Tetuan - The Jews much oppressed there - particularly the Females - Costume - Singularity of the Streets in the Jewish Town - Ceuta - Would be invaluable to England - Melilla - Summoned to visit the Emperor.

Tetuan, - - 1806.

There is little that is remarkable in this town, beside what I mentioned in my last. It is distant twenty miles from Ceuta, a Spanish fortress, and twelve from the Mediterranean, and is nearly opposite to the rock of Gibraltar. It has a good trade, and contains about eighty thousand inhabitants, twenty thousand of which are Jews, said to be very rich. The Jews are tolerably civilized in their manners, but are dreadfully oppressed by the Moors. Seldom a day passes but some gross outrage or violence is offered to the Jewish women, the generality of whom are very handsome, though their dress is by no means calculated to set off, but rather to detract from, their beauty.

Men, women, and children, still preserve the same costume as in the time of Moses. You cannot conceive any thing more ridiculous than the tout ensemble of a Barbary Jewess in full dress. Every part of her apparel is rich, but is so heavy, that, to an European, nothing can appear more awkward and unbecoming. The Jewish ladies wear immense ear-rings. I have observed several full twelve inches in circumference, and of a proportionate thickness; and a few ornaments being affixed to the ear-ring, I leave you to judge what materials their ears must be made of, to bear such a weighty appendage.

The Jewish town is quite distinct from that of the Moors; but the difference between them is very little: the streets are equally narrow and dirty, and the houses have no windows on the outside; the roofs are also quite flat; the only variation is, that the streets are covered with a roof extending from the houses on each side, and have the appearance of subterraneous passages. There is a regular communication between the houses at the top, which is the favourite scene of recreation. Some of the women scarcely ever take the air, excepting on these flat roofs: in short, the inhabitants, both Jews and Moors, dance, sing, and take all their amusements on them. The rooms of the Jewish houses (as well as of the Moors) are long, narrow, and lofty, resembling galleries. Most of the houses are occupied by several families, which are generally large. Those inhabited by the more opulent are kept tolerably neat, and are adorned with rich and curious furniture; but they are, for the most part, exceedingly dirty; and the exhalations from the garlic and oil, which they use in great quantities in frying their fish, are enough to suffocate a person not entirely divested of the sense of smelling. Their taste is so exquisitely refined, in regard to the oil they use, that they prefer our lamp-oil to any other, on account of its high flavour.

Notwithstanding all these apparent obstacles to health, they contrive to preserve it admirably well. To an Englishman, their mode of life would scarcely appear worthy to be called living, but merely vegetating. Since the last plague, however, in Barbary, which destroyed a vast number of the Jews, they have not suffered from any infectious or contagious disorder, and their population has augmented so prodigiously, that the Emperor must, however reluctantly, extend the limits of their town. The Jews marry extremely young. It is not at all unusual to see a married couple, whose united ages do not exceed twenty-two or twenty-three years.

I cannot quit Tetuan, without giving you some account of Ceuta, which is at so small a distance from it. From its situation, it perfectly corresponds with the Exillissa of Ptolemy, being the first maritime town to the eastward of the ancient Tingis, or modern Tangiers. It also clearly appears to have been the Septa described by Procopius, who, with many others, derives this name from the adjacent seven hills. It was a place of great note in the time of the Vandals. It is now a strong regular fortified town. Ceuta is thirty miles from Tangiers, and nearly opposite to the entrance of the bay of Gibraltar. It is nominally still in the hands of the Spaniards; but it is confidently rumoured, and believed, to have been ceded by treaty to the French. This important fortress has been, and is still, occasionally most awfully distressed for want of provisions; insomuch, that if closely besieged by land, by the Moors, and blocked up by the English by sea, it could not hold out any considerable time in possession of the French. The advantages resulting to Great Britain from such a valuable acquisition are incalculable.

Every person who is acquainted with the situation of Ceuta, the rival of Gibraltar, must be very much astonished, that it should still be permitted to remain in the possession of the Spaniards, since a squadron of men of war, and a flotilla of gun and bomb vessels, might reduce it, even without the assistance, of the Moors; and thereby England would be sole mistress of the entrance to the Mediterranean. Convoys could collect in safety at Ceuta, and our trade in this sea be comparatively secure from annoyance. I understand this place was closely invested by Muley Yezid (the late Emperor of Morocco, and brother to the present Emperor), but for want of proper co-operation by sea, where it is most vulnerable, he was necessitated to raise the siege, and withdraw his troops.

This garrison is supplied with provisions from Spain, the Moors being prohibited, on pain of death, from sending their commodities thither; and in order that this interdiction may be strictly observed, picquets and posts of Moorish cavalry and infantry are so judiciously stationed, that it is impossible for the mountaineers to smuggle in the smallest article. The supplies from Spain are extremely precarious, from the necessity of conveying them in small fishing craft, to prevent their falling into the hands of the English.

Melilla also is in the possession of the Spaniards: this maritime town lies to the eastward of Tetuan. Many authors assert it to have been founded by the Carthaginians. It is likewise called Melela, from the great quantity of honey annually obtained in its neighbourhood. It was taken by the Spaniards about the beginning of the fifteenth century, and has remained under their dominion ever since. It has a strong castle, built on a rock, named Gomera. Along this coast, particularly from Tetuan to Melilla, there are several coves, in which the Spanish gunboats, and other small armed vessels, find shelter in cases of necessity. Indeed Melilla is itself a place of refuge for those vessels of the enemy fitted out for the annoyance of our Mediterranean trade.

I shall conclude this with a copy of a letter, which I have just received from Mr. Ross, the acting Consul-general in the room of the late Mr. Matra:

"DEAR SIR, Tangiers,

"I heard only to-day of your arrival at Tetuan, on your way to Larache; and this evening I received a letter from Sidy Mahommed Eslawee, Governor of that place, to request, that, if I knew you were in this country, I would beg you to use, every possible endeavour to come to him at Larache, and to accompany him to the Emperor, who wishes very much to see you. Let me therefore request your repairing as quickly as possible to Larache, and joining him before he departs; but should you miss him, he has left orders with his Lieutenant-governor there, to forward you on immediately. I should hope this jaunt will prove highly beneficial to you. Nothing on my part shall be wanting, either in advice, or information, by which you may think I can be of service. If you should see Governor Eslawee before my letter reaches him, give him my kindest and best wishes; and say that I hope, as he has been for a great many years past a sincere friend to the British nation, his friendship will continue true and steadfast.

    "I remain, dear Sir,

      "Your most obedient humble servant,

             (Signed) "JOHN ROSS,

                 "To Dr. Buffa, 
                  &c. &c. &c. 

In consequence of this request, I am making preparations for my departure by to-morrow morning. I shall write to you again from Larache. Though I have described every thing worthy of notice in that town in a former letter, yet I know you will wish to learn how I am received by the Governor on this my second trip.