Excursion to Mamora, and thence to Salee - Friendly Reception by the Governor of the latter - Rabat - Tower of Hassen - Shella - Mansooria - Alcasser - Quiber - Its Socco, or Marketplace.

Larache, 1805.

To escape from the importunities of those poor creatures who continued to pester me for medicines with which I could not supply them, I availed myself of the convalescent state of the Governor, and obtained his permission to make a short excursion to the nearest seaport towns on the western coast. Escorted as before, I directed my way towards Mamora, a fortress about sixty miles off.

I halted frequently to observe the face of, the country, and could not forbear lamenting the little knowledge I possess in the art of drawing; indeed, I never had more reason to regret having neglected it than now, as it would have enabled me to present you with some very interesting views, to which my pen cannot do justice.

The beautiful intermixture of lakes, forests, and green vallies, forming most delightful landscapes, brought to my recollection those scenes I have so often contemplated, in my youthful days, on the borders of Switzerland. The lakes abound with all kinds of water-fowls, and fine eels; and are surrounded by villages, sanctuaries, and holy houses; the latter occupied by the descendants of the ancient Maraboots, who are held in the highest veneration by the Moors, and whose habitations are considered as sacred asylums, which are never violated, either by the civil or military power.

We ascended an eminence, upon which stands one of their most celebrated sanctuaries, built in the form of a pavilion, with four arched folding-doors, in the Gothic style, covered with varnished tiles of various colours, and embellished with curious Arabic characters. I was eagerly approaching, at the head of my little party, to gratify my curiosity, when a shower of stones, from the holy inhabitants of the neighbouring huts and tents, compelled me to desist; and after a retreat of one hundred yards, I sat down to refresh myself undisturbed.

From this hill, however, I had a better opportunity of surveying the beauties of the adjacent lands, which are very productive; and also to observe the windings of the river Seboo, which, taking its source in the neighbourhood of Fez, forms a junction with the river Beth, and falls into the Atlantic Ocean.

After journeying about a league, we crossed this river in a ferry-boat, and in a short time reached the fort of Mamora, which lies about two miles to the south of the river. This fort, after having been demolished by the Moors, was rebuilt by the Spaniards in 1604, and taken by Muley Ishmael in 1681. It is commanded by an Alcaid, and inhabited by about forty or fifty families, who gain a livelihood by fishing for shads and eels; with which they supply the adjoining country during the winter season.

We rested at this place, and feasted upon fried eels, which I found equal to those caught in the Thames. From Mamora we proceeded to Salee another maritime town, situated in the province of Ben-hassen, and at the mouth of the river Salee, which is formed by the junction of two small rivers. The Governor of that place being an intimate friend of my patient, I was most kindly and hospitably received by him; and elegantly entertained in one of his gardens, which are well laid out, and ornamented with several fountains playing into marble basins, as well as by several delightful streams of water.

Salee is a walled town, strongly defended by a large battery, mounting twenty-four pieces of heavy ordnance, and a redoubt which protects the mouth of the river. It contains about five hundred regular troops, three thousand militia-men, five hundred sailors, and a number of Moorish merchants and Jews. To the north of this garrison is a small town, in a ruinous state, inhabited by a few negro families. I was told it was built by Muley Ishmael for the accommodation of his favourite black troops. To the south, and on the opposite side of the river Salee, is the maritime city of Rabat, commanded by a black chief, and garrisoned with black soldiers.

It is defended by a fort and strong batteries, adequate to prevent a hostile landing. It contains several ruins of importance; among the most conspicuous of which are those of a large mosque, and the famous castle built by Almansor the Invincible, together with a superb square tower; which latter is still in a tolerable state of preservation, and is called the tower of Hassen. This tower is about two hundred feet in height, strongly built with cut stone, and most curiously decorated with Arabic characters. It contains a staircase of easy ascent to the top, whence I had a most extensive prospect of the Atlantic Ocean, where vessels are descried sailing at an immense distance.

The walls of Rabat are nearly two miles in circumference, and fortified by several square towers. Exclusive of its regular garrison, it contains four thousand militia-men, and about fifteen hundred sailors, besides several Moorish merchants and Jews; which latter live in a separate quarter.

This town, as well as Salee, is admirably calculated for trade, capable of furnishing foreign markets with large quantities of wool, leather, wax, and other important commodities. These contiguous cities are surrounded by gardens, watered by plentiful streams, which are artificially conveyed from a neighbouring spring, that takes its rise in a valley called Tamura, to the south of Rabat, and which also supplies all the houses of the two towns with fresh water.

Both places contain docks for building vessels, and several small corvettes in the Emperor's service winter in these harbours: but the roads, like those of Larache, are only to be frequented from the beginning of April to the end of September, on account of the shifting of the sand, which accumulates on the wind blowing from the south-west, when the bar is rendered unsafe for vessels to pass. Too great attention cannot be paid by commanders or masters of ships, on anchoring there, as a great number of anchors have been lately lost, and many vessels stranded.

Curiosity prompted me to inspect a small ruinous town to the east of Rabat, named Shella, supposed to have been built by the Carthaginians: but my approach was rudely prevented by the inhabitants; no Christian, nor even Jew, being suffered to enter, on account of its containing several tombs of their most celebrated saints, while in fact it is only a sacred asylum for malefactors, and all the rogues of the country.

To the south, and about eight leagues from Rabat, in a sandy and almost desert place, is a castle, in a most dilapidated state, called Mensooria, which was erected by Jacob Al__mansor, for the accommodation of travellers, and is still resorted to by the trading Moors and Jews, as a refuge at night from the attacks of robbers.

Conceiving it rather hazardous to penetrate further in useless researches, I returned to this place, greatly chagrined at having been foiled in my attempts to explore the remains of antiquities in Shella, and other places. I assure you, my disappointment was not owing to the want either of perseverance or resolution, but the serjeant of my guard was an ignorant bigot, and a great coward, therefore unwilling and unable to protect, or share any danger with me. On my return here, I dismissed him, and obtained another serjeant, and a new guard, from the Governor, who caused my dismissed serjeant to be seized; and ordered him the pallo; but, at my intercession, he was pardoned, upon his promising for the future to evince a more soldierlike conduct, when summoned on duty.

The town of Alcasser-Quiber being only three leagues from this place, I also went thither, to see the Socco, which is held once a week, and is frequented by a vast number of the inhabitants of the neighbouring mountains, who carry their produce, consisting of cattle, fowls, eggs, butter, soft cheese, and large quantities of wool, hides, and wax.

This city lies to the eastward of Larache, on the banks of the river Luxos, and is separated from the town of Arzilla by alternate vallies and plains, amongst which some remains of redoubts, apparently, for the protection and defence of camps, are to be seen, and near which that unfortunate battle was fought in 1578, wherein Don Sebastian, King of Portugal, lost both his army and his life.

Alcasser-Quiber is a place of some note, carrying on an extensive and profitable commerce with Tetuan and other places. The town and its environs suffer greatly by the occasional overflowing of the river Luxos, which might however easily be remedied; but the Moors have no notion of altering things; therefore, without endeavouring to secure themselves from a recurrence of such disasters, they allow their houses to be filled with water, and themselves to be, not unfrequently, washed out of them.

This town contains upwards of fifteen hundred families, exclusive of six hundred Jews, whose quarter is distinct from the Moors. It is commanded by an Alcaid, subject to the authority of the Governor of Larache, and ranks among the principal cities of the empire of Morocco.