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KABYLE, SEEN FROM FORT NATIONAL AND LOOKING TOWARD BENI YENNI

MOTORING IN ALGERIA AND TUNIS

FIRST PAPER: FROM ALGIERS TO CONSTANTINE

BY ABIGAIL H. FITCH

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then the French are the most civilized wrapped in long, white burnooses, reclined people in the world. In spreading civili- in graceful attitudes before the doors of zation in North Africa by a network of Moorish cafés, drinking, smoking or idly wonderful highways, the French have fol- dreaming in the sun, or watching those lowed in the footsteps of the Romans. I who, more energetic than themselves, were have seen in the great barren plains of engrossed in games of chess. A negro, Algeria and Tunisia, leagues distant from with a face like a full-blown black poppy, native or foreign habitations, well-defined ceased suddenly his melodious shouting to traces of the old Roman roads, solidly gape open-mouthed at our red car. stone-paved, over which the French have We passed pretty villas with flowerconstructed their modern roads.1

scented gardens. The Arabs have a pasOur first objective point from Algierssion for flowers. It is not unusual to see was Fort National, built on a spur of the old men in ragged gowns, young dangrand Kabyle mountains. The country dies in exquisitely tinted burnooses, and had an air of fertility and prosperity. We half-naked workmen- the latter leisurely Aew past immense vineyards and large hammering stone on the white highwayvegetable gardens laid out like chicken- wearing clusters of orange-blossoms fastruns and inclosed by bamboo fences against ened behind their ears or hanging over their which tall flower-clustered asphodels foreheads, inhaling continuously the sweet leaned; and past great hedges of prickly too sweet - fragrance of the flowers. pears, and groves of orange- and lemon- It was late in the afternoon when we foot-hill, the red-tiled sloping roofs of the houses glistening in the sinking sunlight. Orchards of olive- and fig-trees and small Kabyle vegetable gardens clung to the sides of mountains. As our car slowly climbed the steep zigzag road, half-clad boys and girls tore down from their rocky villages and clamored loudly for sous.

1 It may be of interest to the readers of my two papers was a gallon every 8 1-2 miles. The generalissimo of to know that the gasolene on the trip was procured with- our small party speaks feelingly on the advisability of not out difficulty at most of our stopping-places, the general having radiators repaired in Tunis. He adds that a guide price being two francs per gallon, although in Timgad it is an unnecessary and useless expense in motoring, for exwas four francs per gallon. The average consumption cellent road-maps are obtainable.

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The men and women stood aloof and eyed us curiously. Some of the women were remarkably fine-looking, possessing a wild kind of beauty enhanced by barbaric jewelry.

Of all the races inhabiting North Africa-the

Kabyles, or Berbers, as A VIEW IN BISKRA

they are also called, are

the most interesting. They of steep, continuous climbing, of constant were in possession of the soil when the and rather appalling corkscrew turns, each Phenicians came into the country, and they one affording different and superb views remained more

more or less in possession over the mountains. The road built by through the successive conquests of the the French army in 1871, in the short pe- Roman, the Mussulman, the_Vandal, the riod of seventeen days, at the time of the Arab, and the Turk. The French alone great Kabyle insurrection, is a splendid have succeeded after very great difficulty bit of engineering.

in subjugating them. They are the old NuThe snowy summits of the Djura-Djura midians, descendants of the ill-fated Symountains lay to the right of us, and be- phax, and of the masterful Masinissa, who low, the fertile plains of the Sebaou. Large were rival and fickle allies of the Romans Kabyle villages occupied the crests of every and the Carthaginians.

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Fort National stands on the highest peak miles beyond Fort National and along the of the Djura-Djura foot-hills, and domi- ridge of the same mountains. Extreme nates the entire Kabyle district. We de- caution in driving is necessary on this scended at a hostelry where a very good road, which hugs the mountain on one side dinner was served, and where later we and skirts precipices on the other, and slept on beds which resembled relief maps which has innumerable blind corners, and of the Djura-Djura mountains. The vil- is narrow, and too frequently is unprolage street, long, wide and very clean, had tected by parapets. houses on one side only, the other being a In talking with groups of women and tree-bordered promenade protected by a children I found that the boys spoke stone wall, beyond which the village French Auently. They attend school, they plunges to a lower level and overlooks a told me, whereas the girls do not. The valley two thousand feet deep.

French have established schools all over A few minutes' walk brought us to the this mountainous district. There are also end of the village street. Behind the bar- technical schools where mechanical and racks, at a fountain, soldiers were washing manual trades are taught. The Kabyles, their clothes. The laundry-work was at- when sick, are cared for in hospitals, or tended with a great deal of noisy pleasantry, doctors are provided who will visit them the French soldier in Algeria being a joy- in their villages without charge. The ous creature who works hard and takes government wisely makes no attempt to his pleasures as he may.

interfere with their religious belief. The Neither the Arab nor the Kabyle is vigilant Catholic church sent missionaries permitted to carry firearms, not because here, but their efforts were unsuccessful. the French fear them, but because they Their failure stirred the Methodists to fear for them. Horrible vendettas exist action. I was told by a gentleman at Fort among the Kabyles. When a man is National, who was deeply interested in the killed, not only the slayer, but his family subject, that the Methodist bishop of and his most distant relatives are consid- North Africa was expected at the fort ered to owe a debt of blood to the family within a few days, to consider plans for of the slain.

missions in the Kabyle country. Of a morning we motored to Michelet, In truth I extracted little information a little French village twelve and a half from the natives, for though they were voluble enough, their minds were concen- loudly tooted. The sheep t trated on the subject of sous. They were tore wildly up the mountai disreputably human in their eagerness to little maid, seeing her chi "get rich quickly.” In this they were among a wilderness of tree abetted by the native women in their com- down where she stood, rub pany. The close proximity of so many dirty fists in her eyes, and so unwashed hands and arms was not the “Oh, mama! oh, mama!" least of my discomfiture. The chauffeur, miliar word had a curious seeing my predicament, hurried the car up from the soft lips of this K to me. From that stronghold I distrib- wondered whether it was i uted copper coins to the young barbarians. word. It is certain that I

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The specialty of Michelet is its wide cried in Tokio, by little Jap panorama. The little village faces a and again in Peking, by sma titanic pile of mountains with summits celestials. swept in all directions by magnificent fields The country, after leavi of snow. It is the great Djura-Djura continued to be beautiful, range, from which Michelet is separated came mountainous and we by tremendous cañons, and by high foot- forest where the fantastic hills upon whose minor peaks cling in dominates. Our guide to irregular procession the strange-looking forest was the abode of a Kabyle villages, surrounded by a cultivated and his band who until reci loveliness of green growths.

travelers. The French go On our way down into the fertile plain offered in vain a large rew of the Sebaou we passed a chubby-cheeked, ture; but finally a certain dear little Kabyle maid of barely six sum- or hungrier than his frien mers. She was the shepherd of one fat betrayed him to the soldiers sheep, and said sheep was standing in the The afternoon was rosil middle of the road, staring with ovine close, when we descended stupidity at the red monster—a Jugger- valley, blooming with orai naut-bearing down upon him. Brakes pomegranate groves, and were promptly applied, and the horn was Bougie shining blue in the

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gie is a charming little town, with a back- great rocks. Man's work in the Gorge de ground of purple mountains.

Chabet produces no impression on the Owing to our desire to push on to mind, and this in spite of the noble sevenBiskra— the scene of “The Garden of arched bridge which spans the stream, and Allah” — that fascinating, white city in the the splendid road-cut more often than heart of an oasis, we gave but one night to not in the very walls of the mountainBougie. We took the Djidjelli road which threads its smooth white way partly because it sounded good, and mainly through the titanic chasm. because it is the thing to do. It is cut in The most striking feature in the counthe side of steep, rocky walls, and in some try after leaving Kerrata is its impressive places tunneled through them. The sea breadth and its bareness. The road view as you emerge from these rocky ascends and curves through a wide, colorvaults (which are never of any great less land where not a tree is seen, and not length) is the most pictorial imaginable. a hut or tent is passed, and where in the The road was built at immense expense. near distance mountains rise in naked Here, as elsewhere in North Africa, the grandeur. Yet this region is a great graztraveler is filled with admiration at the ing country, a certain ashy-hued, and no achievements of the French.

doubt succulent grass grows here, and we There is something unspeakably impos- passed many herds of sheep and cattle, ing about the tremendous defile called the guarded by silent, biblical-looking shepGorge de Chabet. The road winds for herds squatting on the ground. The treefive awe-inspiring miles between moun- less character of vast stretches of the land tains six thousand feet high, whose rocky in Algeria and Tunisia, causes one to summits seem to meet overhead. A deep wonder whether the climate of North torrent lies at the bottom of the narrow Africa has not changed since the days of gorge. In the perpetual twilight reigning the Roman occupation. It is a fact that there, wild monkeys sometimes meet to toward the end of the Roman empire fight and drink. The day we rode through Africa exported quantities of wood to Italy. the defile, not a live creature was in sight, The sun was still high when we entered although eagles also, it is said, make their the walled city of Setif, an ancient city abode in the inaccessible recesses of the of the Romans. The French maintain a

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