so difficult to make a definite 
statement at the present moment, as upon the possible 
expenses of a journey in that country. 


Prices of everything have risen to a very great extent 
from the very moderate rates current before the war, 
and they are as yet by no means stable. 

The only advice that can be offered to the intending 
traveller is that he should make it a rule to inquire the 
price of everything in advance (a precaution which is 
neglected to an extraordinary extent), and that, upon 
learning the terms suggested by " guides " for hire of 
animals, camping, etc., he should refer these terms 
where possible to some local resident or committee (e.g. 
the Syndicat d'Initiative at Biskra) befoie accepting 
them. The native usually bases his charges upon his 
conception of the traveller's capacity to pay, and, it must 
be confessed, the carelessness in money matters of many 
tourists has encouraged this system to such a degree that 
prices have risen to an incredible extent since the war. 

When I say that tourists have paid as much as two 
hundred and fifty francs a head per diem for camping 
tours, the reader will understand the necessity for caution 
in concluding bargains ! 

The traveller must haggle with the native, and, having 
haggled, should arrange his final terms in the presence 
of a European resident in Algeria with a view to avoiding 
discussion at the end of his trip. 

As regards hotels, if some are expensive, there are 
plenty of others in the larger centres which are clean 
and comfortable, yet more moderate in their terms. 


THE very brief notes contained in this Appendix 
constitute an attempt to answer the questions so 
often put to me as to the possibilities for sport existing 
in the area described in the foregoing pages. 

Of the various regions I have attempted to describe, 
the desert and the hills around El Kantara are the most 
likely to attract the attention of the sportsman. 

The greatest prize which can fall to the hunter's rifle 
in south-eastern Algeria is undoubtedly the Barbary 
sheep, the Ovis Lervia of scientists, the " aroui " or 
" feshtal " of the Arabs, miscalled the " moufflon " by 
the French. 

This great sheep, which sometimes stands more than 
forty inches at the shoulder, is remarkable for the very 
heavy fringe of long hair upon the throat, chest, and 
knees of the rams, whose massive horns curve outwards 
and backwards, but rarely attain a greater length than 
twenty-five or twenty-six inches, though according to 
Rowland Ward's Records of Big Game, a thirty-three inch 
head has been obtained. 

The ewes are smaller than the rams, but, owing to the 
fact that they carry similar, though smaller, horns and 
fringes, it is difficult enough to distinguish the sexes 
when seen upon the hillside. Sheep are to be found 
upon several of the hills around El Kantara (in 1914 I 



shot one within sight of the inn upon the cliffs of 
Metlili), but they are very hard to approach, for, although 
the climbing in the country around El Kantara is not 
so difficult as climbing can be in some of the haunts of 
mountain game, it none the less requires a steady head 
and a sound wind on the part of the sportsman, and a 
stalk is often liable to interference owing to the frequent 
presence of shepherds roaming over the mountain-side 
with their flocks. 

It appears that sheep are in the habit of moving from 
one range to another if much disturbed, even crossing 
many miles of intervening country on their way, so that 
choice of a hunting-ground must be left until the sports- 
man has been able to ascertain from local natives the 
most likely hills at the time he proposes to start out. 
Two species of gazelles are also obtainable from El 
Kantara, and can even be killed without sleeping a night 
away from the inn. These are Gazella Cuvieri, the " edmi " 
of the Arabs, whose habitat is confined to the Barbary 
States, where it haunts the slopes of the hills which 
fringe the desert, and thus, to some extent, encroaches 
on the ground of the sheep, and Gazella Dorcas, in Arabic 
" ghazal," the beautiful little gazelle of the plains to be 
found from Morocco to Syria, from the Mediterranean 
to the Sudan. This animal, though properly a denizen 
of the plains, is also to be found upon the lower slopes 
frequented by the " edmi." 

The two gazelles will be found to be almost, if not quite, 
as difficult to approach as the sheep. This is largely due 
to the lack of cover in the stony desert, and to the remark- 
ably changeable character of the wind in the broken 
ground which they inhabit. 

The method of hunting which I have always adopted 
for the three animals is substantially the same. 

SPORT 239 

Leaving the inn (or my camp if I have wandered far 
in search of sport) before dawn with one Arab shikari, 
a mule, and a native muleteer, I conceal the mule with 
its man in the dry bed of a stream in the desert, or at 
the foot of the hill I am about to search for game. The 
shikari and I then proceed to work carefully over the 
ground, and, concealing ourselves upon some coign of 
vantage, search the country with our glasses in an 
endeavour to find animals feeding before they lie down 
for the day. 

Once the game is seen the stalk begins over trying and 
difficult ground, and, if successful, terminates in a shot 
which is often long and usually at moving game. The 
remaining animals to be found near El Kantara, the 
striped hyena, the jackal, and the fox, are scarcely like 
to tempt the sportsman, while the other game animals 
of Algeria must be sought further afield ; the addax 
antelope far down in the Sahara, around Wargla ; the 
" rhim," or Loder's gazelle, among the sand dunes of 
the great desert ; the Barbary stag (the only representa- 
tive of the deer family to be found in Africa), near 
Tebessa, or around Collo on the coast ; the leopard, 
among the wooded hills near the shores of the Mediterra- 
nean ; while the boar, Sus Scrofa of the naturalists, occu- 
pies many of the wooded districts of Algeria, including 
the higher parts of the Aures massif. 

Several natives of El Kantara are accustomed to 
acting as shikari to European sportsmen, all of whom 
are keen and hardworking, but one of them seems to 
possess a wider knowledge of the habits of game and 
greater aptitude in stalking it than the rest, namely my 
old friend Si Amar. 

I have always found that this man, if left alone and 
not worried by futile suggestions from his employer 


(who, after all, cannot know the ground as a native knows 
it), can be relied upon to find game if game is to be found, 
and to approach it if it is approachable. What shikari 
can do more ? 

The method of hunting boar which I have found to 
be the most satisfactory is to obtain the services of one 
or two Shawia who possess dogs properly trained to hunt 
these animals. 

The sportsman and his native companions search for 
fresh tracks of the animals beside some watering-place, 
and, when these are found, lay on the dogs, which run 
mute until they actually get a view of their quarry, when 
they give vent to short sharp yelps. 

Pursuing the boar as he makes off through the wood- 
land, yelping as they run, the dogs will soon bring him 
to bay, and thus enable the sportsman to come up and 
obtain a shot. 

As regards a rifle for use in hunting any of the game 
of El Kantara, or the hills, I think any of the modern 
high -velocity small bores will be found suitable ; I have 
used a *256 and a '303. The rifle should be light and 
fitted with a sling. No permit is required to import a 
rifle or shot-gun as personal luggage into Algeria, but the 
importation of ammunition is prohibited unless special 
permission for it has been obtained from the Governor- 
General. Shot-gun cartridges can be purchased in the 
country, but it is absolutely necessary that the 
sportsman should bring with him the few rounds he will 
require for his rifle. These he cannot obtain in 

Upon arrival at Algiers the sportsman must procure, 
at the Prefecture, a shooting licence, costing twenty-eight 
francs, which entitles him to kill any game to be found 
in the country except the Barbary stag, to shoot which, 

SPORT 241 

I believe, a special permission from the Governor-General 
is required. 

The equipment required for a shooting expedition differs 
in no respect from that already described as being desirable 
for a journey in the Aures, save that the general coloration 
of clothes and hat should be light khaki or fawn for use 
in the desert, or among the barren rocks of the sheep 
hills. The canvas boots I have mentioned will be found 
excellent for hunting. 

Most of the Algerian shikaris can skin trophies if care- 
fully supervised (Si Amar does so quite well), and skins 
will be found to dry quickly in the shade if treated merely 
with cold wood ashes. Up to now my own trophies 
from El Kantara have reached England in perfect 
condition, doubtless owing to the dryness of the desert 

In conclusion I will attempt to answer the general 
question : " Is it worth while to take my rifle to 
Algeria ? " 

This question is very often put to me, and is by no 
means easy to answer, for the reply must depend upon 
the temperament of the questioner. Briefly my answer 
is as follows. Sport is certainly obtainable, but Algeria 
is no country for the mere " gunner." 

The sportsman, the man who can appreciate a long 
stalk under difficult conditions, with the bare possibility 
of a difficult shot at the end of it, and who can enjoy the 
pure crisp air of the desert, its great open spaces, the 
freedom of its life and the companionship of enthusiastic 
native hunters, may confidently look forward to a pleasant 
shooting trip from El Kantara ; the person whose sole 
delight is to be found in the magnitude of his bag had 
better, for his own sake as well as for that of the country, 
leave his rifle at home. 



►J ■>- 
w % 

as ■■ 




Accident, 113 
Addax antelope, 239 
"Ademine," 161 
Agriculture, 160 
Am Naga, 203 
Ain Touta, 94, 118 
Ain Zatout, see Beni Ferah 
Alieness, 221 
Alieness, Kald, 221 
Amar Khraddou, 128, 135, 206 
Amentane, 64 
Ammunition, 240 
Amulets, 152 
Anklets, 79, 83 
Apricots, 163 

Arabic books of medicine, 196 
" Aroui," 237 
Arris, 174 

Aures — the Mons AHrasius of Roman 
times, 14, 15, 16 et passim. 

Bades, 209 

Baniane, 109, 129-35 

Baniane, Zawia, 133 

"Baraka,"27, 113, 156 

Barbary sheep, 97, 237 

Barbary stag, 239 

Barika, 201 

Basha, 175 

Basha Bashir, 57, 118 

Bash-Agha, 128 

Batna, 14, 15, 17, 65, 90, 115, 178 

Batna-Biskra railway, 90 

Beads, 78 

Beehives, 223 

Belayed, 103, 113, 115, 130, 139 

Bel Hacine family, 210, 212, 213 

Belkadi ben Hamou, 37, 81 

Belkassem, 69 

Bellows, 83 

Ben Chenouf family, 128 

Beni Ferah, 18, 35, 90 

Gardens, 42 

Hospitality, 49 

Irrigation, 43 

Meals, 49 

School, 48 

Wedding, 51 
Beni Suig, 63 
Berber house, 104 
Berber furniture, 105 
Berber pottery-making, 41 
Berber women, status of, 40, 222 
Berbers, physical characteristics, 

16, 40 
Bertrand, Hotel, 18 
Bey of Constantine, 128, 214 
Biskra, 13, 14, 15, 17, 199, 200 
" Black Village," see El Kantara 
Block-houses, 108 
Boar hunt, 100 
Boars, 97, 99, 239, 240 
" Bordj," 62 
Boubish, 104 
Bou Hafs ben Chenouf, 128, 129, 

138, 160, 168 
Bou Hamar, 175 

Mosque, 177 

Sheikh, 176 
Bou Saada, 58 
Boundary dispute, 57 
Bouzina, 90, 112 
Bouzina river, 64, 65 
Bracelets, 78 
Branis, 118 

Feast, 123 

Official reception, 119 
Bricks, mud and straw, 20 
Brooches, 77, 83 

Cafes, 22 

Caliphs of Baghdad, 128 



Canvas boota, 234 

" Capital of the Auree," 66 

Carpet making, 60 

Carriage road, 231 

Cats, 33, 107 

Cautery, 193 

Cave-dwellings, 93 

Cemetery, 64 

Chains, silver, 83 

Champion shot, a, 57 

Charms, 110, 113, 145, 146, 

Chebla, 215, 221, 222 

Gardens, 223 

Roof platform, 222 
Chelia, 14 
Chickens, 33 
Childbirth, 220 
Child bride, 53 
Chir, 97 
Churn, 32 
Cloaks, 101 

Clothing for travellers, 233 
Cobblers, 68 
Coiffure, 76 
Collars, silver, 78 
Collo, 239 

Commune Mixte, 174 
Constantine, 13 
Coral, 80, 81 
Corn-mill, 68 
Cupping, 193 

Danseuse, 51 

Date-picking, 24 

Decorative art, 154 

de Slane, 108 

Distilling, 195 

Divination, 149 

Divorce, 46 

Djebel Bouss, 92 

Djebel Cherchar, ridge of, 15, 79, 

199, 206, 225 
Djebel Zellatou, 159 
Djellal, 215, 225, 226, 227 

" Bordj," 226 
Djemora, oasis, 55, 90, 118 

Carpet making, 60 

Raul's house, 59 

Native bathing, 59 

Rest-house, 62 
Dog's tooth, 80, 82 

Droh, 125 

Drugs — 

distributing, 182 

native, 195 
Dyeing, 165, 166 

Earrings, 79 
Ear syringing, 183 
Education, 220 
El Bekri, 108, 209 
ElKantara, 17, 118 

" Black Village " of, 19, 20 

the bridge, 22 

the cafe, 22 

houses, 31 

" Red Village," 21 

Roman masonry at, 20 

" White Village " of, 19, 20 

women, 29, 30 
El Outaya, 118 
Epidemics, 198 
" Evil eye," 80, 81, 145 
Eye lotions, 183 

Family life, 34, 219 

" Fantasia," 121, 122 

Farewell lunch, 168 

Feast of the Spring, 85, 86, 87, 88 

Feeble-minded saint, 72 

"Feshtal," 237 

Festivals, 26 

Filigree work, 83 

" Five in thine eye," 81 

"Fives," 80 

Flint-lock musket, 132 

Flowers, 225 

Forests, 99, 114 

Foretelling the future, 148, 149 

" Foum es Sahara," 17 

Fox, 239 

French orderly, 35 

Fromentin, 17 

Furniture, 32 

Gabds, Gulf of, 13 

Games, 88 

" Gandoura," 74 

Gardens, 20 

Gate of the Orient, European 

settlement of, 18 
Gazella Cuvieri, 238 
Gazella Dorcas, 238 



Gazelle, 97, 238 
General practitioners, 195 
German prisoners, 228 
Ghoufi, 155, 156 
Girls' dress, 76 
Goats, 25 

Gold ornaments, 80 
" Goum," 97 
"Goumier," 119, 120 
Granary, 130, 131 
"Guelaa," 130, 131, 132 
Gunshot wounds, 190 

" Haiks," 102 

Hand charm, 145 

Hand-loom, 32, 103 

" Hand of Fathma," 80 

Haouamed, tribe, 58 

Harvest feast, 163 

Head pendant, 79 

Heavy jewellery, 87 

Holy men, 108 

Horse-breeding, 208 

Horsemanship, 122 

House, Shawia, 104 

Houses, Arab, structure of, 31 

Hyena, 239 

Ichemoul, 99, 159 
Influenza, 63 
Intermarriage, 60 
Irregular horse, 121 
Irrigation, 43 
Itinerant musicians, 23 

Jackalls, 25, 239 
Jenoun, 145, 146, 198 
Jinn, 56, 81, 145 

Kabyle pedlars, 144 
Kahena, chief tainess, 15 
Kerchiefs, 76 
Khanga Sidi Nadji, 15, 206, 209 

Fort, 213 

Kaid, 209, 210 

library, 213 

mosque, 211 

teacher, 212 
Kheirane, 215, 224, 225 
Khenchela, 14, 15, 128, 231 
Knee-cap, fracture of, 191, 192 
Knitted legging, 165 

" Koora," 88 

Koran, 147 

" Kouba," 26 

" Kuskus," 27, 49, 50 

Lambese, camp of, 15, 65, 172, 177 

Lavigerie, Cardinal, 174 

Legion of Honour, 129 

Leopard, 239 

Liana, 208, 209 

" Lightning Conductor," charm, 82 

" Living River," 24 

Locks, 105 

Loder's gazelle, 239 

Loom, 103 

Love philtre, 47-8 

Maafa, 18, 92, 93, 94 

canon, 92 

railway halt, 94 
Magic, 46, 73, 145, 152 

ensuring a harvest, 161 

magical duel, 150 

substances used, 151 
Mahmel mountain, 14, 64, 112, 113 
Malbot, Dr., 187 
Maps, 235 
Marabout — 

charm, 113 

family, 134 

habits, 110 

hereditary, 109 

influence of, 112 

magical healing, 110 

married, 110 

morality, 111 

political advice, 110 

second sight, 110 

settling disputes, 111 

trees, 156 
Marabouts, 26, 71, 104, 107, 108, 

109, 110, 114, 133, 224 
Marriage, early, 219 
Mausoleum, 26, 212 
Meals, 49 
Mechounech, 116, 117, 126, 127 

Kaid, 128 
"Mechwi," 123, 124, 135, 169, 223 
" Mehari," 120 
Menaa, 63, 65 

bath house, 67 

" bordj," 69 


Menaa (continued) — 

corn-mill, 68 

founder, 66 

houses, 67 

Kaid, 66, 67 

leather work, 68 

marabout, 71 

rest-house, 62 

routes, 90 

silverwork, 73, 74 et seq. 

zawia, 71, 72 
Mercury mine, 98 
Metlili, 17 
Mirror, 78 
Mohammed, 147 
Mohammed Boubish, Ahmed ben, 

Mohammed the Little, 221-2 
Mons Aurasius, 14 
" Morabet," 108 
Mosque doorkeeper, 27 
" Mother of the night," 147 
Moufflon, 237 

" Mouth of the Desert," 118 
" Muezzin," 28 
Necklets, 78 
Negroid type, 125 
Nine-course dinner, 123 
Nouader, 97, 98 

Olive oil, 217, 218 
Operation, an, 187 
Ouldja, 215, 217, 218, 219, 221 

Kaid, 210, 215 
Ouled Abdi dancers, 100, 101 
Ouled Abdi tribe, 100 
Ouled Daoud tribe, 173 
Ouled Mansour, 136, 138. 139, 

cliff houses, 140 

fatal accident, 144 

Ouelaa, 141 

headman, 138, 139 

leather worker, 145 

Bcribe, 145 

women, 142 

wood carving, 154 
Ouled Nail dancing girls, 80 
Ouled Ziane, 56, 60, 63, 118, 125 

migrations, 92 
Outlaws, 120 
" Ovis Lervia," 237 

Owl's eyes, 197 

Oxford, Pitt-Rivers Museum, 186 

Paper money, 85 
Patient, recovery of a, 190 
Pedlars, 144 
Philtres, 47, 149 
Pitt-Rivers Museum, 186 
Plough, 162 
Ploughing rites, 162 
Pneumonia, 223 
Porcupine's foot, 80, 82, 197 
Praying for rain, 45 
Pride of lineage, 129 
Professional women, 47 

" Queen of the Zibans," 200 

Raids for corn, 131 

Rassira, 116, 117, 129, 130, 169 

canon, 116, 159 

gorge, 136, 157 

Kaid, 128 

upper basin, 159 

valley, 117, 144, 153 
Rats, 106 
Reaping, 163 

" Red Cheeked mountain," 135 
Red glass, 81 

Red Village, see El Kantara 
Religious discussions, 176 
" Rhim," 239 
Rhouara, 127 
" Ribat," 108 
Rifle, 240 
Rings, 78 
Roast lamb, 123 
Roman — 

descent, 91 

inscription, 171 

masonry, 20 

ruins, 177 

" seggia," 133 
Roof-rooms, 33 
Roofs, 33 
" Rosebud," 87, 88 

Sandals, 69 
Scales, 164 
Scorpions, 32, 217 
Scribes, 148 
Seasons, 233 



" Seggia," 43, 207 

Roman, 133 
Setons, 193 
" Shadoof," 207 
Shawls, 76, 101 
Sheep, 25 
Shepherds, 25 
Shikari, 239 
Shoes, 76 

Shooting from the saddle, 58 
Shooting licence, 240 
Shooting-match, a, 57 
Si Abdelhamed, 215 
Si Ali Bey, 128 
Si Amar, 239 
Sidi Belkheir, 98 
Sidi Lakhdar, 109, 133, 134 
Sidi Okba, 201, 202 
Sidi Okba ben Nafi— 

Arab invader of Africa, 15, 202 

mosque, 202 
Sidi Yahia, 92, 94 

Silver — 

brooches, 75 

casting, 83 

chains, 84 
Silversmith, 82 
Sixth legion, 171, 177 
Sling, 25 
Slippers, 68 
Snow, 114 
Sorceresses, 148 
" Sorceress of the Moon," 47 
Sorcery, 149 
Source of medical knowledge, 

Spanish cards, 23 
Splints, 193 
Sun-dial, 168 

Superstitions, 145, 152, 223 
Surgeon's fees, 194 
Surgeons, native, 180, 185 
Surgical instruments, 186 
Sus Scrofa, 239 

Taberdga, 215, 228, 229 

administrator, 228, 230 

Kaid, 230 
Taghit Sidi Belkheir, 97 
Taghout, 172 

houses, 173 

Tagoust, 90, 91, 92, 112 

Kaid, 91 
Talismans, 78 
Tattoo marks, 70 
Tawarek Berbers, 120 
Tebessa, 239 
Tebouia Hamed, 216 
Teeth, extraction of, 194 
Teniet el Abed, 100 

weaving, 101 
Tents, 234 
Terebinth tree, 156 
Threshing, 163 
Tifelfel, 137, 156, 160 

" guelaa," 160, 165 

houses, 165 

sheikh, 160 
Tighanimine, 159 

gorge, 168, 169 

Roman inscription, 171 

traversed by French troops, 
Tijdad, 104, 106, 110 
Tilatou, gorge of, 18 
Timgad, 13, 177 
Tkout, 166, 167 

Assistant Administrator, 166 
Touggourt, 125 
Trepanning, 180, 186 
Tunisian architects, 212 

Vendetta, 164 
Verneau, Dr., 187 

War profiteering, 42 

Washing clothes, 29, 234 

Water-clock, 44, 167 

Water-wheel, 68 

Weaving, 103 

Wed Abdi, 16, 55, 64, 65, 90, 96, 

Wed el Abiod, 16, 97, 116, 155, 159, 

168, 174 
Wed el Arab, 16, 206, 216, 221 
Wed el Kantara, 21 
Wed Guechtan, 16, 206 
Wed Rhir, 125 
Wed Taga, 175 
Wedding, 219 

Wedding ceremony, 51 ct seq. 
White Fathers, 174 
" White Hamlet," 91 


" White Village," see El Kantara 
Wild herbs, 195 
Wire drawing, 83 
" Wise women," 149 
Women — 

Arab, status of, 34 

unrestrained, 101 
Women's dress, 74 
Wool, 102 

carding, 102 

spinning, 102 

Wool (continued) — 
weaving, 101 

Yamina, 70 

Zab Chergui, 127, 201, 208 
Zawia, 71, 86, 108, 224 
Zellatou, 169 
Zeribet el Wed, 201 

Kaid, 203, 208 

Khalifa, 208 

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