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recollections of Algeria a visit to the Caid of LArba.
An electric tram from Algiers brought us a party of
ten or so to Maison Carree, where we changed into
a steam tram which conveyed us to the small, clean and
bright little, thoroughly French town of L'Arba. Here
we were met by the Maire, who was a relative of a lady
with us. He and his young son joined us.

Retainers of the caid were awaiting us with horses
and mules gaily caparisoned and bearing big, high-
peaked native saddles. A ride of a few miles into the
foot-hills of the Atlas Mountain chain brought us to
Ian extensive mansion perched on the steep slopes, a
building to which the red-tiled roofs, yellow walls and
tall cypresses gave the look of a villa on the hills
overlooking Florence.

Our host, his brother and nephew received us with
true Oriental hospitality. On arrival we were served
with Moroccan tea flavoured with mint and later on
given a sumptuous meal, cooked, we were told, by the
ladies of the family. The dishes were innumerable.
Couscous and mechoui of course figured on the menu ;
and the exquisitely flavoured honey-cakes and other
sweets alone would have made a banquet.

After lunch we drank coffee in the guest apartment,
from the windows of which there was a fine view over
the Mitidja Plain and the Sahel Hills to half-hidden
Algiers.

The room was furnished in the European style of
the seventies with common French carpets on the
waxed floor, gilt mirrors, an alabaster clock and a



SAINTS AND SECRET SOCIETIES 201

Chinese blackwood table inlaid with flowers and butter-
flies in mother of pearl.

Our host showed us beautiful gifts made to his
father by Napoleon III. and the Empress Eugenie
when they visited Algeria, among these a wonderful
gold watch set with diamonds, rubies and pearls, and
a tiny gold and steel pistol encrusted with diamonds.

The ladies of our party were taken into the harem
where they were welcomed by the caid's wife, daughter
and niece, fair-complexioned and good-looking, dressed
in the bright-tinted silken and costly garments of
wealthy Arab ladies. They were regaled with very
luscious cakes made of almond meal, rice and honey.

I had just been photographing the cai'd ; and my
camera was sent for for a picture to be taken in an
inner courtyard of the harem, a picture of the inter-
national group of pretty Moslem, French and English
women. And afterwards no objection was made to
my developing and printing the film on which were
shown the unveiled faces of these Arab ladies.

The Mahommedans of Algeria are not lacking in
spiritual, as well as temporal, leaders. Their religion
has no ordained clergy, no priests as we understand
them. Even those who conduct the services in the
mosques the muezzin who greets the dawn from the
tiny galleries of the minarets when he calls the faithful
to prayer before sunrise, the imam who recites the five
daily common prayers, the khetib who on the weekly
holy day, Friday, prays for the welfare of the ruler of
the state are regarded more as officials of the mosque
than as clergy.

But perhaps nowhere more than in North Africa are
found the Moslem religious confraternities that through-






202 ALGERIA TO-DAY

out Islam aim at making the Faith a priest-ridden one,
contrary to the Prophet's intention and teaching.
Originally charitable associations they set themselves
to establishing their authority over the laity, reforming
and purifying the faith and championing it against all
unbelievers. And among them fanaticism and
antipathy to Christian nations are quickly bred.

It must be remembered that among all who profess
it Mahommedanism is a bond of union that often proves
stronger than feelings of nationality. Something that
affects the Moslems in Turkey or Syria may inflame
their co-religionists in India or Morocco. And as many
of these confraternities are in reality secret societies
spread over many countries and acting as channels
of communication between followers of the Prophet in
these lands it results that they may be powerful influ-
ences politically for good or evil where Moslems are
ruled by Christians and must be reckoned with
accordingly by the Governments.

The ordinary resident or traveller in the French
African Empire hears little and knows less of these
powerful religious organisations which honeycomb it.
It is a fascinating subject, this question of vast secret
societies that, nominally or really originating as great
mutual benefit associations, may at any moment urge
their adherents against their rulers and perhaps all
Christians in a Sacred War. It has inspired more than
one French or English novelist. But romance pales
before reality. The guide who leads you through the
mud-walled lanes of Old Biskra, the Kabyle waiter who
serves you at table in Algiers, the praying Arab
who scowls at you in the mosque at Kairouan, the trader
who sells you a leather bag in the souks of Fez, may



SAINTS AND SECRET SOCIETIES 203

all be members of a vast organisation that any day
might bid them flock to the sacred green banner of Islam
and slay you and your brother heretics. But on the
other hand they may not.

Yet do not forget that all Mahommedans are bound
by the teachings of their founder to consider them-
selves always at war with non-believers. That is, a
Djehad, or Holy War, exists until all men believe;
i.e., in God and in Mahommed who declared " My
mission is to fight the infidels until they say ' There is
no God but God.' . . . Finish my work, extend
everywhere the House of Islam. The House of War
is God's; He gives it to you. Fight the infidels until
they are exterminated. Make war on those peoples of
the Bible (the Christians and Jews) who do not believe
the Truth. When you meet the infidels kill them;
slaughter them. Slay them whenever you find them."

The Prophet divided the world into Dar-el-Islam
(the House of Islam) and Dar-el-Harb (the House of
War, i.e., the countries of the unbelievers). But his
followers are allowed to temporarily cease the perpetual
war w r here they are not strong enough to wage it, but
on the understanding that they shall resume it when
they are able to do so.

Some of these confraternities act as hearths on which
the sacred fire of the Holy War is ever kept burning,
ready to be fanned into a devouring flame when oppor-
tunity offers. And so, where they exist in countries
ruled by Christians, they need careful watching. The
world has heard something of the best-known of these,
the sect of the Sennoussi, which is an avowed enemy
of non-Moslems and is a dangerous one from the extent
.of its secret influence in Africa, where several years ago



204 ALGERIA TO-DAY

it was supposed to have 10,000,000 adherents, and the
number has certainly not grown less. The political
chief of the Order used to< be all powerful in Tripoli
and in the district of Benghazi had 30,000 men under
his orders, and sent his emissaries to Egypt, Algeria,
Morocco, to the Niger and the borders of Senegal.

The Sennoussi having turned their attention to the
idolaters of Central Africa through affiliated members
among the Touareg (a race not much disposed to
religion) are spreading in the region of Lake Chad,
where they convert to Mahommedanism the immense
black populations of Darfur, Kanem, Oudai, Baghmiri,
Bornu and Sokoto. They oppose the whites in the
Soudan and the Cameroons and dispute this part of
Equatorial Africa with European influence.

Although their founder Mahommedben-Si-Ali-ben-
Snoussi-el-Khettabi-el-Hassani-el-Edrissi-el-Medjahiri
was born in what is now Algeria in 1792 at the Hillil
near Mostanagem, the sect (which is doubtless closely
but unobtrusively watched by the French authorities)
is supposed to have few adherents in this country, most
of them frequenting the Zaouia of the Hillil. For one
thing they hold that it is unlawful for a Moslem to live
in Dar-el-Harb, that is any country in the power of
infidels. They are opposed to the rulers of Turkey,
Egypt, Tunisia 4 and Morocco because these submit to
or are friendly with unbelievers. Their principal
doctrine is the necessity of the Djehad; and they are
against all modern progress. They desire to return to
the universal Imamat of the first Caliphs, when the
Chief of the State was the Head of the Church ; and
they acknowledge no temporal power outside Theocracy
or the government of their own Grand Master.



SAINTS AND SECRET SOCIETIES 205

In the Libyan desert at Djaraboub near the oasis
of Sionah lie the bones of this man of many names,
Mahommed-ben-Si-Ali-ben-Snoussi, who died in 1859
after a chequered career and many wanderings in
Morocco, Tunisia, Tripoli, Egypt, and Arabia. He
said that he was the " Moulai-Saah," " The Master of
the Hour," the mysterious being sent by Allah to
regenerate Islam. But his tomb is there in the desert
not far from the ancient temple of Ammon and
thousands of armed believers guard it. And around it
is the headquarters of this powerful sect, so hostile to
Christianity and modern progress; and from it go out
the missionaries to add black millions to the fold and
teach them hate of the Christian.

Over two hundred years ago a holy man was
preaching one day outside the city of Meknes in
Morocco. A workman complained to the saint that he
was a-hungered. Others of the audience echoed his
complaint. : ' Eat, then ! Eat what you find on the
road," said the preacher, pointing to the stones littering
the rough track. His hearers with touching faith took
up the stones, caught the scorpions and the snakes that
sheltered under them and ate them, rocks, venomous
reptiles and all and a miracle! found them a
delicious feast.

And now you may see to-day in Algeria wandering
men who before audiences eat poisonous serpents,
scorpions, broken glass, and thorny branches. They
are the followers of that long-dead saint, Sidi Mahom-
med-ben-Aissa, who handed on to his disciples the
power to work miracles, cure all ills, and preserve from
poisons. They form a big sect now, these Aissaoua.
Their doctrines embrace a continual expansion towards



206 ALGERIA TO-DAY

the Divinity, an ardent mysticism, and a complete
personal abnegation. Their practices are sobriety,
abstinence, and hardening to physical pain. They
invoke the Deity in loud tones on a rapid rhythm
sustained by the beating of drums, always quickening
until the excitement and giddiness occasion a physical
insensibility and delirium that causes hallucinations
and induces a state of religious ecstasy in which they
are capable of performing almost incredible acts.

These devotees do not always scorn money as their
founder did; for all the riches heaped on him by the
Sultan in Meknes he gave away, keeping only a leopard-
skin to sleep on. This is carefully preserved in two
places far apart in Morocco for it has been miracu-
lously doubled, and there are now two skins. This is
not very much of a miracle compared with that con-
nected with another holy man, called for short Sidi
Mahommed Abder Rahman Bou Kobrin, whose body
was doubled after death so that it lies in two tombs,
one the Kouba on the tram-line to Hussein Dey
outside Algiers, the other in the Djurdjura Mountains.
He, too, founded a religious sect.

When the great Arab leader, Abd-el-Kader, warred
in Algeria against the French in the first half of the
nineteenth century he did them a good turn when he
quarrelled with the sect of the Tidjania. For in
revenge they offered their friendship to the invaders,
and have ever since been faithful. And the alliance or
the enmity of these powerful associations is of great
moment to the ruling power.

But there are other societies as rabid against
Christians as are the Senoussi. The Khadrya
called Djilala in Morocco is a very rich order spread



SAINTS AND SECRET SOCIETIES 207

throughout all Moslem countries, ardent propagators of
Islamism and very hostile to European domination in
Mahommedan countries. They have extended their
influence over the West Coast of Africa from Senegal
to the mouth of the Niger.

Equally opposed to the Christian authorities in
Dar-el-Harb are the Chadelya, from whom are derived
the Derqaoua, the Madanya and the Youssefya (these
last founded by Ahmed-ben- Youssef-el-Miliani, whose
sanctuary is at Miliana in Algiers. He was an ardent
opponent of women's rights.)

These four religious orders have different mother-
houses or headquarters in Cairo, Bou Beih (Morocco),
Grib and Tiout (Algeria) ; but they all follow the same
rules, and are supposed to have a head, an Imam
reputed to be hidden in Cairo.

None of all these confraternities can be called
monastic orders such things are opposed to Moslem
practices. But they have a head, the Sheikh, his
subalterns called Mokaddems, who are authorised to
collect arms and direct the consciences of the members,
who are termed Khouans (brothers). Each confra-
ternity has its special formula of prayer, the Dikr,
which is the shibboleth, the distinguishing sign, of its
members. The Sheikh gives it out through his mokad-
dems; just as one day he may give the word to begin
the Holy War and set Islam aflame.



THE SAHARA

THE popular conception of the Sahara is a vast flat and
trackless waste stretching unbroken to the torrid zone,
waterless, treeless, save for a rare oasis, scorched by a
pitiless sun in a brassy sky, unpeopled, a desert where
human or animal life can scarcely exist, and then only
in swift passage, a sea of burning sand that before the
deadly breath of the simoon rises in suffocating clouds
to overwhelm, smother and entomb the men and camels
of ill-fated caravans.

The reality is far different. The Sahara is certainly
not a delectable land ; but it is not quite as bad as it is
painted. A vast waste truly ; but flat and trackless,
no. Its nomads can find their way unerringly from well
to well for hundreds of miles, though to the eye of the
uninitiated there is no road. Its traders pass regularly
from north to south, from east to west, even to and from
Algeria, Tunisia, Tripoli, and Morocco, bearing dates,
tea, salt, sugar, tobacco, cloth, grain and weapons to
barter for camels, sheep, goats, saddlery and leather
bags. Its wandering Arab tribes, men, women and
children, drive their live-stock before them as they
migrate to the north in summer to escape the great heat
of the south and go back in winter to exchange the

208



THE SAHARA 209

chilly heights of the Algerian Hauts Plateaux for the
sunshine of the desert. And cold is not unknown even
in the heart of the Sahara; for there are high ranges
on which the snow rests for months, mountains nine
thousand feet in height. There are broad river-beds
along which after heavy rainstorms surging torrents of
water sweep, filling them from bank to bank, drowning
men and beasts unlucky enough to be caught in them,
and then, although perhaps in a few hours sinking from
sight, only vanishing to form an underground stratum of
water needing merely to be tapped by wells to give
drink to animal and human, and life to luxuriant
vegetation.

There are oases where the palm-trees are counted
by hundreds of thousands and below them oranges and
apricots, wheat, barley and vegetables ripen. The
Sahara supports a population, nomad and sedentary, of
half a million or more. Armies ten, twenty thousand
strong have crossed it and found subsistence on the
way. Kingdoms have flourished for centuries in it.

There are indeed vast stretches of its surface covered
with sand, level or heaped up in dunes, rising in suffo-
cating clouds before the impulse of the hot wind, the
chihili. But not in dense masses that overwhelm and
bury from sight the unfortunate wayfarers ; although
anyone luckless enough to be caught in a sandstorm
may be excused for imagining that this is to be his fate.
The dunes that are sometimes five or six hundred feet
high are generally caused by some natural obstruction
arresting the flying sand and thus gradually building up
a hill. Between the dunes are corridors of hard soil
called gassi.

There are wide, flat tracts of fine grit or gravelly

o



210 ALGERIA TO-DAY

soil, termed reg, on which nothing grows. There are
chains of barren sandstone mountains cloven by gloomy
ravines in which the thirsty wanderer stumbles unex-
pectedly on gkedirs, pools of water left by sudden
spates and ringed round by a green margin of reeds and
vegetation. And in the hills are scattered trees, thorny
as a rule, but yet their spikes provide food for camels,
while their seed-pods offer sustenance to men.

Even in the sandy deserts there is vegetation, as in
the stretch between Biskra and Tougourt. Drinn or
arthratherum pungens, nefi or arthratherum -plumo-
sum and arthratherum floccosum, had or cornulaca
monocantha, dhamrane or traganum nudatum, all furn-
ish food for camels and other animals. A shower of
rain has a magical effect in the desert and causes plants
to spring up as if by enchantment and fresh leaves to
appear on others eaten down to the wooden stems by
grazing beasts.

But in the Air and the Damergou in the far south
of the Sahara there are tracts of almost impenetrable
jungle full of birds and wild animals of many
species.

Bands of antelopes and gazelles of various kinds
wander over apparently inhospitable desert and cause
wonder as to where they find food and drink. The
Arabs believe them to be the property of devils that live
underground and come up at night to feed and water
their flocks. But the truth seems to be that these
animals can cover great distances in search of pools left
by local storms, and also can quench their thirst effectu-
ally by eating green plants as camels do.

Tiger-cats, foxes, the fennec, hares (lepus
atlanticus), the goundi, rats, the jerboa, and other



THE SAHARA 211

animals manage to exist in the sandy tracts of the
Sahara. Geckos and scaly lizards like small crocodiles,
chameleons and more dreaded reptiles the horned
viper and other venomous snakes are found every-
where. And bird-life is common in the oases and the
mountains. In the jungle of the South the bush teems
with guinea-fowl and other feathered game.

Wherever water is found, either as a result of irregu-
lar rainstorms or of man's labour in sinking wells, life
human, animal and vegetable, can be supported in
the Sahara. The depth of the underground aqueous
stratum varies immensely. In some places it is only
thirty feet, in others two thousand; and although the
desert tribes are skilful in tapping it, naturally only the
modern methods of sinking wells and pumping that the
French are introducing can reach it at great depths.
There is a well-defined system of river-beds (all to-day
dry except for a few hours after heavy local storms),
which give rise to the belief that formerly down them
flowed steady streams from the mountains of the Sahara
to the ocean. Possibly, although the climate of North
Africa has not sensibly changed in historical times,
there has been a gradually drying-up of the land, and
vegetation has diminished and forests disappeared.

The theory that the Sahara is the dry bed of a
former inland sea hence the sand is strongly com-
bated to-day. Shirmer denies it absolutely. " Its
geology is very simple," he says. " The formation of
the different ages shows itself in regular strata over
enormous distances. It is perhaps the desert in which
evaporation has left most traces. Nowhere the drying
and dissolving action of the winds has more influenced
the climate and even the very nature of the soil. In



212 ALGERIA TO-DAY

fact the formation of the dune is partly due to the
erosive action of the winds." He explains how the
sudden changes in temperature from the intense heat
of the day to the cold, to the frosts even, of night in
the tropics causes sudden contractions that crack and
break up the hardest rocks, split stones and reduces
them to powder and thus form the sand. The table-
shaped plateaux met with frequently in the desert have
steep sides ravaged by expansion, and the erosion of
the wind has done more damage than the erosion of the
rain.

It is not difficult to understand the action of the sun
and wind on the rocky face of a sheer cliff. The
intense heat of the day expands the molecules of the
stone, the sudden cold after sundown contracts them
rapidly and splits off sheets of rock which fall to the
base in shattered fragments to be later on similarly still
further reduced. The wind scours the rocks with the
flying sand and grinds them down.

I have described the character of the Sahara for
the first hundred and sixty odd miles, frorri the Aures 1
Mountains to Tougourt a clay or stony soil as far as
Biskra, sand from it to Tougourt. South of the
Chotts, the dried salt lakes, and east of the railway
Biskra Tougourt is the sandy desert of the Souf
Stretching to Tunisia, dotted sparsely with towns or
villages in oases, El Oued with its gardens, Guemar
with its Zaouia or monastery of the Order of the
Tidjania, and others.

At Tougourt, despite the desert of sand in which the
town is planted, is proof enough that the Sahara is not
an arid, waterless, burning waste. The great oases
with their hundreds of thousands of date-palms are con-



THE SAHARA 213

vincing, with their labyrinth of irrigation channels ; and
in the suburb of Nezla are the little lake of Tatahouine
and the larger and water-fowl-haunted one of
Merdjaja, of unplumbed depths, for they are outlets
of the artesian stratum.

A few kilometres beyond Tougourt is the old-world
village of Temassine, where there is a fortified Zaouia,
half monastery, half scholastic institution, of the Order
of the Tidjania with many disciples, and in it the silk-
covered tomb of the holy Hadj Ali, in defence of whom
when attacked by the army of the Sultan of Tougourt
countless palm-trees turned themselves into machine-
guns and discharged as many bullets as they bore
dates.

A hundred and seventy kilometres of sandy desert
lie between Tougourt and Ouargla south-south-west of
it. Another surprising Saharan town this, dominated
by a minaret of earth over two hundred feet high, the
tallest edifice of sun-dried clay in existence. Water
is not lacking there, for it has over nine hundred wells
to irrigate the oases.

Formerly a negro kingdom, peopled exclusively by
blacks and subject to the French since 1872, the soil
now owns new masters ; for the tenacious, hardworking
Mozabites have in the last fifty years gradually sup-
planted and ousted the lazier black race, not one of
whom now possesses land, which has 9-11 been bought
up by the Beni-M'Zab.

The route to the south from Ouargla passes at first
through a region of gravelly plateaux, dunes and chains
of sandhills separated by gassi, corridors of hard soil,
or feidj, sandy valleys. There is vegetation of had,
drinn and nefi to feed animals,, and occasional rain



214 ALGERIA TO-DAY

causes momentary but luxuriant growth. There are
fair quantities of gazelles and antelopes. Wells exist
and give enough water to supply caravans. In the
valley where the wells of El Biodh are there is usually
good grazing. South of it, after more reg (gravelly
plain) and sand dunes, is the oasis of Timassanine
where the water-bearing stratum rises near the surface.
Farther on to the south the caravan route passing the
wells of Tabalbalet leads on, with a mountain to the
west and dunes to the east, to Ain-el-Hadjadj just north
of a chain of hills. Here one approaches the country
of the Touareg tribes. Then the dry bed of the Samene
with sparse vegetation and a few gum trees in it runs
between frowning walls of rocky, barren sandstone
hills rising one and two thousand feet above it, on one
side split by dark ravines, saw-like and with sharp peaks
of strata vertical instead of horizontal, the result of a
terrible upheaval, the other perpendicular but more
regular. The Samene itself at Inimani is 1,620 feet
above the sea.

The hills farther south in the Azdjer country are
over four thousand feet high.

Still farther south the Hoggar or Ahaggar
Mountains are nine thousand feet high, with water,
vegetation and cultivation in places and with much
snow in winter. East of them are the mountains of the
Anahef, between three and four thousand feet in height.

All this is the land of the strange veiled race of the
Touareg, of whom I will speak more fully later.

By the time that the 2oth Parallel is reached the
Sahara along this route is seamed with dry river-beds
filled with gum and other trees. There is a veritable
jungle of Korunka (calotropis procerd) and much



THE SAHARA 215

Abisga with its disagreeable and peppery smell. This


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