Fez - Debility of the Moors - Mosques - Antiquities, Roman, Carthaginian, and Saracen - Storks held in great Veneration - Baths - Bazars - Inhabitants - Residence - Menagerie - Marvellous Preservation of a Jew - Lions - Tigers - Leopards - Hyenas.

Fez, - - .

Considering the mildness of the climate, the uncommon fertility of the soil, the number of mineral waters, the fragrancy and salubrity of the air, one would imagine that the frame and constitution of a Moor cannot but be beautiful, strong, and healthy; yet, though the most handsome people of both sexes are to be met with in this great city, the number of miserable objects, the wretched victims of excessive early passions, is in a much larger proportion: it is shocking beyond description to meet them in every corner of the streets. I have visited a great many of these poor creatures, and found them in such a state, that decency obliges me to draw a veil over it.

The mosques of this town, which I have before mentioned as very numerous, are square buildings, and generally of stone; before the principal gate there is a court paved with white marble, with piazzas round, the roofs of which are supported by marble columns. In niches within these piazzas, the Moors perform their ablutions before they enter the mosques. Attached to each mosque is a tower, with three small open galleries, one above another, whence the people are called to prayer, not by a bell, but by an officer appointed for that duty. These towers, as well as the mosques, are covered with lead, and adorned with gilding, and tiles of variegated colours. No woman is allowed to enter the Moorish places of worship.

Several of the aqueducts, which were constructed by the Carthaginians and Romans, are still to be seen; and the ruins of amphitheatres, and other public buildings, are found in the town and neighbourhood of Fez: likewise many Saracen monuments of the most stupendous magnificence, which were erected under the Caliphs of Bagdad. The mosques and ruins are frequented by a great number of storks, which are very tame, and are regarded by the Moors as a kind of inferior saints.

The baths here are wonderfully well constructed for the purpose. Some of them are square buildings, but the greater part are circular, paved with black or white polished marble, and containing three rooms: the first for undressing and dressing, the second for the water, and in the third is the bath. Their manner of bathing is very curious: the attendant rubs the person with great force, then pulls and stretches the limbs, as if he meant to dislocate every joint. This exercise to these indolent people is very conducive to health.

The bazars in which the tradesmen have their shops, are very extensive. These shops are filled with all kinds of merchandise. In the centre of the town is a rectangular building, with colonnades, where the principal merchants attend daily to transact business.

The inhabitants of Fez are of a large muscular stature, fair complexion, with black beards and eyes; extremely amorous and jealous of their women, whom they keep strictly guarded. Their houses consist of four wings, forming a court in the centre, round which is an arcade, or piazza, with one spacious apartment on each side. The court is paved with square pieces of marble, and has a basin of the same in the centre, with a fountain. They keep their houses remarkably clean and neat; but all the streets of this immense town are narrow, very badly paved with large irregular stones, and most shockingly dirty. The tops of their houses, like those of Tetuan, and other towns in Barbary, are flat, for the purpose of recreation.

Among the remnants of several amphitheatres, there is one very nearly entire, which is kept in constant repair at the expense of the Emperor, and appropriated as a menagerie for lions, tigers, and leopards. As I was contemplating it the other day, I felt at a loss to account for this being kept in repair, while the others were suffered to moulder into dust, unheeded, excepting a very few, and those but partially prevented from sharing the general wreck. I had stood some time, thus employed, when I was suddenly interrupted in my meditations, by the sound of voices close behind me; on turning I perceived two Jews, one of whom I knew very well, from having given advice to some part of his family. I immediately inquired how it happened that the building before us was so carefully preserved from going to ruin, as happened to most of the others. He informed me, that it was a kind of menagerie for wild beasts. "It was the same in the time of the late Emperor," continued he; "and a very curious incident befell one of my brethren in that place." As the narrative was not merely very curious, but really wonderful, I cannot forbear sending you the substance of it; as to give it you in the very circuitous way it came to me, would be rather a tax upon your patience, particularly, as you may not be so destitute of resources of amusement, as, I confess, I was at that moment.

It appears, that Muley Yezid, the late Emperor, had a great and invincible antipathy to the Jews (indeed it was but too evident in the horrible transaction I mentioned in a former letter). An unfortunate Israelite, having incurred the displeasure of that prince, was condemned to be devoured by a ferocious lion, which had been purposely left without food for twenty-four hours: when the animal was raging with hunger, the poor Jew had a rope fastened round his waist, and in the presence of a great concourse of people was let down into the den; his supplications for mercy, and screams of terror, availing him nothing. The man gave himself up for lost, expecting every moment to be torn in pieces by the almost famished beast, who was roaring most hideously; he threw himself on the ground in an agony of mind, much better conceived than described. While in this attitude, the animal approached him, ceased roaring, smelt him two or three times, then walked majestically round him, and gave him now and then a gentle whisk with his tail, which seemed to signify that he might rise, as he would not hurt him; finding the man still continue motionless with fear, he retreated a few paces, and laid himself down like a dog. After a short time had elapsed, the Jew, recovering from his insensibility, and perceiving himself unmolested, ventured to raise himself up, and observing the noble animal couched, and no symptom of rage or anger in his countenance, he felt animated with confidence. In short, they became quite friendly, the lion suffering himself to be caressed by the Jew with the utmost tameness. It ended with the man being drawn up again unhurt, to the great astonishment of the spectators. A heifer was afterwards let down, and instantly devoured. You may be sure this story was too great a triumph on the part of the Israelites, to pass without a number of annotations and reflections from the narrator, all tending to prove the victory of their nation over the heathens. For my part, I could not help thinking that there was too much of the miraculous in it. However, I have often heard it asserted that the lion will never touch a man who is either dead, or counterfeits death; indeed here they tell me, that, unless pressed by hunger or rage, it never molests a man; and they assure me even that upon no account will these animals injure a woman, but, on the contrary, will protect her, when they meet her at a watering-place. This country abounds with lions, tigers, leopards, and hyenas, which sometimes make nocturnal visits to the villages, and spread desolation among the sheep and cattle.