Page images
[merged small][ocr errors]

the maximum variation in any one day less than 31°. The most generally prevailing wind was that from the north-west, which is invariably mild and refreshing as regards its temperature, although sometimes too violent for a decided invalid. The only days which I found formidable were those in which the wind blew from a southern quarter, after much moisture had been precipitated. This, which had descended on the Sahel in the form of rain, fell on the high plateaux of the Atlas in that of snow, and the blast from the south passing over the latter struck most piercingly whenever an ascent of the Sahel brought one within its range. The greatest peril which an invalid has to encounter during an Algerian winter undoubtedly arises from this cause. The snow on the high plains. does not melt in general till the month of March; and while it remains, it is extremely inexpedient for him to remove from the shelter which the Sahel affords, unless he sees a good steady breeze setting from the northwards. As the hills come close down to the sea, there is on fine days a constant temptation to be imprudent in this respect; and the better the health of the patient, the more does he repine at being confined in taking his exercise to a single road, which is in fact all that is compatible with safety under such circumstances. Indeed my own experience would lead me to prefer Oran, the chief town of the western province, to Algiers, as a domicile for the winter.



Much less rain falls there; and the plateaux inland are not only considerably lower than in the meridian of Algiers, but further removed from the coast. The pedestrian can get away from the town without the exertion of climbing a steep ascent of seven or eight hundred feet; and although the surrounding country is inferior in beauty to the immediate neighbourhood of Algiers, it possesses perhaps greater interest for the botanist and geologist, and is particularly well adapted for horse-exercise.




THE lower part of Algiers has been almost entirely rebuilt since the French occupation; and the introduction of European architecture has not been favourable to picturesque effect. The Place Royale may be considered as the centre of the modern town. Two streets, the Rue Bab-el-Oued (Water Gate) and the Rue Bab-Azoun (Gate of Grief), lead out of it, the former in a northerly the latter in a southerly direction, to the site of the gates from which they took their names. They are composed of houses four or five stories in height, built over arcades. This is the case also with the Rue de la Marine, by which all travellers arriving by sea are obliged to pass. In some few instances the Moorish buildings have been retained in this locality, but in most cases their entire destruction was requisite in order to carry out the line of street according to the French notions of architectural propriety; and those which were suffered to remain have been more or less altered. The great mosque (Djemmâa Kebir) which stands in the Rue de la



Marine, has in front of it a colonnade taken from another mosque which was destroyed in forming the Place Royale. But the direction of the street compelled the adoption of a broken line in setting it up again, and the effect is extremely painful to the eye. An incidental result of making these new streets was to lay bare the foundations of the old Roman town, Icosium, on the site of which modern Algiers is built; and to show how, in ages far remote from one another, similar conditions almost always produce similar arrangements. A Roman street led up from the port as the Rue de la Marine does at the present time, and, compelled by the obstacle offered by the hill, divided itself into two branches corresponding very nearly with the new streets, and like them terminating at the Bab-el-Oued and Bab-Azoun. This last circumstance was proved by the discovery of a Roman cemetery in each place; and as it is well known that the ancients never buried their dead inside the walls, we have in the facts distinct evidence of the limit beyond which the ancient town did not extend. road which coincided with the Rue Bab-el-Oued led to a station called Case Calventii, placed by the Itinerary of Antoninus thirty-two Roman miles off, and supposed by Algerian antiquaries to have occupied the site of Fouka, ncar Koleah. It passed from thence to Tipasa, and Julia Cæsarea, the modern Cherchel. The other, following the course of the




Rue Bab-Azoun, led first to Rusgunia, near Cape Matifou, and from thence passed through Kabylie at no great distance from the coast, which it probably struck at all points where the nature of the shore allowed the formation of a marine town, and finally terminated at Carthage. Icosium could never have been a place of any magnitude; for before the building of the causeway which now connects the mainland with the original Algiers, the island on which the lighthouse stands,* there could only be shelter for a few small vessels. What importance it possessed it probably owed to its position on the commercial road which traversed the north of Africa from Carthage to Tangier. An Arabian historian, who wrote in the eleventh century of the Christian era,† states that there were then magnificent remains, of a magnitude to suggest the belief that the place must have been the capital of an empire. He particularly specifies some porticoes and a theatre paved with mosaics representing figures of animals, and he mentions the wall of a large church, which, from its direction due east and west, was made use of by the Mahometans as a kellah (or means of orientation), when they performed their devotions. But besides the allowance

*El Djézair Beni-Mezarrhana. "The islands of the children of Mezarrhana." In the construction of the causeway, Khaireddeen Barbarossa is said to have made use of the materials of Rusgunia. The masses of stone were brought across the bay and sunk to form a breakwater against the effects of the north and north-west winds. El Bekri, quoted by BERBRUGGER, Icosium, p. 10.

« PreviousContinue »