Courtship - Marriage - Funerals - Sabbath.


I shall now give you an account of the manner in which the marriages are invariably negotiated and conducted in this country. A female, the confidential friend of the suitor, is dispatched to observe and report the beauty and accomplishments of the young lady; and when those are found to be perfectly adapted to the gentleman's taste, she is further delegated to sound his eulogium, and by every means, such as presenting her with valuable jewels, &c. to ingratiate him in the good opinion of the fair one. When this curious courtship ends, by terms being agreed upon, the destined bridegroom pays down a sum of money to the bride, a license is taken out from the Cadi, and the parties are married. I send you a description of a marriage-ceremony, at which I was present the other day.

The bridegroom (who is one of the officers of the household) came out of his house, attended by a vast number of his friends, and mounted one of the best horses belonging to the Emperor, most curiously and richly caparisoned. He carried his sword unsheathed, and was preceded by a splendid standard, and a band of music; he was followed by a kind of palanquin, supported on the shoulders of four stout black slaves, a detachment of cavalry firing off their pieces every minute, and a procession of relatives and friends, the whole moving with great mirth and jollity,

Before they reached the house of the bride, the cavalcade halted, and the bridegroom dismounted, assisted by his negro slaves, and knocked loudly at the door three times. The lady was brought out in a covered chair, attended by four women, completely muffled up. The whole party of the bridegroom turned their backs, and she was smuggled into the palanquin: they then returned in the same style to the house of her lord, where, before she was allowed to enter, he placed himself at the entrance, and extending his right arm across the door-way, she passed under, as an indication of her voluntary and unconditional submission to his will and pleasure.

After this ceremony, the bridegroom was obliged to retire to the house of his nearest relation, where he continued three days and nights, feasting, and receiving presents from all his male friends, while the bride was paid the same compliments by her female acquaintance. At the expiration of the appointed time, the gentleman returned to his own house.

The Moors are not allowed by their law more than four wives, but they may have as many concubines as they can maintain; accordingly, the wealthy Moors, besides their wives, keep a kind of seraglio of women of all colours.

From their marriages, I am insensibly led to the subject of the burial of their dead. Not that any idea strikes me of an analogy between the situations of a married person, and one consigned to the " narrow house," as Ossian poetically styles the grave; but from a certain succession of thought, for which one is at a loss to account. In the burial of their dead, they are decent and pious, without pomp or show. The corpse is attended by the relations and friends, chanting passages from the Koran, to the mosque, where it is washed, and it is afterwards interred in a place at some distance from the town, the Iman, or priest, pronouncing an oration, containing the eulogy of the deceased. The male relations express their regard by alms and prayers, the women by ornamenting the tomb with flowers and green leaves. Their term of mourning is the same as ours, twelve months, during which period the widows divest themselves of every ornament, and appear habited in the coarsest attire. Their burial-grounds are inclosed by cypress and other dark lofty trees, the lower parts of which are interwoven with odoriferous shrubs and creeping plants, forming an almost impenetrable hedge. Some of their tombs are very curious, though they exhibit specimens of the rudest architecture. There are also several saints' houses in their burying-places, which render them doubly sacred; and no Christian or Jew is suffered to enter, on pain of death.

Friday being their Sabbath, the day is kept perfectly holy; all the Moors are employed in prayer, reading the Koran, or visiting the tombs of their departed friends.

Curiosity prompted me to go and see an assemblage of fanatics, at a celebrated saint's house, in the neighbourhood of this town. They were to perform many wonderful things, such as tearing a live sheep in pieces, and devouring the flesh, fighting with wild beasts, and several other barbarous exhibitions. These people, called in Barbary Free Masons, are nothing more than a set of canting, roaring companions, surcharged with wine and other liquors, and assembled in this holy place, for the sole purpose of giving free vent to their brutal passions. This society is peculiar to itself, having no connexion with our ancient or modern Free Masons. I have however obtained a free access to their saints' houses and secret meetings, with permission to go any where unmolested; but I always take the precaution to go well armed, and escorted by the Emperor's guards, as nothing can exceed the barbarous acts of this fanatic set of people.

I am extremely happy to say, that my most sanguine expectations with regard to the poor man, whose accident I mentioned in my last, are realized; every unfavourable symptom has vanished, and I can safely rely on his perfect recovery. The complaint of my female patient has also given way to a proper course of medicine, and the Governor is one of the happiest of men. When I announced the pleasing intelligence of her disease being removed, he embraced me with such ecstacy that I almost dreaded suffocation; in short, he has spared nothing that can evince his gratitude and satisfaction, for what he terms the inestimable benefit I have conferred upon him.

The country round this city is inexpressibly rich and beautiful, being laid put for several miles in gardens, abounding in flowers and fruit-trees; among the latter the vine sands pre-eminent, yielding most delicious grapes. The air here, as in the other parts of Barbary, is very pure and salubrious.