Depart for Morocco - Roads dreadfully infested, by Robbers - A Tribe of aboriginal Freebooters - Description of Morocco - Filth of the common People - Tobacco disallowed - Justice of the Emperor.


Since I wrote last, I have taken a trip to Morocco and back again. As I had a great deal of leisure time, and every thing here having lost the attraction of novelty, I determined to go further up the interior of the country; and accordingly applied to the Emperor for permission to visit Morocco, which he granted, but with the injunction that I should return as quickly as possible.

I set off, accompanied by my usual guard, which I assure you I never found so necessary as on this journey; for the rapacious spirit of the peasantry exposed us continually to the danger of being plundered, we were therefore obliged to keep watch alternately, to prevent our property, perhaps our lives, becoming a prey to these wretches. The neighbourhood of Morocco is dreadfully infested by robbers and assassins.

The inhabitants of the empire of Morocco, that are not in a military capacity, or otherwise immediately in the service of the Emperor, are miserably poor; and the natural indolence of their disposition preventing them from making any laudable exertions towards gaining a livelihood, they have recourse to every means of fraud and violence. It is astonishing how frequently assassinations and robberies are committed in this empire, notwithstanding the ruffians, when detected, are punished in the most exemplary manner, by the right hand and left foot being cut off, and the head afterwards being severed from the body. The relations of the murderer are all fined very heavily, and the judgment often extends to the whole village, near which the crime had been perpetrated; yet seldom a day passes but some daring robbery is committed, accompanied by the most wanton and savage cruelty; the unhappy victim of the plunderer being frequently left in the public roads in a most shocking state of mutilation.

Another ostensible cause of the dereliction of the peasantry from the laws of humanity, may be the extreme oppression under which they groan; as, on account of their former propensity to rebellion, they are now ruled with a rod of iron, which in all probability has rendered them callous, and deaf to the voice of nature. But, independently of these occasional depredations, there is a band of vagrants, who are actuated by no other motives, than what their own black hearts suggest. They inhabit caves in the sides of enormous rocky precipices, and go entirely naked: their principal food is the flesh of wild beasts. This tribe of freebooters appears to be quite a distinct set of people; they seem to have an invincible aversion to the Mahometan religion, and worship the sun and fire; they speak a different language from the rest of the inhabitants, a mixture of African and the old Arabic; all which circumstances favour their own report of themselves, which is, that they are the genuine descendants of the original inhabitants. They look down upon the more civilized Moors with contempt, and consider them as the real usurpers of their country, and the plunderers of their property. They subsist chiefly by rapine, and frequently throw a whole village into consternation by their nocturnal visits; yet their cunning and dexterity are so great, that they almost constantly elude the vigilance of justice: indeed, they are never forced from their places of retreat (which are inaccessible to all but themselves), but when taken, it is either in the act of robbing, or when they venture to the markets or fairs; and then the capture is not effected without a strong body of the military.

I was much disappointed on my arrival at Morocco with the appearance of the place; for, instead of finding it, as I expected, superior to Fez and Mequinez, I found it a large ruinous town, almost without inhabitants. It contains, indeed, a great many mosques, caravanseras, public baths, marketplaces or squares, and palaces of the Xeriffes, but all in almost deplorable state of ruin. Not many years since, this city was the Imperial residence, and contained six hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants; but the late civil wars, and the plague, which raged with such violence, in the beginning of the present Emperor's reign, nearly depopulated it. In consequence of the latter melancholy event, the court was removed to Fez and Mequinez. To this account we may place the present desolate appearance of Morocco. The Imperial palace is, however, kept in repair, as the Emperor goes to Morocco annually to spend the fast-days, which are during the months of October and November; scarcely one fourth of the other palaces and houses are inhabited; but though this city now exhibits evident symptoms of rapid decay, we may still form a just idea of its former grandeur and magnificence.

The plain of Morocco is bounded by that long ridge of mountains called Atlas, which screen the town from the scorching heat of the easterly winds, while the snow, with which their summits are covered, renders the climate more temperate than in other parts of Barbary. Notwithstanding the salubrity of the climate of Morocco, a residence there is rendered miserable, by the multitudes of scorpions, serpents, gnats, and bugs, which infest the town and its neighbourhood.

His Imperial Majesty holds a court of justice here, previous to the commencement of the holidays, and also issues orders for a general ablution by men, women, and children, of every class: this, no doubt, is very necessary, as the common people seldom change their linen, and the greater part of them are covered with vermin. During the fast they dare not touch any food while the sun is up, and when at night they are allowed to break their fast, they absolutely make perfect beasts of themselves. Smoking, or chewing tobacco, and taking snuff, are strictly prohibited, by an edict from the Emperor: the vender is punished with the bastinado, and a confiscation of all his goods and cattle, and the buyer with six years imprisonment.

Owing to the intense heat of the weather lately, there is a great scarcity of water: so that we were obliged to carry it up in bags made of goat-skin, to supply us on the road; and coming back we took the same precaution.

When at Morocco, I was extremely anxious to visit Mogedor, a sea-port town, and the island of Erythia, now also called Mogedor, which island contains a castle of considerable strength, defended by a strong garrison, stationed there chiefly, as I have been told, to protect the gold-mines in the neighbourhood; but the distance was very great, and my time so limited, that I could not spare a fortnight, which it would at least have required to get there and back again. I have been returned here two days, and, as I observed before, not so much gratified as I expected.

As I passed one of the courts of the palace yesterday, a fellow was receiving punishment for a robbery. The right hand and foot were severed at the articulation, by a single blow of a large axe; the stumps were immediately immersed in a vessel of boiling pitch; and in this miserable condition he was turned about his business. I once attended a man who had suffered these amputations; he soon recovered, and, to my great surprise, instead of sorrowing for his loss, he skipped about as nimbly as possible, and afterwards enlisted in the police. After the fellow was turned away yesterday, a peasant, who had walked nearly two hundred miles, presented himself before the Emperor, to complain of the Governor of his province, for not having done him justice in assisting him to recover a debt of about six shillings. The Emperor listened to his grievance, issued an order to enforce the payment of the debt, and gave the poor man a sum of money to enable him to return home.