James Riley.

An authentic narrative of the loss of the American brig commerce : wrecked on the western cost of Africa, in the month of August, 1815. With an account of the sufferings of her surviving officers and crew, who were enslaved by the wandering Arabs on the great African desart, or Zahahrah; and observa online

. (page 33 of 39)
Online LibraryJames RileyAn authentic narrative of the loss of the American brig commerce : wrecked on the western cost of Africa, in the month of August, 1815. With an account of the sufferings of her surviving officers and crew, who were enslaved by the wandering Arabs on the great African desart, or Zahahrah; and observa → online text (page 33 of 39)
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synagogues. The number of inhabitants in SafFy is
computed at twenty thousand, that is, sixteen thou-


sand Moors and four thousand Jews. The walls of
the present town, including the fortress, are about
one mile in circumference. The inhabitants of the
city are supplied with good wats of the Atlas in
order to keep the locusts out of his dominions. The
Moors and Jews further affirm, that during the time
in which the Sultan paid the aforesaid yearly stipend
punctually, not a locust was to be seen in his do-
minions north and west of the Atlas, but that about
six years ago the emperor refused to pay the stipu-
lated sum, because no locusts troubled his country?
and he thought her had been imposed upon ; and it
so happened that the very same year the locusts
again made their appearance, and have continued to
lay waste the country ever since.

Locusts are esteemed very good food by the
Moors, Arabs, and Jews, in Barbary, who catch
large numbers of them in their season, and throw
them, while jumping alive, into a pan of boiling
Argon oil : — here they hiss and fry until their wings
are burned off, and their bodies are sufficiently cook-
ed, when they are poured out and eaten. I have
seen many thousands cooked in this manner, and
have had the curiosity to taste them : they resemble
in consistence and flavour, the yolks of hard boiled
hens' eggs. After my arrival at Tangier, on con-
versing with our Consul General, Mr. Simpson, re-
specting the locusts, he confirmed the substance of
what I had before heard and observed myself in
Barbary concerning them. This ravenous insect had
actually caused a famine in that part of the country,
so that Mr. Simpson and the other Christian Consuls
at Tangier were obliged to send to Gibraltar, and
buy American flour for the ordinary consumption of
their families; inferior American flour was then


selling at Tangier for fifteen dollars per barrel,
although before the scarcity occasioned by the
locusts, the finest Barbary wheat used to be sold for
one dollar and a half per barrel.

Mr. Simpson further stated, that in the year 1814,
(to the best of my recollection as to the time) being
with his family at his house on Mount Washington,
near Cape Spartel, and where the locusts covered the
whole face of the ground at night, when he arose the
next morning, he could not perceive a single one,
and observed to his lady, that all the locusts which
had remained with them for a long time, and de-
stroyed most of the herbage about the country, had
disappeared; he wondered at first what had become
of them ; but after the fog in the strait was dis-
sipated, looking at a vessel through his glass, that
was passing out, he observed that the whole surface
of the water was covered with something that ap-
peared like a reddish scum, and on reflection, it
struck him, that the locusts had attempted at night
to migrate across the straits into Spain, flying
before the wind, which was fair, and blowing from
the southward; but that they were either lost in the
fog, or checked on their passage by contrary winds,
(which generally prevail in the straits at night,
particularly in the summer time,) in the middle of
the strait; and were thus forced by fatigue and
the humidity of the atmosphere, to settle upon the
surface of the water, from whence they could not
rise, and were, consequently, all drowned. That
two days afterwards, a vessel arrived at Tangier
from Gibraltar, the captain of which confirmed his


id2 captain riley's narrative.

conjecture, by assuring him that vast numbers of
dead locusts had been driven ashore on the rock of
Gibraltar, and along the coast of Spain, from
Mgeciras to Tariffa, a distance of nearly twenty
miles, and that there were still great numbers of
their carcasses floating in the straits, near the
Spanish shore. I was also informed, that several
years ago, nearly all the locusts in the empire^
which were at that time very numerous, and had
laid waste the country, were carried off in one night?
and drowned in the Atlantic ocean ; that their dead
carcasses a few days afterwards were driven by
winds and currents on shore, all along the western
coast, extending from near Cape Spartel to beyond
Mogadore, forming, m many places, immense piles
on the sand beach: that the stench arising from
their remains was intolerable, and was supposed to
have produced the plague which broke out about
that time in various parts of the Moorish dominions.
I have thus faithfully embodied what information I
could obtain regarding the locust, from living au-
thority, which I deem indubitable, and to which I
have added such facts and circumstances as fell
under my own observation, unassisted by books ; and
I trust the whole will be found essentially correct
As I do not profess to be a naturalist, it cannot be
expected that I should undertake to give a descrip-
tion of his interior formation, &c. — but for a side
view of this famous and formidable animal, see plate
No. 9. To return to my Journal :

Leaving this beautiful valley, embellished and en-
riched by many thousands of fig and other frui'


trees, as well as many clumps of grape vines that
seem to thrive exceedingly well, we ascended the
hill on our right, and about dark approached a
douhar or encampment that was surrounded by a
stone wall : the chief of the douhar was not willing
to let us enter within the walls, but our soldier tell-
ing him that I was the Sultan's doctor, and must go
in, he reluctantly consented, telling my guard, how-
ever, we must take care of our baggage ourselves,
as the whole of the people in the douhar, both men
and women, were ill of the venereal disease. They
offered us milk and eggs, and asked my advice in
regard to their disorder; I told them, I had no
medicine with me— I, however, recommended a milk
or light diet, and a drink to be made by steeping a
certain root 9 having an affinity, in appearance, to
sarsaparilla, that is common in this part of the coun=
try; and to let all drink plentifully of this decoc«
tion, for ten weeks, not doubting but it would prove
beneficial. We slept here without molestation v
started early on the morning of the 9th, and passed,
in the course of the day, many douhars of tents in
the open fields; many orchards regularly planted^
consisting of several hundred fig-trees, fenced in
with stone walls very thick, and from five to six feet
in height : the land on both sides of the path was
principally cultivated. Zagury had despatched our
guide on to Azamore before us, to a Jew in that
town, in order to engage him to prepare some pro-
visions against our arrival ; for they are so supersti-
tious, that they would not even eat bread that had
been baked in any other but a Jew's oven, and re-

484 captain riley's narrative.

eeived the priest's blessing, for which, of course, he
has his tithe. Proceeding forward at about ten
A. M. we saw at some distance on our left, what
David and Elio told me was the famous old town of
Mazagan : stopping here to take refreshment, a large
number of Arab women came from some neighbour-
ing douhars, to stare at me and my dress: some of
them were quite young, and Zagury began to rally
them in a very coarse and rude manner, asking them
if they loved Christians, &c. upon which one very
old woman said to him, "there is Mazagan; (point-
ing towards the distant town;) when that place
was taken from the Christians, I helped to cut off
one of their heads, and yet I love Christians better
than the mean, cheating, infidel Jews." Zagury, not
relishing this retort, dropped the conversation.

Riding on briskly, we arrived at Azamore about
3 o'clock, P. M. On our approach, our Jews were
obliged to dismount, and walk for about two miles
to pass a saint house, which the Moors hold in high
veneration : this was the fiftieth saint-house I had
seen since I left Swearah. Azamore is a town
strongly walled in ; it lies on the left bank of the
river Qrmorbear, one league from its mouth ; it is
built in the form of an irregular quadrangle, and is
about one mile in circumference : the river washes
its eastern wall, while the other sides are defended
by a deep ditch. We did not enter it, but from its
appearance, it is an old-fashioned Portuguese town,
badly built, and within and about the walls, very
dirty. This stream was the only one I had yet
passed on this continent, that deserved the name of


river : it has a dangerous bar at its mouth, which is
said to be navigable only for vessels drawing six feet
water at high tides and in smooth weather — these
may come alongside the walls of Azamore, where
there is a very neat water-port for the reception of
their cargoes, but it has now no external commerce
whatever : there are, however, some large manufac-
tories of Morocco leather and coarse earthenware
in the suburbs outside the walls. We passed this
river, which is here about two hundred yards wide,
in a good boat, built after the Spanish manner^
large and well-managed by expert hands. We
found here a good shad-fishery : there were ten
large nets, and about one hundred and fifty stout
Moors employed in this business at that time, and in
the proper season, which is from the first of Janua-
ry to April; they catch large quantities of shad,
which are much esteemed in this country, and are
sold at the landing for about six cents a piece : they
are carried from hence to Fez, Mequinez, Morocco,
Mogadore, and all the adjoining country. We re-
mained on the bank of this river until dark, waiting
for our provisions, which came at last, and we pitch-
ed our tent under three date trees, about one mile
from the bank. We had bought some shad, which,
when roasted, afforded us an excellent supper, as
they were very fat and delicious.

On the 10th, at two o'clock in the morning, we
started from this place, and owing to the darkness,
lost our path, and wandered about for two hours
before it was found ; we rode all the day through a
fine even country, passing many douhars, and tra-


veiling as usual ; and at night pitched our tent iw
the midst of one of the douhars, which I shall here
describe, (having made mention of them frequently
before,) and this description will answer for the
whole of them, with little variation. On our ap-
proach to within fifty yards, we halted, and were
soon met by the chief, for they all have one head
man, whom they honour by the title of Sheick : he
welcomed us in very handsome terms ; invited us to
advance ; pointed out a place which was the safest
within the douhar for our tent; and furnished us
with milk and eggs gratis, while the Moors that ac-
companied us were plentifully regaled with bread,
w r ater, and coos-coo-soo. This douhar was com-
uosed of one hundred and fifty-four tents, pitched in
the form of a hollow square; the tents being placed
about fifty yards apart ; an equal number occupying
each side, and at equal distances, all made of very
coarse strong woollen cloth, of the same colour, and
set up in the same manner as those on the desart,
and all facing inward.

Before each tent, and at a very short distance from
it, all the camels, cattle, goats, and asses, are made
to lie down, where they are taught to remain until
they are roused up to be milked in the morning, when
the shepherds or herdsmen drive them out into the
open country to feed, and return with them again at
night-fall. They milk the mares, camels, cows,
asses, goats, and sheep; and in order to effect this
with the two last mentioned animals, which are very
tame, they divide the sheep and goats into two rows,
facing each other: as soon as they approach so as to


interlock their necks, thej are caught by two ropes
which are ready strung for the purpose, and by this
means they are kept close together, while the women
and girls go behind and milk them between their
hind legs; the lambs having been previously tied
or secured in a similar way. A good ewe will yield
a pint of milk in a morning, and a goat more : sheep's
milk is reckoned the richest by the natives, but I
preferred that of the goat or camel to either of the
others, though asses 5 and mare's milk is very rich and
good. They make butter by putting the new milk
into a goat skin, the hair on the inside ; the butter is
of course a little hairy, but they can pick it clean
with their fingers, and they generally have white
haired goat skins for churns. The Arabs who
inhabit exclusively these douhars are extremely
hospitable, and not only furnish the traveller with the
best they have to eat and drink, but also set a watch
over his tent and baggage, which they strictly take
care of : the Sheicks themselves are responsible for
every article that may be missing in the morning,
and which if not immediately found, they pay the
stranger his own price for it in money without hesita-
tion. Thus the Moorish and Arab travellers can
pass from one end of the empire to the other without
expense, and at their leisure, and transact their
commercial business in a cheap way, only buying
the barley for their beasts which carry their burdens
when they travel on mules or horses, being obliged
to feed them on barley and straw; but when they
use camels, which is by far the most common method.,
these hardy beasts live on the herbage and shrub-

488 captain riley's narrative.

bery which they nip passing along the road, taking a
bite now and then as they continue walking, and
as soon as they stop, their two fore legs are tied
within a foot of each other, and they are turned out
to feed. Without this precaution, the camel is such
a wandering creature, not unlike his Arab master in
that respect, that be the herbage ever so good and
plentiful where he is turned out, he is continually
restless, and keeps moving on, so that in the course
of an hour or two he will stray many miles from the
place where he was iirst turned loose,

On the 11th, at daybreak, we left this douhar,
and proceeded over a smooth beautiful plain every
where covered with fields of grain or grass and
flowering shrubs, with numerous herds of cattle,
camels, asses, and flocks of sheep and goats; while
the road or rather foot-path (for such they all are in
this country) was covered with loaded camels travel-
ling each way to and from Darlbeda, and at about
8 o'clock A. M. we reached that city. Darlbeda is a
walled town of about two miles in circumference,
situated at the bottom of a broad bay; its port is
tolerably good for landing cargoes, although the
bay where vessels lie is very rocky, and can only be
approached with safety in the summer months and
in mild weather. Large quantities of wheat were
formerly shipped at this port for Spain and Portugal
I peeped into it for a few minutes; it is much on the
decay: the houses, which are built chiefly of stone
and clay, as well as the walls, are falling down in
every direction, and even the gateway is in a tottering
condition: it is a very dirty place; the houses are



from one to three stories high, and the streets very
narrow: there still remains an open aqueduct, that
used to convey water for several miles into this town;
it is in good repair, being built of stone and lime ; the
water runs in it to within two hundred yards of the
walls, where it has been out off for the convenience
of roads: thus the destructive hands of the Moors
are employed in marring and spoiling even their own
town, which must soon become no better than a
heap of ruins.

We passed Darlbeda, and came to Afidallah, a town
built by Sidi Mohammed : this town is enclosed by
a tolerable mud and stone wall, and is situated about
one mile from the sea. The whole coast from Darl-
beda, to far beyond Afidallah, is lined with huge
heaps of beach sand, hove up by the almost constant
trade winds, blowing direct on shore.

Afidallah stands on a beautiful plain : it was built
for the purpose of receiving and storing the large
quantities of wheat and barley that usually grew
near its site ; and its harbour, only one mile distant
from it, is sheltered by a long and narrow island,
within which vessels of a small size can anchor,
and be tolerably safe. This is said, by Mohammed,
one of our muleteers, and an old sailor, to be by far
the safest open harbour in the empire during the
winter months ; but the landing is bad, and can only
be effected in light winds and good weather. Large
quantities of wheat, barley, big acorns, fruit, &c.
were shipped from Afidallah during the reign of Sidi
Mohammed, and a part of the present reign, but Mu-
ley Soliman, the present Sultan, has of late become

3 R


so bigoted, that he thinks, or pretends it is a sin
for his subjects to trade with the Christians; he has,
therefore, forbid the exportation of almost all the
articles of commerce, and rendered, by this means,
his people poor ; ruined most of his towns, and in-
volved himself in many broils with his subjects,
while he is straining every nerve to take away the
littie remains of their property, in contributions and
presents extorted from them by rapacious officers
appointed for the purpose. The goods for shipping
were carried from AfidalJah on camels, across the
sand hills that shelter the town from the violent sea-
gales. This place is about six hundred yards
square, flanked by four square forts joined to each
corner, and so constructed, as to be able to rake the
whole length of the wall on the outside, with cannon
and musketry.

We passed on, and pitched our tent at night

within the walls of an old town called Sebilah;

there is no house standing in it, except a part of a

large mosque, and a tall well-built tower, though it

was once a considerable place. Within these walls,

in one corner, was a large garden, well stocked with

vegetables, and about a hundred tents were pitched,

as if in the open field ; so we pitched our tent near

the walls of the mosque. There were several

women here that wanted medicines, and though I

had none to give them, yet my mere advice, which

was thought important, procured milk and eggs

sufficient for our suppers. Soon after sunset, all

the flocks and cattle belonging to the inhabitants

were driven within the walls, and disposed of as in


the common douhars, when the stout gate was shut
and strongly barred. Many travellers arrived in
the evening, and wished to enter, but found no ad-
mittance, and they took up their lodgings outside of
the walls.

January the 12th, at daylight, our soldier had the
gate opened, and we went forward : there were out-
side of the gate several large droves of camels with
their owners, which had put up there in the night- —
they were principally loaded with sacks of salt or
barley, and going towards Rabat. We rode on
fast, and passed three considerable streams, which
the Moors call rivers, and say they are not forda-
ble in the rainy season; but we got over without
difficulty, being then only brooks : the country was
level and well cultivated, and we passed innumera-
ble droves of light and loaded camels, mules, and

At about eight o'clock A. M. we saw a high
tower east of us, which stands at the head of the
aqueduct that conveys water to Rabat; and at about
three P. M. we came to the outer wall of that city,
which stands half a mile from the main wall, and
encloses a great number of fine gardens of fruit
and vegetables, besides some wheat fields: it extends
from the palace (which is spacious, and situated on
the left upon the bank of the sea between the outer
and main walls) round to the river eastward of the
city: here the Jews were obliged to dismount before
they could enter the town, and there I left them,
and proceeded with my guard, followed by my mu-
leteer into the city. Mv friend, Mr. Willshire, had


given me an introductory letter to Mr. Abouderham.
the English Vice Consui at Rabat, and we proceed-
ed directly to his house, which is situated in the
principal town. On my arrival, I was received by
that gentleman with every mark of politeness and
respect I could wish : he furnished me with a room
and every thing I needed for my comfort The
next day being the Jews' Sabbath, I had time to visit
different parts of the city, and the Jews' town or

Rabat is situated at the mouth of the river Bere-
greb — on its left bank, within a mile of the sea, it
is defended on the south by a double wall and some
batteries of cannon; on the west, facing the sea, by
a very strong fortress, and along the river on the
north, by very high and steep cliffs, a wall, and a
number of strong batteries. I should compute the
circumference of the outer walls at six miles, but the
inner one not more than three.

The city is situated on uneven ground ; is very
well built for a Moorish town, though the streets
are narrow, crooked and dirty ; yet the houses in
general are in good repair, and two stories high, built
of stone and lime mortar, and flat roofed, with an
inner court ; a few windows next the streets, which
are only air holes, and secured with wooden shutters
and grates, without glass. There are in this city
ten mosques of different heights and shapes : it is the
largest sea-port town in the Moorish dominions,
though at present the bar at the river's mouths is so
beaped up with sand, as only to admit of vessels
drawing six feet water, and yet the tide rises within


it about ten feet, and runs very rapidly. The Mil-
lah or. Jew's town is walled in separately, to prevent
the Jews from mixing with and defiling the Moors,
and that they may more easily be kept in subjection
with the aid of the bastinado. This Millah has been
built only about six years; has but one gate, which
is guarded and kept by Moors ; and there are some
very good houses in it. It is said to contain eight
thousand Jews, who are (for the most part) very
poor, miserable, and depraved, and live in the most
degraded condition : they worship in twelve rooms
called synagogues, and- 1 was told that nearly one
half of the male inhabitants were priests.

Rabat is very well peopled : the whole number of
its inhabitants is computed by Mr. Abouderham to
exceed sixty thousand. Many of the Moors here are
rich, and live in great luxury, keeping large serag-
lios of women, and having beautiful gardens. Vast
quantities of haicks, and other woollen and cotton
cloths, are here fabricated, and great quantities of
sole and Morocco leather, and coarse earthenware,
such as pots, bowls, jars, &c. are also manufactured
in this city. It carries on a brisk inland trade, and
the Moorish inhabitants seem to be more civilized
than in any other town I passed through. Here is
the principal navy-yard of the Emperor, where his
ships are built ; for the Moors have none for com-
merce. Here was one new frigate lying by the
walls, partly fitted ; she appeared to be about five
hundred tons burden ; was pierced for 32 guns, and
the Moors said she would be ready to go Found to
La Resch, where their ships of war are fitted out, in


two or three months : to get them over the bar at the
mouth of the river, they are obliged to go out per-
fectly light ; to buoy them up as much as possible,
and lay them sideways on the bar, at high tide, and
in mild weather, where they are steadied by means
of cables and anchors, until the yielding sand is wash-
ed away, and they are forced over by the power of
the ebb tide, which runs like a mill-race.

Rabat is supplied with water by a considerable
stream led into the city by means of an old fashioned
aqueduct from the south, that is four or five leagues
in length : the aqueduct was either built or thorough-
ly repaired by the old and liberal Emperor, Sidi Mo-
hammed. I wished to visit the town of Sallee, so fa-
mous in history for its piracies on the ocean, situated
on the other side of the river, and directly opposite
Rabat, but I was dissuaded from making the attempt,
by Mr. Abouderham and my guide, who said that
the whole people of Sallee still retained their ancient
pride, prejudices, and natural ferocity : that no Chris-
tian, or even a Barbary Jew in a Christian dress,
could enter their walls if he was ever so well guard-
ed by imperial soldiers, without being in imminent
danger of losing his life. Mr. Abouderham said he
had visited it twice ; that it contained about fortv

Online LibraryJames RileyAn authentic narrative of the loss of the American brig commerce : wrecked on the western cost of Africa, in the month of August, 1815. With an account of the sufferings of her surviving officers and crew, who were enslaved by the wandering Arabs on the great African desart, or Zahahrah; and observa → online text (page 33 of 39)