Face and Produce of the Empire, natural and artificial.


The mountains (the principal of which are Mount Diur, Mount Cotta, near the city of Larache, the mountain commonly called Ape's Hill, between Tangiers and Ceuta, and that remarkable ridge called Mount Atlas) contain mines of gold, silver, copper, and tin.

The chief capes or promontories of these states are, Cape Cottes or Ampelusia, known to our seafaring people by the name of Cape Spartel, the Promontorium Herculis, and the Promontorium Oleastrum, so called from the prodigious number of wild olives growing upon it.

All the bays round the coast furnish an abundance of the most delicious fish of every kind; and the several rivers are equally productive. The occasional overflow of the rivers greatly enriches and fertilizes the soil, to which, more than to their own industry (for they never manure their grounds, and are absolute strangers to the art of husbandry), are the Moors indebted for their plentiful crops of wheat, Turkey corn, rye, rice, oats, barley, and grain of all kinds.

I have before told you that this country abounds in fine fruits. The most esteemed are, oranges, grapes, pomegranates, lemons, citrons, figs, almonds, and dates. The Moors also grow great quantities of excellent hemp and flax. Medicinal herbs and roots are very plentiful here. Vegetables of every kind, and melons, cucumbers, &c. thrive exceedingly well. The grass grows spontaneously to an amazing height, and in consequence of the fine pasturage the animals are very prolific, cows and mares producing two at a birth, and the sheep frequently four lambs in the year.

Among the botanical herbs, plants, and roots, are the colocynth, palma Christi, wild and meadow saffron, the great mountain garlic, mountain satyrion, senna, rhubarb, bastard rhubarb, balsam apple, horned poppy, wild succory, recabilia peruviana, ipecacuanha, wild turnip, wild radish, field mustard, Indian cress, dandelion, black winter cherry, wild lily, hyacinth, violet, narcissus, wild rose, camomile, tulips, and the fleur de lis, equal to that of Florence; with a variety of others too numerous to describe.

The domestic animals of these states are, the horse, ass, mule, rumrah (a beast of burden in the mountainous parts), camel, dromedary, antelope, cow, dog, sheep, and large goat. The beasts of prey are, lions, tigers, leopards, hyenas, and wolves. The apes are innumerable. Deer, wild boars, hares, rabbits, ferrets, weazels, moles, and camelions, are also found in great numbers. Horses and cattle of all kinds are sold at very low prices.

Among the feathered tribe most common here, are, very large eagles, hawks, partridges, quails, wild pigeons, and wild fowl of every kind, turtle-doves, and a variety of small birds; among which the capsa sparrow is remarkable for the elegance of its plumage and the sweetness of its notes, in which it excels every other bird: this beautiful little creature cannot live out of its native country. I had almost forgotten to mention the storks and cranes, which are seen here in great numbers, and so extremely tame, from being perfectly unmolested, that they build their nests and rear their young in the very centre of the towns and villages, and on the tops of the towers of their mosques. Of the reptile kind, venomous spiders, scorpions, vipers, and enormously large serpents, are common in Barbary.

The greatest natural curiosities of this country are the salt-pits (which in some places are immensely large), and several hot springs, possessing such a great degree of heat, that an egg being put in for a short time will become quite hard. The face of the country itself is a natural curiosity; the vallies, which are several leagues in extent, and the mountains, which reach as far as the deserts of Suz, Tafilet, and Gessula, interspersed with forests or corn-fields, and rich meadows, are remarkably curious.

The artificial curiosities are very numerous, and claim the attention of all who may visit this country. They ought properly to be divided into two classes; in the first of which may be placed the subterraneous cavern and passage near Tangiers; the ruins of the amphitheatres, triumphal arches, temples, &c. erected by the Carthaginians, Romans, and Arabs, at Fez and the several other towns of Barbary. The country is besides all over scattered with the remains of ditches and ramparts, evidently designed for the defence of camps, forts, and castles, no other vestiges of which, however, can be found. Besides these, I have observed a number of round towers, which appear to have belonged, some to houses of religion, and others to the palaces or residences of former rulers in this country.

In the second class, we may place the efforts of the architectural and mechanical genius of the present inhabitants, exemplified in the wonderful aqueducts at Morocco, which commence in Mount Atlas (by the natives called Gibbel-el-Hadith), and convey water in the greatest abundance to all the houses of the city and its environs. Nor is the wheel at Fez, which I mentioned in a former letter, less worthy of remark; and several mausoleums in their burial-places have been constructed in a very costly style, the stucco of the walls being remarkably smooth and beautiful, and as hard as marble; but these tombs are exceptions to the general rule; for, as I have before observed, the greater part are but rude buildings. There are many other curiosities, which to describe minutely would fill a volume.